The other day I went with a friend to meet a girl who will be moving to Chile later in the year. This girl is currently finishing her studies and is visiting her fiancee in Chile at the moment on a trip that is just about to end. She had been invited to my Chilean bday celebration on Tuesday but given that it’s her last week here, she politely declined. The next day when I touched base with her about meeting up for coffee before she left Chile, she apologized for not being able to go, stating that since it was her last week here, she wanted to fully enjoy her time with her fiancee.
All I could think was: “Sister, you’re preaching to the choir.”
Since that exchange, I’ve been thinking about what gringas with Chilean significant others have in common. Sure, we have many, many ties that bind given our similar life situations (in most cases) but what really hits home with me is the passionate, all-consuming, one extreme-to-the-next kind of relationship that exists between a gringa and her Chilean sig other during the time we live apart. It’s a far less extreme version of what I merely imagine military wives go through. Of course our version is comparable to a walk in a rose garden considering military wives say goodbye for months on end and live IN FEAR that their husbands/boyfriends won’t return! … yes of course, our version of long-distance-relationships is much rosier.
However while we’re living it, it truly feels like nothing in the world is more painful, more unfair or more never-ending than the constant goodbye’s we have to endure. You basically live your life not from day-to-day but rather, from one visit to the next. It’s like deciding to sleep through two, three, four months between and you finally wake up for about a week’s worth of time, just to go back to your zombie like state following the torturous, heart-wrenching goodbye (done at the airport).
Oh, the goodbye at the airport. If I EVER have to go through one of those again, shoot me first. I can’t tell you how many times the crew at SFO and SCL saw me bawling, waiting until the very last second to cross immigration (in Santiago) or leave through the sliding glass doors (in San Francisco). Memories of sitting on the plane, crying and crying and crying and just thinking “Get up, get up right now and screw it all, just go be with him.”
The sad reality of life apart was this: I’d get back home after having been in Chile (or was left alone after he’d come to San Francisco), a happy, busy and idealistic time with G, quickly followed by about three days of depression. Crawling into bed, either eating too much or eating too little, watching sad movies worthy of wrist-slitting (think P.S. I Love You.) We’d talk constantly, excessively, as if I couldn’t get from one minute to the next without having him on the line. Yes, from here it sounds a little Lifetime movie dramatic but it was just like that. Empty, painful and all consuming. Then, as if in auto mode, I would just … deal. I would wake up, get ready for work, commute, work, eat, happy hour, go home, sleep, repeat (happy hour was replaced by gym or going straight home on other nights. Of course a session of Skype with G was a must, no matter what I did after work.) We just learned to deal with the emptiness, the missing and longing, the loneliness and the monotony of living your life as if single. And that’s one of the worst parts too. You have this person who is THE person, THE love of your life, THE ONE … and yet, you’re apart. So you go everywhere alone and worse, people just keep seeing you as you, alone.
And then… the day you’ve been waiting for FOR MONTHS ON END, finally arrives and you are once again reunited … but then … it’s weird. It’s almost like you need a day or two to readjust to having this person LIVE, right there next to you. I remember being so shy and nervous when I was finally with G again and would jokingly say “Um I need you behind a screen so I can be myself.” Well, it was half jokingly really, which now that I think of it, is so sad! But it makes sense since we spent more time apart than we did together and though this made it so easy to really get to know each other, it made for actual together time awkward in the beginning!
Well, we know how my personal story with G ends in the anecdote unfolded above (happily), but the point is that in discussing our gringa stories with one another we all have the following common denominators:
– having our hearts ripped out (at the airport) when one trip came to an end
– moving along our daily life (apart) in auto mode
– relying on all forms of technology to keep our relationships alive
– having the in-between dates from one trip to another go by in a blur and only focusing on the next time we’d be together
– living momentary awkwardness when we were finally reunited
– having the most amazing time of our lives with the person we love fit into just a mere few days (or if we were lucky, a few weeks!)
And I’d like to take this opportunity to say: when the time comes to end that sad cycle of living apart and coming together, it takes one bold and bad-ass gringa to pick up and move to another country in search of life, laughs and adventure next to the man she loves.
But that, folks, is a story for another time.