This time last year I left Sri Lanka after learning how to surf and thinking that I had fallen in love.
As it turned out, only the waves stayed with me because that was the real love story.
The man that I met, and the man I’ve written about only fleetingly since, never kept his promise to make contact after our month spent together, which clearly I thought was something that ultimately he did not.
As a journalist, and therefore a deadline person, we’d set a date of two weeks hence for contact to be made after I left. I couldn’t contact him because he was “off the grid”, which at the time I thought was revolutionary. Now I just think he’s a lost little boy.
The two weeks came and went and unsurprisingly (in hindsight) no phone call, text message or email was forthcoming. It was like the whole thing was a mirage or, yes, a holiday romance that was never supposed to leave the island on which it was made.
Over that fortnight I drank too much wine and talked too much about him. I cried sometimes, too.
I couldn’t understand why someone who I thought I knew could be so cavalier with the feelings of someone he’d said had “brought him back to life”.
After the deadline passed, I did move forward slightly, but it’s embarrassing to admit I was a bit loony for a few more months still. I surfed obsessively, which helped me to sleep at night, but I also have to disclose that in the beginning I just wanted to get better so that I could proudly show him the next time I saw him. Delusional, maybe. As it turned out, peri-menopausal, definitely.
By the start of this year, I had created closure because I’d received none from him. Sometimes, when feeling especially hormonal, I’d fantasise about all manner of atrocities that may have befallen him, which thus had prevented him from contacting me. The most repetitive fantasy, however, was that he was just an arsehole.
Fast forward a few months and one of my best friends was going back to the place where it all started and asked me to come along, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to relive anything of last year because, I told myself, I’d moved on from all of that.
Then a few weeks later, I changed my mind. If I truly had closure, I thought, then I should return on my own terms and enjoy its wondrous remoteness, and waves, and create new memories. So that’s what I did.
Within two hours of arriving, my friend sheepishly informed me that my former paramour was there, too. Had been for a few weeks, he said. My friend hadn’t told me because he didn’t want me to get too anxious or axe a trip that he knew I really needed to make. He made the right call.
I think part of me knew my ex-lover would be there – he certainly knew we were supposed to return at that time – but that wasn’t the reason I went. Still, the news shook me to the core and I drank many beers after a 27-hour journey there. Surely a phone call would have been cheaper than flying to Sri Lanka to apologise I thought drunkenly?
Over the next two days, as we walked the single street of that small surfing village, I scanned as I strolled, but I don’t know whether I was hopeful or fearful of seeing him.
The first meeting happened by chance in a cafe and I’m proud to say that I didn’t punch him on the nose or slap his handsome face. I just said “hello” and politely joined the group conversation when necessary.
He sat opposite me and couldn’t look at me for a time. I liked watching him squirm. But strangely, what I had found so alluring the year before, had vanished. He still looked good, but not in the way that I remembered or in the way that I had dreamed about during those 12 long months of silence.
Later that night, at the local beachside bar, he arrived and was soon sitting next to me. My friends made excuses about being tired and left, knowing that I needed to hear what he had to say.
Without too much prompting he said “sorry” again and again. And that was about it. He never was the greatest conversationalist. Not that I’d noticed that last year.
I prompted him for more information and he started to list a whole bunch of reasons to justify his behaviour and then I realised I had stopped listening. I just didn’t care.
But before he started talking about himself a bit more, I said, “Look. There’s something I have to say.”
He waited and probably wondered whether that punch on the nose was imminent but I just said: “It wasn’t about the contents of the phone call. It was the phone call. A promise is a promise. If you had no intention of contacting me you should’ve just said so. It hurt me very much. I was upset for a long time,” I told him, “and I didn’t deserve it.”
He apologised profusely and sincerely again and then I told him that I’d actually forgiven him a long time ago. I also thanked him for the gift of surfing because it had given me something that I didn’t know I was missing – peace and a profound connection with the ocean, whether I actually catch a wave or not.
And that was it. The moment that I’d dreamed about was nothing like I’d thought it would be because I no longer wanted it to be that way. I’d finally moved on, but perhaps he hadn’t. I’ll never know because a few days later he disappeared from town like a thief in the night.
Maybe our paths will cross again one day or maybe they won’t. It doesn’t really matter because now he’s just somebody that I used to know.