Jess broods when there is something on her mind. When she broods she becomes quiet and she becomes detached so that it is as though she and the whole world are in very different places. You can try to connect with her when she broods but, until she is ready to be reached, you will never get through. If you try to force her before she is ready, it will be like hurling yourself against a brick wall, and you will fail and feel broken by it. Early on, I used to be concerned that the brooding was because of something I had done or failed to do and so I would throw myself at the brick wall over and over because I would need to be reassured. That was before I knew better - because, of course, I am a wonderful boyfriend - but it took some time until I was reassured of that.
She broods because she thinks about things deeply. When she thinks about things it is like she catches a glimpse of a passing thought and follows it into a rabbit hole and wherever it takes her after that. That thought leads to another and another after that until she has weighed and considered everything anew. Mostly when she comes out of a brood, which is always in her own time, there will be no great revelation from it, but she will be refreshed and reequipped to confront the world and its great, wonderful strangeness. But sometimes, and always, when there is to be a great new step forward for us, it comes after she broods.
‘I was thinking about what I would do for six months next year when you go on your motorcycle trip,’ she said.
I was not prepared for this and, not prepared, I hesitated so that, she, growing nervous from my hesitating, continued.
‘I guess I could do the Camino de Santiago or take a French class or work,’ she said. ‘I know it’s a ways off but that’s what I was thinking about.’
We were in the kitchen in the apartment and it was gray out and I had been preparing something because we had decided not to go out.
‘You know, you could do the trip with me,’ I said and I felt the breath spill out from my lungs.
I said it before I realized I was saying it and before I realized that I wanted to say it. In the emptiness of my lungs and the silence that followed my saying it, I felt that I had dared to ask for too much. Isn’t it enough to meet someone that you’re in love with, I thought. Must you get your hopes up to have found someone who, more than appreciate your passions, would share the doing of them with you? The gods always punish hubris, I thought. So, in realizing that what I had asked for was so much more than sharing a motorcycle trip, my confidence deserted me and I started sounding the retreat.
‘I would love for you to come but, of course, I understand if you wouldn’t want to,’ I said. ‘I mean, it wouldn’t be easy. It would be hard work. You would have to learn to ride your own motorcycle - I would teach you but...and there are the elements - the cold and the wind and the heat. And there is the physical - I mean the long hours on the bike and the camping out.’
I looked up as I spoke and I saw that she was watching me and holding her breath and I gained some small courage from this.
‘It would be hard days and long ones and plenty of discomfort,’ I said, ‘but I can guarantee that, if nothing else, it will be the most amazing experience you’ve ever had.’
I stopped and I waited breathless and felt silly for having hoped. After a moment she responded.
‘Of course I would go if you invite me,’ she said in a way that was as if she were saying, ‘How could I not want to do something like that.’
‘And you would learn to ride a motorbike?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘That would be part of the excitement.’
‘Sure,’ I said unsteadily because I was supposed to have to convince her of that.
‘And I could learn Spanish,’ she said. ‘I could take a class before and maybe listen to an audio course during it.’
‘You could,’ I said still dumbstruck.
‘Only you know you would have to leave me alone to speak Spanish so that I am not nervous to speak,’ she said. ‘Like you would have to wait outside with the bikes while I buy drinks in the store. At least in the beginning.’
‘I can do that,’ I said with more disbelief because I was supposed to have to explain to her that I would not do everything for her just because I have the language.
We were both quiet with our thoughts for a time until she came back first.
‘That’s what I was thinking about before,’ she said, ‘but I thought it has always been your thing - you’ve been talking about it since I’ve known you - and I figured you would only want to do it alone.’
‘I did,’ I said, ‘I mean, it’s an amazing thing and doing it alone somehow opens you to the world in a special way. But I did it alone the first time so I have experienced that. To do it alone again would be fine but it would be mostly because there was never anyone to do it with and much less someone who would actually want to do it with me.’
‘I always thought it sounded amazing when you would talk about it before we started dating,’ she said.
‘You know, when I was preparing for the first trip, so many people asked me why I wanted to do it,’ I said. ‘Maybe they would understand the travel part but why on a motorcycle? Thing is, if you have to explain the why to someone, then they are someone who will never understand the explanation. You know?’
‘I know,’ she said.
‘It’s not just the seeing the places and it’s not just the motorcycling or the going from one place to another. It’s the whole thing together and the knowing that you got yourself there and the knowing you did it yourself, even with all the help you get along the way. It’s the knowing that. And it’s the knowing that, if you can do that - all that and do it all yourself - then what can’t you do? And then it’s the seeing those amazing places - and those mundane places - all those places that you could have visited more easily by airplane or bus or even by car - it’s how you feel about those places - I guess the ownership you feel - knowing what it took to get there and knowing how that place connects with the place before it and the one after it to be part of something so much greater than any one piece of it alone.’
It came out in a flood. When I finished saying it I thought about it and I thought that it oddly made complete sense that I could explain it better - or only - to someone who did not need it explained at all.
‘That’s what I want,’ she said.
She said it simply and confidently so that you knew that she understood what it meant - that you were talking about life more than you were talking about a motorcycle trip - and you knew that when she said it, it was not part or kind of or mostly, but all and completely and only true forever.