I know, I know. I haven’t written. I'm sorry, really. It's just that lately I’ve been trying really hard not to develop a drinking habit, and that takes up most of my morning.
I’m being glib, which is actually not how I feel. The truth is - you asked for truth - I feel heartbroken and completely untethered. I’ve spent my life believing in the law and its value. It’s never been perfect, I know that, but I could always see the ways to unlock the best outcome. And now it’s gone and there is only … me, I suppose. And I’m not handling that with the most grace. You were always the brave one. So I want you to know that I’m still here, just regrouping.
Hope you’re well.
I was about to start camping outside your apartment. I’m so relieved you’re all right. My friend, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I wish I knew how to help. What I do know is that one day you will feel like yourself again – of this I am certain. And if you can’t see it now then just know that I do, and I will believe it enough for the both of us.
Rafa, if there is any way I can help – no matter how big or how small – please, please ask me.
You’re wrong about one thing: you are one of the bravest people I know. You are Rafael Barba. Don’t forget that.
In the meantime, I’m here for you.
All my love,
I’ve been thinking of taking a vacation. I think getting out of the city for a while might help clear my head. Unfortunately, the diversions of Gestadt and St Lucia don’t hold the same attraction they once did. So I’ve done something … odd. And I hope you’re alone reading this because you’re going to laugh.
I’m going hiking.
Welcome back. Not sure how this has happened, but I’m going to hike (a very small part of) the Appalachian Trail for a few weeks. Why? A very good question, and not one I’m entirely sure I have a good answer to. It’s possible I’ve done this simply to make my cousin shut up about it; clearly his offer of “free room and board” down here in Miami had some pretty contrary fine print that included having to listen to him opine about the great outdoors.
And yet, there’s something about the solitude and the mindless physical exertion that appeals to me right now. My cousin is sorting me out with all the equipment, which looks genuinely horrific. But after all it’s never that far from civilisation if it turns out that Nature and I are not friends. I may be back in a few days.
I think I might need this.
I wish I could say I didn’t laugh, but I couldn’t help picturing you standing in the middle of the forest, in your three-piece suit and tie, looking with disdain at all that Nature.
In all seriousness I think it’s a great idea. I have absolute faith that you will withstand every obstacle in your way, because you always do. Good luck. I hope you find the peace that you’re looking for.
Promise you’ll write or text whenever you can, or I’m going to send out a search party. Not kidding.
So it’s day three, and Nature and I are decidedly NOT friends. It has spent the last three days kicking my ass, and I’m pleased to say I’ve left a sizeable dent in it as well.
Writing this very quickly from a rare stop in a place with phone service. Camping is exactly as fun as I expected.
Not sure anyone thought I’d make it through an entire week, but I wouldn’t have put money on it. Which just goes to show, because here we are on day 7. The hiking is getting easier, the sleeping is not, the food may be getting worse, but it all works out, because after a while you’re so damn tired that your body stops caring.
Today I saw a rattlesnake and did not scream.
I can’t believe you sent me a care package. I’ve already eaten all the fruit, the muscle rub is my new best friend, and I can’t tell you how much the socks were needed. Full disclosure: I actually cried when I saw the mini scotch bottle.
You are my favourite person in the world.
Embarrassing breakthrough. Today I may have gotten an idea of what it is people like about this Nature business. I was resting just off the trail, leaning against a tree, when this tiny bird came down and started having a bath in a little pool of water in the moss. Then another bird came, and another. I watched this ridiculously twee, thrilling little melodrama for 20 straight minutes, and I don’t think I stopped smiling. It was the first time I felt at peace in weeks, and as soon as I surrendered to it I could feel the weight slip off my shoulders. Just a little.
Nature is a hard bitch. I’ve spent two days trudging through heavy rain, ankle-deep mud, and a fucking colony of mosquitoes the size of cats. I’m not going to lie, I spent a bit of that time yelling: at the sky, at the legal system, at random, frightened hikers, and any listening mountain lions. You’re going to think I’m crazy – that’s certainly the prevailing judgement around here, if the looks of those hikers were anything to go by – but I think it helped. I slept better last night than I have in a long time.
If this turns into talking to trees I’m going to need you to come get me.
I made it.
Unfortunately, it turns out I haven’t changed that much after all, because I’m currently writing from the Fir Tree Motel, and it feels like the Four Seasons. The bed, Liv. The bed is glorious. And the shower. I can’t even talk about the shower. Right at this moment I have no yearning for the woods at all. Peace and quiet can go suck it. I need sirens and angry taxi drivers ASAP.
All right, sarcasm aside, I’m glad I did this. Not to sound too millennial, but I think I found myself again. At any rate I feel like I can stand on my own two feet.
And you: thank you. Your packages and notes and texts always seemed to find me at the moments I was contemplating giving up, and because of you I kept going.
Picture of beard attached before I shave it off. Reviews welcome.
I liked the beard! Not only was it an impressive achievement, but I was so glad to see you looking so happy beneath all that hair. I have to say though, while it looked great, I’m pleased to have my Rafa back.
I’ve been keeping Noah up to date on your adventures, and he wants to know if you ever saw a mountain lion. He also had a lot of questions about going to the bathroom in the woods, but I think I’ve covered you there. He’s been keeping me so busy, and is beginning to show an interest in helping me cook, which I know can’t last but you’d better believe I’m going to exploit anyway. We miss you, and spaghetti night remains an open invitation.
When are you back in New York?
Truth be told I was quite proud of the beard, but my mother never would have stood for it. Nice to know I’ve got it in me though. Tell Noah that I did see a mountain lion – between us, it was pretty far away, which was exactly where I wanted it, but feel free to include details of a hand-to-paw fight if you think it will impress him.
I also have to thank you for something. I know you’ve been avoiding any talk or news of work, and I’m grateful. I’m honestly not sure I could have handled it. Now, however, I’m a little less delicate (I fought a mountain lion, after all) and I want to hear from you, all about your day, and anything else you need to talk about. I know it’s taken a while, but I’m here for you now too.
So here’s the paragraph I’ve been avoiding: I can’t come back to New York just now. Ostensibly, I’m off to meet some potential clients in DC. Consultancy seems the obvious choice for now, and I have a few contacts there. I miss the city, but … to be honest I’m not sure it’s the best idea to stay in New York just now. I’ve got a lot of work to do still on Operation Put Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again.
I’m being glib again.
I’m sorry Liv. I miss you. I’m writing this all pretty abruptly because I have to get it out, but it’s kind of killing me. I’m just not ready.
But I’m still here. Please keep writing back.
Give Noah a hug from me.