Part Two: How I Got Myself Out of This Mess

When I started thinking about this trek, I had just spent three long months recovering from a concussion. During those three months, the modicum of ski bum fitness that I’d maintained through the winter had diminished—drastically. I built it back up in baby steps: first, I got my ass off of the couch. Then I walked. Then I walked uphill. Then I ran. And then I hiked.

The hike in the Whites with Tim, Pat, and Matt was the first hike of any real length, that required any kind of technical skills, that I had done in months. From that point on, I was a speed blur. I leapt at every opportunity for activity: I was running or hiking at least five days each week, joined friends on mountain biking trips, and even took up rock climbing, thanks to Tim. The more I trained, the harder it was to sit still. When the days began to shorten, I talked with Caitlin about whether we could be the kind of people who run at lunch. I tried it once and discovered that it’s really hard to pull on dress pants and loafers when you’re sweaty. (It’s also hard to squeeze a good run-and-stretch into an hour.)ConcussedFeeling noticeably stronger, I turned my attention to the acquisition of gear. I made a rule that I wouldn’t buy anything unless it could be considered an investment in this trip. If I wanted a new jacket, it’d have to be packable. New socks had to be hiking socks. Undies? ExOfficio. I put my paychecks toward a 60-liter Gregory pack and REI’s revered Half Dome tent. I asked my parents for a sleeping bag for my birthday. I was steadily checking items off the list that Tim had provided to Caitlin and me, and feeling great about it.

But there was a weird feeling skulking in the pit of my stomach, and it had to do not with my own preparation for the trek, but with what, exactly, this trek meant for Tim and for me. We weren’t technically together and I didn’t want to know if there were other girls. I just assumed there would be, on what really constituted six months worth of consecutive guys’ nights. That being said, I missed him so much that I even struggled to find joy in breakfast (my favorite food group).

I had just one minor meltdown: I told him that I wished weekly blog posts weren’t my sole source of confirmation that he hadn’t been Timnapped, or robbed at shiv point, or attacked while trying to take a selfie with a jaguarundi. I told him that I missed him. In the same breath, I renounced my rights to feel this way. He wasn’t my boyfriend.

He said, “Don’t worry about us, we are fine.” The “us” to which he referred was his friends and himself. I had misjudged our relationship, he explained. I needed to keep it “light and fun.” You know when you think you aced a test and then it turns out that you failed? That’s kind of how reading that message made me feel. But I honored his request; I wanted him to be happy. I conceded that perhaps I had expected too much. What had really been worrying me, I hypothesized, was the logistics of meeting him for the trek. He said simply that we’d work it out when the trip got closer.

Okay.Downhill mountain biking in Are, Sweden - Photo by Reine BarkeredWhen I did hear from him, he seemed happy. I didn’t question anything–even the things that felt questionable. Blog posts insinuated, but never quite substantiated. One girl appeared to have spent an entire weekend with them, hiking and swimming (and posting photos to Facebook). It reminded me of the weekend that we met, and it hurt, but I ignored it. Hey, I’d been that girl a few times. I also refused to jump to conclusions and it wasn’t my business, anyway.

My mom reads all of their posts. She read that one twice and said, “I wouldn’t worry about whatever it is, but if she shows up again, I would seriously consider whether you want to go all the way to Peru to see him.” I said that that was fair, but I also pointed out that I wasn’t going “all the way to Peru to see him;” I was going to see Peru. To hike to Machu Picchu. To challenge myself.

And challenge myself I did when the same girl appeared just a few weeks later, in another country, looking all relaxed and beautiful in that breezy kind of way that only the traipsing of continents evokes. (More Facebook photos.)

What did this mean? I could tell myself that I was going to Peru with no expectations about us and that his relationship with her, whatever it was, didn’t concern me. But the truth was, it did. Because before he left, he told me that the next time we’d kiss would be in Peru. Because although I may have decided that I didn’t want to know about the other girls, I needed to know if any of them were real. Because while neither of us knew what the future had in store, I had still hoped that he would come home and want me. Because I am an all or nothing kind of girl. So I asked him.

“Are you sure you still want me to come?”

“Yeah, why.”

 

I believed that my reason for asking was clear to anyone with 20/50 vision, but he made me ask about her specifically.

“Umm she is on the trip with me for a month,” he said. As if he was relaying the weather in Costa Rica. It’s sunny. You idiot.

Twelve hours later, he asked what I wanted him to say. I informed him that his actions were already telling me what I needed to know, even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I told him that I’d booked my flight because he asked me, and that I had always made it clear that I supported this journey. But, I explained, another girl on the back of his bike for a month was never part of the deal.

“If you have some other explanation, please tell me,” I said calmly.

He didn’t. He hasn’t.

So now, I have a flight to Lima next month and a guy I thought I loved who isn’t speaking to me. I’d go by myself, but without the prospect of meeting him there, the timing doesn’t seem right–remember the inches of rain and potential landslips? (I did say that everything about this trip would be a challenge.)IMG_1512Ever the optimist, I haven’t had to strain too hard to find a silver lining in this debacle: I get to start my ski season in better shape than I ever have before, I won’t have to borrow gear for my next backpacking trip, and if I do decide to cancel the flight, I’ll have an $800 credit burning a hole in my passport. So basically, I’m ready for the next adventure. Bring it.

 

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Casey Butler is a travel and surf writer who’ll be taking us along on her misadventure intercepting a transcontinental motorcycle trip to the southernmost city in the world by way of Machu Picchu.