“Every time you hold me, hold me like this is the last time… Every time you kiss me, kiss me like you’ll never see me again…”
I agree that leading off with the lyrics of an Alicia Keys song is a rather ‘different’ way to start a blog post from the Darkside. You must be wondering what this has to do with the Scandinavian Road Trip; well by the end of this final post all will be revealed.
The last four days of our trip were split into two; days 8 and 9 were in Sweden and 10 and 11 were spent in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of our return journey. Days 8 and 9 were the weekend, and we spent a good part of it on the island of Öckerö, off the coast of Gothenburg. Some old friends had invited us over for the weekend to spend the day and also take in the sights.
Öckerö is part of a large collection of islands off the coast of Gothenburg, which are accessible only by ferry. On average, the islands are the size of a small township; each island has its own church, supermarket and other stores for daily necessities. However, the islands are mainly residential, despite the fact that buying a plot of land here would make a considerably dent in your finances. As we got off the ferry and drove to the house, I took in the beautiful scenery which I had grown accustomed to during my stay in the country. True, instead of giant conifers reaching to the clouds there was the coast line, but in essence it was the same. It was one of the few times in my life that I have been able to sit through a road trip without the need to have some kind of music pumping into my ears; in this setting with this scenery, any form of loud music would be verging on blasphemy.
Our friends are a family of six; parents and four girls. I have known the eldest since I was five years old; officially making her the oldest friend I have, in terms of how long I’ve known her for. We last met in 2001, and it was refreshing to meet her and the family again. They gave us a tour of the islands, showing us the small harbour, the beautiful sea-side houses, and also took us to a rather unique viewing point; a giant water tower, atop which the picture shown below was taken.
The weekend went all too quickly; we spent a lot of timing just catching up, reminiscing about years in school and figuring out what everyone had been doing over the last so many years. Also, Euro 2008 was in progress at the time, so we all watched Sweden take on Spain; needless to say, I was the sole supporter for Spain. It was an interesting match to say the least; apparently watching football with four beautiful girls comes with a price. Instead of discussing football strategies or player skills during the pre-game build up, I found myself in the rather awkward position of debating the relative ‘hotness’ of the Spanish and Swedish teams. Hardcore fans indeed. After reaching the conclusion that the Swedish ‘hotties’ outnumbered the Spanish contingent’s, the next 90 minutes were filled with Swedish patriotic songs, comments about Torres’ hair (“How can a Spanish guy have blonde hair?!”), a few moments of theatrical swooning here and there and the odd death threat as Spain scored in the 89th minute to win 2-1.
After dinner on Sunday, it was time to head back to our hotel in Leerum, which meant the inevitable goodbye scenes. Saying goodbye has become somewhat of a common event in my life; I spent most of my time in college seeing off good friends among my seniors, my batch-mates and even some of my juniors. Despite my vast experience in the matter, the fake promises of keeping in touch and similar invitations to come back never fail to sting. I wonder if it is just a sign of the growing bitterness in my own outlook, or whether we now make these empty promises without even trying to sound convincing. There is an air of resignation when we part ways, almost as if we know that even though there have been significant advances in technology with regards to communication and the internet, the last handshake or hug really is the last. Despite the ingenuity of the rather retarded staff on Facebook, no amount of ‘pokes’, virtual ‘hugs’, ‘free gifts’ or ‘sheep’ thrown at you (“So-n-so has thrown a sheep at you. Would you like to throw a lamb chop back?”) can replace the human element of being in touch with someone.
You see, all this nonsense about the world becoming smaller is just an illusion. We have been lulled into thinking that just because we can write on people’s virtual walls, that we are somehow involved in their lives. But seriously, if I step out this weekend, party like a mad man, get married while under the influence (sound familiar?) run over some homeless people, crash into someone’s house, get shot at by the owner, arrested and divorced by Sunday evening, well, who’s the wiser? Because all I have to do is put in my status message “… is having a boring weekend” and I might as well have spent Saturday night watching cartoons.
Phone calls and video calls can only take you so far; trust me, I know. Emails and pictures only tell you so much. No matter how hard you try, once it’s over, it’s over.
As I sat in the plane flying back to Colombo, I realise that this train of thought has weighed on me so heavily that I was barely conscious of our two days in Copenhagen. Another tour, another set of old acquaintances that took us out for dinner, another goodbye followed by promises of staying in touch ‘this time’. I look out of the plane window, and I recall all the close friends I’ve said goodbye to over the years. Despite my best efforts, the inexorable passage of time has washed away the last remains of contact with most of them. Now there is only this ‘on again, off again’ relationship with them all via emails or calls.
If only I’d known then what I know now; that the words ‘goodbye’ really are final, and hold sway until we physically meet again.
If only we’d love, care, cherish and ‘hold’ those that are close to us every time like it was the last time.