One day she came to me with a bag packed and said she was going away for a while--to London or something like that--and I just said "Okay," and "have a good trip." For what it's worth, I was being sincere. She smiled and said "thanks" but it wasn't a sincere smile, and I knew I'd said the wrong thing.

I didn't always used to try to stay out of the way. I used to have rules and a strong elaborate moral code. I'd talk about it for hours and hours if provoked. This was back when I thought I knew anything.

She wrote letters while she was away, and called sometimes. I asked how she was doing and I never once asked her to come home, or even when she was coming home. And I knew I wasn't saying the right things. I hadn't been for a while by now, I guess, but she was still testing, hoping that somehow I'd start getting the answers right.

I got over it, I guess. The only rule I recognize now is this one: take nothing but photographs. leave nothing but footprints. It's a common one for explorers of all stripes. I just take it to mean that the most important thing you can do is not fuck it up for everyone else. You mind your own space.

When she came back we went out drinking, just she and I, and she got too drunk and started demanding that I tell her why I was so calm about her being gone. Why I just accepted it, no questions, no pleas, not even subtle suggestions. It wasn't like when I was young and passionate about everything--when I'd do whatever it took to make the world look like I wanted. She just wanted me to act like I cared about something. Anything at all. Even if it wasn't her.

I used to have grand ideas and perfect visions for the world. The idea of just trying to keep a low profile and stay out of the way probably would have made me furious or upset or sad. These days it's all I can ask for.

She kept asking why. Eventually I just said "I like you too much. I don't want to get in the way." That wasn't the right thing to say either, but I think maybe she sort of understood.

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