En route to Base Camp
Bremer Bay is a beautiful place some seven hours away from Perth, between Esperance and Albany. There's not a building in sight and the air has the fresh tang of the sea. My babies play in the seaweed as if they do not have a care in the world and the soft, steady rumble of waves and the gentle ripple of sparkling clear water clears my mind.
Everything is tinted with a strange kind of sadness, a feeling of loss I cannot quite shake off. When you have been in love with someone for so long it is hard to stop the tears from falling. I'm not angry, not this time, and I don't know whether that makes it better or worse. It's just very defeating, the finality of it, realizing that nothing will come of it. It is not easy being passed over for someone else.
I never thought I would be able to say that to you. I could not look you in the eye and repeat it. I never thought I would have the courage to say that you made your choice and as your friend I am happy for you; but I am too proud to be someone's second choice, if it ever came to that. I hope it will never come to that. Although the people at school who love your company and treat me like dirt may think otherwise, I know I deserve better.
A lot has changed since I was thirteen and saw you for the first time, and liked what I saw. Back then K and I sat on the steps of the Thomas Street Building where we could sometimes see you, and K stole my sandwiches and gleefully told me that you were too old for me, that we had nothing in common and we would never be friends. Obviously K was as good fortune teller as he was a boyfriend.
It's been in the back of my mind for a little while, because I trust that our friendship will last longer than what is left of high school. I genuinely, sincerely don't want anything more from you. I am happy that you seem to be happy, and I'll wait very patiently for my turn. It can't be long now.
By the time I get back to Perth I shall be fine, and everything will be as it was before.
Base Camp, Peppermint Beach, near Bremer Bay
The babies and I went to explore the dunes and the crumbly sandstone plateaus as we made camp here at Peppermint Beach, about an hour or so out from Bremer Bay. Skye is still very over-excited and eagerly clambers up to the highest peaks to get the best view, whilst Bella sulkily slunk away, dug a hole under the car and promptly fell asleep in it.
I've been camping for a few times now, ranging from being a Girl Guide captain in barrack-style dorms to school camps to what we're doing now; what I call Proper Decent Camping - driving to the middle of nowhere and plonking your ass down under the stars, sacrificing flush loos and internet connection in a desperate attempt to avoid the easter-egg consumerism and televangelism of Easter.
At sixteen, I've become a woman of the family. When I was little I was the baby of the lot, the youngest of the youngest - which in Asia results in a bizarre combination of over-the-top pampering and complete lack of respect. But as you get older you get supplanted by little baby girls who will one day join you in being a woman of the family, and you can't help but weep nostalgic and feel the deja vu.
My niece Yu-Dam is five years old and the most adorable little girl to flash her dimples and call me im-mo, or maternal aunt. I remember her sitting on my lap, fully absorbed in picking the strands of pith off a few segments of mandarin. She's dressed how my mother used to dress me - dark dresses with white tights and fussy little Mary Jane shoes. She's a great deal prettier than I am, with fluffy curls and exquisitely huge eyes with preposterously long eyelashes. I speak to her in Korean, the prerequisite condescension unfamiliar on my tongue, but all her education will be in English and she knows a word or two.
"Chair. Cherry. Kiss." Girl after my own heart.
Her parents have called her Irene, and I am beyond jealous because I have never fully reconciled myself with a name few can pronounce and even fewer can spell. But when I ask her what her name is she puffs up with pride and says "Yeeee. Yoooo. Daaaam."
That's what I used to say, before I was old enough to be humiliated by every misspelling and mispronunciation. Kwoooon. Jeeee. Soooo.
One day Yu-Dam will join us in being a woman of the family, but I'd give everything I have just to let her stay this little.
Nightfall, Base Camp
It's past eight and the moon is large and luminous, dancing in swirls of clouds. It's dark but the moonlight makes everything visible with perfect clarity, but bleached black and white like an old cowboy movie.
Why do they say it's "just friends"? There's nothing trivial about friendship. Being friends is like being in love, only a lot less awkward. It means that I'll always be there for you, and you'll always be there for me, but we'll always have other people, people who are friends and more than friends. That is all I need.
When I was friends with K I wasn't content. We weren't close. I had to watch what I say, because there was always a feeling that he would run for the hills if I told him a tenth of what was on my mind. It's because I wasn't happy with our friendship that I wanted more. It never occurred to me that you can have a decent conversation within a friendship.
The hardest part of being friends with someone you love is that you always have it in the back of your mind that something might happen at some point. It is hard if they say it wouldn't work, but harder still when you are forced to say it. It is hard knowing that they will never ask and you will never say yes even if they did, but it is something that I owe myself. I have faith that something really amazing is just around the corner. Someone fearless.
But it is liberating. It is exciting that you can be friends, that for once in your life love hasn't resulted in bitter animosity.
You're not completely out of my mind, but maybe I will get some sleep tonight.
To be continued...