When I landed in Boston in April, spring was stubborn to arrive. Today, New England is finally on the other end of yet another 100F/38C heat wave. Summer descended on the northeast in a furious stream of grill-outs, beach days, motorcycle rides, shop nights, and scooter rallies. My plate was suddenly filled to the brim with book work, gym time, fixing up my bikes, seeing local friends, and doing the legwork for riding in Europe this autumn. There are worse problems to have, right?
I’m going to come clean: I hardly posted anything 2018 because it was a depressing and difficult year for me. As much as I was grateful for Fred’s unwavering support, I resigned myself to Cambridge because I was tired and missed him, not because it was where I wanted to find myself. When I imploded my life and left Providence in 2014, I was hopeful for a new beginning – how silly. Several years later I returned to New England, enriched in experiences and broadened in horizon, but fatigued and broke. I never learned how to like Boston, and it was just as abrasive, congested, and expensive as I remembered. I would have kept my head down and lost myself in work, quietly socking away funds until I quit for the next Big Trip, but I couldn’t find it. After a long string of rejections and a temp position in an office, I fell back into the same career I as when I left.
It was a nice change to be near old friends again, but I felt out of step. We seemed to have fewer and fewer common reference points. Without a boss or coworkers to complain about, children or mortgage to fondly bemoan (I desire for neither), or room for shopping sprees for the latest technology or clothes or trends, I struggled to find something meaningful to exchange in conversation. My vintage scooter friends rented a shared warehouse space together and grew their collections, bonding over engine gremlins, restoration techniques, and combined shipping from Germany. I adore them but often I felt like I was watching from behind glass. A couple hundred a month additional rent was unthinkable to me – I could eat so much khao soi, or pho, or claypot rice, or tapas and wine instead, and I already have too many bikes! I felt distant, and wondered if they felt the same about me. I didn’t remember it being so difficult to relate to fellow humans when I lived on my bike.
I didn’t want to bully conversation over to travel and the nomadic life either – those conversations too often took shape of, “What an amazing vacation you had!” or “I wish I could take that kind of time off/travel like that.” Even the benign, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” was an existential breaking point – how could I pick a favorite, when “the trip” is my ongoing life? In the end, I simply named a few things I thought sounded satisfying, because in my heart I knew most people wouldn’t have the patience for a genuine answer, and my ability to articulate it would fall impossibly short. Eventually I found I preferred to avoid the topic altogether; it was simply too painful, and I needed to measure my reserves to meet work deadlines.
Whenever I returned to Boston I felt like everything I went through on my bike could have never happened. I was back where I started, and in spite of being physically closer to Fred I felt lonelier than ever.
It is hard and unfair to feel so lonely among friends and loved ones.
I realize it’s an incredible privilege to travel the way I do, so it’s distasteful and maybe even unwelcome to listen people talk about the flip-side of an uncommon life. Reading RideDOT’s post about returning to Toronto broke the seal for me – some other lucky bastards out there struggled with the same first-world problems as me?! I blame them! So this sob story is here for whoever needs to read it.
Which I suppose brings me to now.
I used to feel an ache, a terrible longing to share amazing experiences on my bike with my close ones. It drove me, a bittersweet undertow in beautiful moments. I knew this pain was a pointless emotional exercise manufactured entirely by myself for personal torment, but I couldn’t help myself. I missed my friends. I missed Fred. I wished they could join me.
I don’t know if it’s time or exposure, but I don’t feel that so much anymore. While I do still wish those dear to me could experience the highs, the lows, and the absurd, and that we could reflect on them fondly together for years after until our collective memories failed, I recognize it’s outside my power to make them come with me.
The diminishing of this longing, I don’t know if I’m becoming jaded or growing more myself.
This time more than others, my return to Boston felt like one more stop. A pause to visit my awesome friends and enjoy the bustle of Boston in summer, while chipping away at my graphic novel work.
Anyhow, my stable had grown to 4 motorbikes, and it’s against my ethos to have so many in one place. I needed to sell, ship, or give up and join the local packrats club (ha!).
Perhaps I’m only content when I have a date to become untethered again.
On bad days, I probably drink too much and can be a pill to people I care about (sorry about setting that moose on fire). On other days though, I probably still drink too much but I’m so grateful to each and every person who is a part of my life, and I thank my lucky stars to call you my friends. Here’s to more good days.