This year I decided to embark on an adventure. A pilgrimage of the soul.
My bootleg replica of the Camino walk.
Except my journey would take place in a silver Toyota with scratches all over the bumper bar and a big crack in the windscreen.
A vehicle that would steer me directly into parts of myself I had been successfully avoiding for years.
But I didn’t know that yet…
I felt fresh and full of hope as I packed up most of my belongings, made arrangements for leasing my home, and embarked on the long 1800 km drive to tropical Far North Queensland.
The idea was to take time out from regular life, work on a big project, and reflect.
And I wanted to spend time with someone special. A lover. A man who I had wondered for some time… ‘what could possibly be?'
Having just turned 50, it seemed an opportune time to try making sense of the jumbled residue of some excruciatingly difficult years.
I separated from my son’s Dad in 2017 and the divorce went through almost a year to the day after my Dad had passed away.
My Pa drank himself to death. He had informed me several years prior to his passing that this was his plan, and I knew better than to argue.
Alcohol was one thing he was never going to part with.
Pa had a deep soul wound that he’d never become emotionally resourced enough to reconcile.
But he was a wildly creative and fiercely intelligent man with a piercing wit. His memorial plaque reads ‘Philip Cook – Poet and Individualist’.
He had a talent for wielding words in a manner that would have you belly laughing whilst gagging from the delightful vulgarity of his humour.
Unfortunately he also had a knack for using words as deadly projectiles that could rupture your happiness in an instant if he was feeling aggrieved. Or even just hungover.
Pa harboured a smorgasbord of demons that I’d learned to tolerate. Or perhaps I'd just become numb to them. Survival instinct is a powerful thing.
Nevertheless, the pain of losing Dad probably compounded the pain of my divorce, which was nuclear in the extreme.
The festering ugliness of it continued to spill mercilessly into almost every area of my life for some time after the fact.
Friendships, health, career and every aspect of my existence had suffered from the fallout. A deep depletion and pathological exhaustion seemed to hang over my head like a perpetual shadow.
Although the marriage had been unfulfilling and awful in so many ways, at times I almost wished I’d stayed in it to avoid the suffering that ensued.
Four years had passed and the only men that were able to venture beyond my sturdy emotional barriers were meaningless liaisons. I made sure of that.
I became adept at only engaging with those I had no feelings for or were unavailable for one reason or another. Preferably both.
However in 2021 this satisfactory arrangement was unceremoniously demolished.
He entered my world in late May and initially I felt no interest or attraction.
However, his deft combination of words, personal charm and strategic use of emojis, somehow ignited my interest, followed by my excitement, then my delirium and finally, outright salaciousness.
Like a tidal wave I suddenly found myself at his mercy.
So began a tale so complicated and epic that it could only be described as an odyssey. The details of which, I couldn't possibly capture in anything less than a full length novel.
The story spanned several years and ultimately led me to this very moment.
Sitting, typing at my desk on a humid Sunday afternoon in Tropical Far North Queensland. Land of crocodiles, unfathomable heat, beautiful coral reefs and deadly coastal taipans.
In the beginning, I was certain that ours was a love story. But as time went on, I became increasingly bamboozled by the situation and seemed to be constantly questioning what kind of story it really was.
At times I felt certain it was a story of vindictive revenge.
Other times it appeared to be unfolding as a perpetual drama.
And sometimes it seemed to be a joyous quest of the heart.
At its best it resembled a hero's journey that I took great satisfaction in confiding to only my closest friends… secretly certain it was leading to a happy-ever-after fairytale ending we would one day all delight in.
But at other times it was all out madness. Horror. Mess. Fear. Betrayal. Deceit. Cruelty. Despair. Desire. Passion. Beauty. Joy. Nostalgia. Comfort. Sweetness.
In fact there were only a few things that it wasn’t. It was never boring. It was never certain or secure. And it was never completely satisfying. There was a sickness embedded in it.
The sickness simmered beneath the surface. Never fully spoken of. Conveniently tucked away. To be dealt with someday. Just not now.
My intuition would cry out for freedom from the frustration of it, but I locked my intuition away in a hidden compartment of my soul.
I insisted on letting the imaginary fairytale play out for just a little longer. I wanted the moment to drag on, because sometimes the moment was so perfect I yearned to keep breathing it in for eternity.
Looking back, I could piece together all the events that occurred throughout the story and paint a picture of hurtful deception and trickery.
I could paint a convincing picture of myself as the victim of a malicious perpetrator and I could throw out some popular psychological buzzwords like narcissism, breadcrumbing and gaslighting.
But I could paint an equally convincing picture of myself as an anxious, unhinged and highly reactive piece of damaged goods, wreaking havoc upon a patient and hopeful lover.
Neither of these versions would do the story justice.
There was a lot of noise in this story. Lots of peripheral characters and irrelevant detail. Detail that doesn’t warrant being described with intimate precision.
Ensconced in deep velvet pockets, punctuating the noise, were moments so beautiful they were like Heaven on Earth. Places of deep and blissful comfort. Places that felt more like home than any home I’d ever known.
It was the joy of simple things. Our shared love of music. The gentle touch of our lips in the dark. Wrapped up in each other as the tropical rain drummed a summer rhythm on the roof. The worship of a King by a Queen. And laughter.
Pages and pages of messages that spanned days and weeks and months and years and cities and states and moods and places.
Messages that were fun and flirtatious, deep and intense. Sometimes happy. Sometimes sad. Jokes. Music. Video love notes. An endless, everchanging narrative that went on and on and on.
Life and people and situations are complicated and nuanced, and no one can fully understand or appreciate anyone else’s experience.
What right does anyone have to tell me that it was wrong because we hurt each other in unspeakable ways? Not because we wanted to, but because we didn’t know how not to.
We must all walk our own path, make our own choices and listen to the call of our own heart. I don’t regret coming here. I came with good intentions and I did my best.
My time in Cairns is almost over. I feel an overwhelming sadness for the events that have transpired. The heavy weight of the loss of a friendship that meant so much to me is so great that this little vessel of a body can scarcely contain it.
The friendship is over for now. Maybe forever. I can't change what has transpired. But the experience nourished me for better and worse, in ways I could never express with paltry, inadequate words.
Every rivulet of every tear that rolls down my cheeks burns a painful lesson in its tracks. I definitely got what I came for. My pilgrimage of the soul.
I met a man who showed me myself. He showed me the bright, beautiful, rainbow me, and the dark, terrible, wounded me. He did that simply by being himself and by being my star-crossed lover.
Of course I wish that the story ended differently, but perhaps it was always destined to be this way. I can only surrender to what will be with raw, inescapable acceptance.
Whether people judge, reject, misunderstand or condemn me for following my heart to the brutal conclusion of this ‘tale of two lovers’, I really couldn’t care.
He taught me I can love again. He helped me to feel after years of being numb.
I love him for his strength and his brokenness, in all ways, and I always will.
Dedicated to my star-crossed lover.