My Airbnb host, Brian, drove me to the Greyhound Freight station to pick up my suitcase. He dropped me off at 8:00 am before he went to work. I took an Uber back to the house and was happy that my bag arrived safe and sound.
I needed to pick up a package that my mom mailed to me at the post office in downtown Darwin, which was just over a mile away. I walked to my destination and enjoyed seeing a little bit of Darwin on the way. I was relieved when the package was there. After that, I enjoyed some eggs benny at a restaurant nearby. I missed the fantastic Australian breakfasts during my ten-day camping tour through the Kimberley region.
I found a park that overlooked the ocean with a great walking path, so I strolled along, enjoying the sun. I was sweating from the humidity, and people told me it recently started to get hot and humid again as they approached their wet/hurricane season.
I walked back to my Airbnb and rested for an hour. My new friend Suzanne who I had met on the ten-day tour, told me that Damien (the tour guide) informed her of his flight to Zurich that day. Darwin has a small airport, and there was only one flight on Singapore Airlines that day, and it left at 3:45 pm. I told Suzanne I was going to the airport to find Damien so that I could get closure.
In the last two years, I’ve tried hard to be myself. I’ve always been a little strange, and I don’t particularly care about social norms and what’s considered acceptable. For me, I needed closure to move on, and if I didn’t go to the airport, I would never see or talk to him again. It was my only chance.
I was nervous but determined not to give up. I got an Uber, sat in the front seat, and headed to the airport. The driver talked to me about his day and how he hates Uber Eats because of the need to find parking. The song Push It by Salt N Pepa played on the car stereo while my stomach turned with knots.
I arrived at the airport at 1:00 pm and figured Damien would arrive within the next hour. I sat on a bench near the security line, knowing he would have to pass through there. I put on my headphones and played music to pump myself up. I jotted down some notes of things I wanted to say to him:
- I just want two minutes of your time. I have regrets about how I said goodbye. I can’t sleep when I have regrets, and I like my sleep.
- When I first saw you, I was physically attracted to you, but I worried that I’d get hurt, so I tried to distance myself from you. But as I got to know you, I found out that not only are you intelligent, you think for yourself. I’ve met a lot of people throughout my life, especially in the last year. It is extremely rare to meet someone who is truly unique. You are, and I feel lucky to have met you. In a sea of boring, predictable people, you stand out.
- I enjoyed our banter and tension. I found myself more and more attracted to you. I wanted something to happen between us, even if it would just be one night. Maybe I just needed physical touch.
- Suzanne told me that you were looking at all of the slutty women coming into the bar and ogling after them at the restaurant. It threw me off, and I wondered if I misjudged you. Maybe you are just like all of the jerks who will sleep with any girl who walks into a bar. As I was trying to process it, you left.
- I panicked. I didn’t want you to leave. But I failed to express it. I’m sorry for being a jerk, and I’m sorry for how I said goodbye.
- I know I look like a stalker right now, but I promise you that you’ll never hear from me again unless you want to.
I was satisfied with my notes. I thought it reflected why I went there and what I needed to say. As I sat there with my palms sweating, I kept my eyes peeled. Then I saw James. He was a guy that partied with Linda the last two days and who I spent time with at the horse races.
James walked over and asked where I was headed. I told him that I wasn’t flying anywhere; I was waiting for someone to say goodbye. I continued to keep my eyes peeled and was nervously looking around as James talked. He told me how he was tired from the long, wild weekend. He was supposed to have flown out the day prior, right as the races were ending, but he told his boss that he was too drunk to be let on the plane and had to reschedule. He was now hoping that he would get on the flight to Sydney and eventually to Melbourne. After chatting briefly, James got into the security line.
I continued looking out for Damien, continually reminding myself that I couldn’t back away out of fear of what people would think. I was reminded of a Helen Keller quote, “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Around 1:45 pm, Damien walked through the sliding glass door. I pulled my headphones away from my ears and stood up. He was standing in front of the computer screens. I walked towards him and thought about turning towards the door instead. But then he turned around and saw me.
“What flight are you catching?” He said, confused.
“I’m not. I’m…hanging out. I just need two minutes of your time,” I replied with a dry throat.
