Diaspora Diaries, Chapter 8: On Long Distance

My two best friends in high school moved to England after graduation. We calculated the years, and the countdowns to Summers and Christmas vacations in Trinidad were taken as checkpoints for their anticipated returns. 13 years later, neither of them has left the UK. One of them is even married now and has bought a home there. These are just two of the ridiculous number of long distance relationships I live with.

When I was 12, my older cousin, and practical big brother, migrated to Canada. Not too long after that, his sister left for London. My best friend at University moved to France, then Colombia, and now is in the UK as well. My nieces were born and of course, live abroad. So do most of my closest confidants. I then chose to move my lonely self to New York, creating new LDR’s, now with my sister, her dogs/ my nephews, my parents and my wifey. (She’s not actually my wife, but she might as well be. She slides her foot under mine when she sleeps, and that is pure intimacy!)

Every morning I wake up WhatsApp Voice notes from my husband (Read: Other female Bestie) in Dubai. And that’s how my life goes, building relationships with people, only to lose them to geography. I am in several group chats with people I speak to daily, individually coming from San Francisco, Baltimore, Europe, The Caribbean and Canada. So many virtual interactions, yet I live physically alone.

When I was about to enter University, I gave up the option of studying Fashion abroad, partly due to not wanting to leave my then-boyfriend behind. I could not imagine the pain of physical separation. It is my only regret in life.

Leaving people behind hurts tremendously, but it builds other parts of the relationship. You’re not necessarily losing them, unless your bond doesn’t have what it takes to stand the test of diminished physicality. Some people are not good with communicating verbally, so they would not be in touch a lot, or when they do make contact, it’s sporadic and brief, with seeming disinterest. It doesn’t mean they’re not thinking of you. When you meet again and everything feels exactly like it did before you ever separated, you realise this. Other people are just meant to be in your life for a time, and the distance is a gentle way to create space for you to part. But when you both are invested in one another, you will be surprised how effortlessly you can stay in touch.

The most difficult part of the arrangement, is to not be able to drop in spontaneously to see them. You don’t get the full experience of all the cues of communication. Texting could never replace the sound of a voice, in real time, on the other end of the line. And calls could never replace video chat. Above all these, sitting across from someone, sharing a meal or a bed, laughing at comedies unique to the tangible space you are both sharing, is irreplaceable.

After years of living together, my then beau said “no” to the possibility of us shifting to long distance. It would not be the last time I was told “no” for this. LDRs scare people. However, they have become a part of my reality, and I don’t fear them. I say I understand why people avoid them, but maybe I don’t really. I don’t get the absolute apprehension to try.

When moving to NYC, I was asked so many times about if I wouldn’t miss my parents, or this person or that. I had not even thought of it. I am always divided from the people I love most. I am always missing someone or something. What difference would it make to add three more? But now I am trying to see it from other perspectives; through eyes of people who can’t bear being apart, and avoid the possibility at all costs.

As I write this, I am calculating all the LDRs I’m in right now. It’s a crazy number. Thankfully I have a solid group of friends here, and don’t always feel so alone. Yet, one of my best girls is applying for work in another state, while the other is planning for an extensive work trip in Italy. Will I ever catch a break?

LDR’s aren’t all bad. They force you to talk, and open up. You connect with people on a different level, without the luxury of silence in one another’s company. They make you have to actively prioritise time for someone, an action taken for granted when they are much more available.

With lovers, if you fight, making up is not as sweet without a kiss, so you try to keep the peace as much as you can. You never want to argue. Your hour together is so precious, that you make sure it’s pleasant. However, a risk you run is having a distorted perspective of the other person, when you’re only exposed to their face and voice, and them telling you about their day, instead of you witnessing it firsthand.

One of my best friends suffers this. She left Trinidad 13 years ago, when everyone’s priority was Zen on a Saturday night. She’s in a group chat with a bunch of us girlfriends, sharing stuff all day, errday. She thinks we’re the Spice girls; attached at the hip and the flatform. The truth is, those high school girls have all grown into women, with husbands and babies. (Not me, I’m a seemingly eternal spinster) We actually only get together when she visits! But she sees us all, as the giggling group of girls who do everything together.

Do they suck though? And are they hard? Even for a seasoned LDR-er, yes. They are difficult. Missing someone in another time zone is torture. When all you have are calls or voice notes, and the other person won’t be able to acknowledge your desire for their company for hours, it can be frustrating times 100. When you go to a party and your song comes on, and you want to dance with that one person, but they aren’t anywhere close, it ruins the song. When they’re busy, and not reaching out, you overthink, questioning their commitment. When they talk about friends without naming them, because you don’t know these friends, you feel excluded from their life. When you’re sick and tired of your vibrator because you’ve exhausted all your own moves, and you crave the mystery and spontaneity of someone else’s hands, it can kill your hard on.

So why did I move my life to another country, creating even more LDR’s in my life that is already up to the brim with them? Adventure and opportunity. I hope its worth the sacrifice. I miss a lot, and i miss a lot of people. My long distance relationships, while strong, still don’t feel like enough. Catching up only reminds me that I’m gone, or they’re gone. But I made my choice, and this is a price I pay. I can only continue planning annual meet-ups and ephemeral face to face, moments where I can see and smell them. What, you don’t sniff your friends?

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