Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The heavy heart of the traveller

In Mexico, I catch an intercity bus to León from Tula en route to Guanajuato. It's not a direct connection, and we stop several times to pick up more passengers. At one stop, I watch through the window as two stragglers dawdle—a man and a woman. The man is wearing a day-pack and pulling a trolley-bag, which he loads under the bus. It becomes apparent why they are delaying boarding: it is a goodbye. They touch each other longingly and smile and hold each other in long hugs. The woman, dressed simply in a pink fleece top and Lycra pants, seems at one point to gently lecture the man, tapping his chest with splayed fingers as he looks at his feet and fidgets. Perhaps she is telling him to behave while he is away. She smiles and hugs him again; he returns her embrace, looking sombre. It is touching. I feel sad for her. Then the driver approaches the bus and it is time to go. She appears to wipe a tear from his face with her thumb, they kiss, and then... oh! It is she who is travelling! She boards the bus and he remains slumped against a post with his hands in his pockets as she takes her seat and the bus pulls away.

Madame de Staël said: "Travelling is one of the saddest pleasures of life." These are the moments of which travel is made.

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