He slightly laughed. “Well, you’ll need to stand in line with me. I have missed too many flights before,” he said as he continued walking through the airport, looking for his airline.
I was very thrown off by his reaction. He was slightly laughing, thinking I was ridiculous. He casually dismissed me with his overconfidence, and I had to follow him as he searched for where to go. I followed, bumbling along.
“I don’t like how I said goodbye,” I explained.
“It’s fine. Whatever. I’ve had worse.”
I’m sure you have, I thought.
“Well, I can’t sleep when I have regrets, and I would like to sleep,” I continued.
“Ok. You could have just texted me,” he laughed.
“I would have, but I don’t have your number,” I explained.
Damien stopped and looked at a screen, confused about which airline was his. It turned out that his Singapore airline was operated by another airline, so he got in that line. He said, “You’re going to have to get in line with me.” I reluctantly got in line with him and said, “You’re seriously going to make me do this in this line?” “Yes,” he replied.
I fidgeted as we walked through the first section of the line that was roped off. A single man was standing in front of Damien, and shortly after we got in line, some people got behind me. I tried to talk quietly and didn’t know where to start. All of the moving around, his reaction, and the fact that I was trapped in a zig-zagging line threw me off.
As I stumbled, I said, “This isn’t easy for me. I am not good at expressing myself verbally.” He interrupted, “Umm, yes you are. You have no problem, with politics anyway.” I explained, “Well, yes, with politics, but not with these things.”
He got a little more serious and stopped laughing. I’m not exactly sure what came out of my mouth. I tried to be quiet as we walked through the line, but it was something like this: “I liked you. I liked our banter, and I wanted something to happen, even if it was for a night.”
He smiled, sort of laughed again, and said, “This is going to be great for our think tank.” Concerned, I asked what he was talking about. He explained, “In September, we’re doing a think tank. We’re brainstorming new ideas. That sort of stuff. It’s not final or anything yet.” I pushed further, “What’s it about?” He answered, “Guiding.” Oh no. I pleaded, “Please don’t mention this in your think tank.”
As we pushed further in the line, I imagined this think tank. Damien would likely describe it as a pathetic American girl who was so obsessed with him that she stalked him at the airport. They would all laugh and imagine me as being a weak, pathetic person. Damien would make it seem as though he is so charismatic that women go crazy for him.
He wouldn’t take responsibility for being the initiator of flirting with me. He wouldn’t explain all of the things he said to me and the ways he paid attention to me, so much so that people thought something was going on between us. He wouldn’t describe how he pushed my buttons and then became charming just to mess with me. No, it would go down as a laughable “tour guide makes tourist pathetically fall for him.” Except it wasn’t true. It was lust. And it was quickly fading.
We came to a stop at one of the corners of the line, which made it seem even quieter around us, enabling others to listen. We’re both over six feet, making us stand out. I was flustered. “Please don’t mention this and make me out as a stalker. I’m not.”
Damien was amused. He laughed and loudly said, “No, I want it more dramatic! I want you to start shouting! I want you to start throwing things. Throw a trashcan maybe. Go wild!” Then he mimicked throwing a nearby trashcan. I was mortified and pleaded, “Please stop.”
I was failing miserably. My beautifully written points were out the window. I tried to recover and get back on track. “Look, I wanted something to happen. But then that night at the restaurant, Suzanne got inside my head. She told me that you were ogling all of the slutty women that came in with their boobs showing. That was off-putting. As I was processing it, you left.”
Damien looked embarrassed and explained, “It was one girl. And damn it, I knew she saw that. She gave me these huge eyes because she was mad.” I continued, “Well, I was surprised by it and tried to process it when you left. So I’m sorry for how I said goodbye. But that is why I was a jerk.”
I was surprised when Damien responded slightly angered, “Well, you told me that I was worse than Chris.” That made me feel bad, so I replied, “I’m sorry about that. You’re not. But now you know why I said that.”
I said what I needed to say, and I started to desperately look for a way out of the line so that I could run away. I would either need to duck below the rope or walk out, past the last two rows that now had about seven people with luggage in it. Damien noticed my search for an exit and reached his arms out for a hug. I gave him a quick hug and then handed him my card with my blog information and said, “Seriously, you’ll never hear from me again. Unless you contact me.”
