Among the sounds of wilderness, I could hear very clearly sound of something walking towards me. There was definitely something with light footsteps and a slow pace walking in my direction. And just for those few seconds, my heart started beating so fast that I mentally reminded myself to try to stay calm and not breathe too loudly. Just then I felt it, a little nudge on my shoulder. At that moment all I could think of was, ‘Why Me?’ I was standing in the middle of nowhere. Clearly, nowhere because the GPS & phone signals were lost. And I had no way to know if I was at the spot that I had pinned down for setting up to get the last few shots. Until now the expedition for the new assignment had gone so well. Just this last week had been a bit rough. I was left with only 2 protein bars and almost no coffee. The decision to venture on this project by myself had truly been very exciting. I had enjoyed talking to myself and giving pretend interviews to the lush foliage and tall tress. I could always find my calm and crazy in the middle of jungles and photography was just an add on to the love of being alone. And tonight, was no exception. Even though I was scared but I was not praying for help or that I wanted to be rescued. I was bruised and dirty everywhere, yet I was not sure if I wanted to give up. I was not yet ready to give up.
Now getting back to the footsteps and the nudge. I slowly put the camera down to slightly turn my neck to see who it was. All these 3 seconds wondering who it could be, in the middle of nowhere. So, I prayed one more time to all my Gods before finally turning to look. I sighed out of relief seeing him.
It had been 3 years since we broke up. It was one wild relationship. Both of us being wildlife photographers you would think we would be competitive, then you are right. We both were madly in love with our jobs and strangely enjoyed each other’s company as well. We had had some really wild encounters both as professional photographers and as a couple. In fact, after the break-up, I have quite often time-tunneled back to those wild encounters. But tonight, seeing him standing so close to me, all I wanted was a hug. I really needed a touch of another human, after 2 months of being on a job and all contact signals lost for over a week. It was all too familiar. Two of us alone in a jungle, middle of the night, trying to get work done and then his hands. They always did the trick for me. From the very beginning of our relationship, he had dug out all my secrets. All of that came rushing back to me. And I could smell him all over again. All over me.
He gave me an enquiring look, again, I think. And that is when I hastily put my camera down and began to talk. He had to shush me literally with hand on my mouth because in my excitement to see him, I had totally forgotten where I was. I shut my eyes and sighed once again, this time quietly. Enough for me to let go of some frustration but not audible to anyone other than him. He then hugged me and did not stop for what felt like hours. So, I hugged him back. I wanted to keep holding him to cover up for the past 3 years. But then he whispered in my ear. Asking me to slowly pack up everything and head out. Out of this wilderness as it was not safe at all. Like I did not know that. But I still had a few more shots left to be taken, so I ignored his suggestion. That is when, his old protective and overpowering real-self came out and I decided to give in this time, unlike old times.
We now quietly made our way out towards the road. I was following him trusting he knew the way out. And then I saw it, his beloved Jeep parked ready to drive us to safety. He was always the Jeep guy. Every time we took a trip, leisure and official, he always rented out the Jeep Wrangler. I hated it because it was just not comfortable. Each time it drove over a pothole, I could feel my spine jumping out through my skull. But I had to agree with him because it was the best, most sturdy and quiet vehicle for our kind of work. Strangely this time, even the bumpy uncomfortable jeep ride felt cozy and warm. I slept all the way to the hotel he was staying in.
I was still a little sleepy when I entered the room. He helped me put my equipment safely down on a table and then went back to get the rest of the stuff from the car. By the time he came back after the second round, I was standing in front of the mirror staring at myself in a dead gaze. He again walked behind me, and this time looked straight at me in the mirror. And asked, “Do you want to get cleaned up? I can start a bath for you.” All I did was nod in a yes. Suddenly I had lost my voice. I am guessing out of tiredness.
The bath smelled like minty eucalyptus. I half-heatedly made the effort to take off my shoes and clothes without even bothering that he was still in the bathroom. So, he excused himself and walked out. Shutting the door behind him. But turned right back to ask if I needed any help. Again, I nodded my head in yes. One by one all the clothes came off. As he was unbuttoning my shirt, I looked at him to see any signs of his old self. But I only saw concern in his eyes. He very gently took off my shirt, which was a first. As he unzipped my jeans, I screamed a little because now every bone in my body was hurting and it felt like my skin was on fire. He spoke to me in a calm voice and held me tight and tenderly to avoid me from falling. After I was completely undressed, he helped me get in the tub. Another little scream left my throat, as the warm water touched my wounds. I sat down allowing the warm water to gently cleanse my bruised and aching body. He sat down on the floor right next to the tub, with a wash-cloth and started to softly scrub the dirt away. Little by little, the dirt came off and the bruises became clearer and cleaner.
He left me alone after a few minutes and I took a bath for over an hour. This was the first time ever I spent that much time actually bathing and relaxing by myself. I had never been in a bathtub alone for this long. It was weird just lying there doing nothing. Especially when I knew he was right there in the next room. I discovered so much about myself when I was with him. He understood me all too well, physically and emotionally. We both were too broken and too similar. Our personalities were similar yet very different. He was a man of a few words but had the patience to listen to my endless stories all day long. While he could kiss me into oblivion it was me who made him talk. We were perfect together in every sense. He enjoyed discovering me while I took pleasure in being explored. 32 years of life and no man had even reached my shoulder.
I felt a little energized after the bath because I could get out and wear a bathrobe by myself. When I walked out, he was sitting reading a book with a dinner plate ready for me. I smiled looking at the bowl of chicken soup, breathing in the aroma of a warm delicious meal. It was all so good and comfortable, that I did not even realize, I was now crying into my soup bowl. And this time he did not try to comfort me. I am not the kinds who cry easily and so; I hate being consoled while I am crying. For me crying means I am letting out something that I need gone. And he remembered this too about me. Even while crying I was feeling proud and angry at him. Proud that he could not forget anything about me and angry that we were not together anymore.
After finishing the soup, he helped me get into the bed. He hugged me tightly from behind and gently kissed the back of my head and then my shoulder.