Damien took my card and started to put it in his bag while saying, “To be honest, I don’t read blogs.” I rolled my eyes and started to walk away towards the end of the line, and he looked up from his bag with a smile, saying, “Maybe I will read yours.” As I walked away, I said, “You will be written about.”
I walked outside and over to the Uber pick-up section. As I waited for my ride, I was satisfied. The conversation didn’t go as planned, but I was able to say what I needed to say, even if it was messy and shorter than I expected. I wanted it to be confident, clean, clear, and to be able to run away once I said it. Instead, several people in line, who were probably listening, got a show.
Damien laughed at me several times in a way that made me feel like he was a schoolyard bully who was going to brag to his friends about how this pathetic girl fell for him. This brought back a familiar feeling to me. Years ago, I had a male friend who used to spend a lot of time talking with me at work – much more than was allowed. We went to lunch together, took walks, and had great conversations.
I started to have feelings for him, and it felt like it was mutual. People who sat near me thought that this guy had feelings for me too. But then one day, I found out that he talked about me to his friends in a way that they had a cruel nickname for me. A mutual friend warned me about this because she could see how he acted around me, which was as if we were good friends and maybe more. But behind the scenes, he joked about me to his friends outside of work.
I will never forget how that made me feel. I felt embarrassed and betrayed. That friend’s immaturity showed. You think you leave these cruel behaviors behind in high school, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stop. My therapist at the time pointed out how unhealthy that person had become to me. Every time I tried to distance myself from him (one time saying we were no longer friends) he’d come right back into my life as if nothing bad had happened. The rollercoaster of emotions that he put me through was painful but a life lesson.
With Damien, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this other guy. Damien did similar things. He pushed his way into many of my conversations, paid attention to me, and acted like there was something there. But when I pointed it out, he made me feel foolish. As he said on day three of the tour, I danced with the devil.
Damien got nicer to me when I started to push back and give him a taste of his own medicine. We could have debates, give each other crap, and he didn’t seem to be afraid of me. Seeing how he reacted at the final night at the restaurant and at the airport made me realize he wasn’t so tough after all. He deflected.
In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my ten-day tour through the Kimberley Region. I met a few great people, some of whom will be life-long friends. I was able to learn more about several countries and teach people some American slang. I saw beautiful sights and landscapes. Damien made it entertaining and kept me on my toes. After a few days of being mean to me, he started to be nice. Having someone hard on the outside be nice to me felt more special than a nice person being nice. It felt like he gave me special treatment. We laughed together, we had inside jokes, gave each other crap, and had good conversations.
Damien is someone who is mostly a unique individual (his treatment of women is not unique). I can appreciate his ability to look like a homeless person and not care. He lives in a van and lives a life he’s chosen. He has read a lot and formed his own opinions about political issues – rare these days. When he wants to be, he can be very charismatic and fun. I enjoyed his masculinity. Once he wasn’t feeling sick, he was a pretty good tour guide, and I felt confident about his ability to guide us.
For the last few years, there have been a few traits that I look for in a partner: Intelligence, Humor, and Kindness. I know a lot of guys who have one or two of these traits. But I’m finding it a challenge to find someone with all three who is single. Damien had two, but he was often not kind. He lacked compassion for people on tour, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he lacked compassion for me when I wanted to say a proper goodbye.
I don’t regret meeting Damien. He was an interesting guy who helped me further define what I’m looking for in a partner. Looking back, I’ve realized that Damien might have thought that I was there to go off on him, considering how much we argued. That’s probably why he said I should throw a trashcan. When I saw that he was so casual about me being there, my walls went up immediately. My demeanor was defensive with my arms crossed. I have no idea if he’s read my blog. It’s been a year and I haven’t heard from him. I’m guessing I never will.
I don’t regret going to the airport. I’m aware some people will think I went too far – that I’m pathetic. I believe in living a life of adventure and a life of being honest, no matter how awkward it is sometimes. I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone through rock climbing, abseiling, and flying in a powered hang glider. I want to push myself emotionally too. Life is messy. Life is full of emotions. I am still learning, and I will continue to embarrass myself. And I’m ok with that.
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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider