Segovia to Malaga – A Journey Better Travelled Alone… (or The Power of Geography)

‘cause my head is filled with questions and I can assure you, no answer to any one of them has ever brought me one iota of happiness, except one… And the answer bloody well isn’t 42, it’s yes; undoubtedly, unequivocally, unabashedly; yes.

– Arthur Dent, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy

If I could finally, once and for all describe this ‘pain’ properly, then I’m sure people would understand. If I were a better writer, and could write what it really feels like, then people would have to understand. But each time I try, it feels like I’m trying to capture smoke with a fork. It’s there alright, but you can’t touch it. And if I could do that, touch it, I might even be able to shut this website down.



But as it is, I’m left with a feeling of embarrassment each time I tell a friend it still hurts as well as the failure of not being able to describe that hurt more accurately. It’s been long enough. It should surely not continue to do so. To hurt. But it does. And on this Tuesday afternoon therefore, I am not alone in boarding the delayed 12:37 from Segovia to Madrid.

I board with my constant companion. Constant. If only there were breaks. I mean let’s say this ‘pain’ would accompany me in the taxi to the station, but then agree to get a later train. I’d get the afternoon off. ‘Pain’ could pester someone else, just for a change and I could read, or sleep even.

Today, as I waited on the platform I remembered a fairytale written by my countryman Hans Christian Andersen. Called ‘The Shadow’ it’s the rather dark tale, with no fairies whatsoever, of a man who gradually loses possession of himself to his shadow. I first read it as a child and loved it. I read it for a second time to Her in front of the fire last winter. I feel like that man at times. Instead of a shadow it’s my ‘pain’ that is slowly starting to define me. I am tired of this. So tired. Everywhere I go, it follows, in everything I do, it’s there. When I write, it comes out through my finger tips. And all I really want is to write fairytales. Fairytales with fairies in them. Therefore, even if there were a ‘later train’, it’s no good and to Madrid and onto Malaga we must travel together.


And as such, the ’empty’ seat next to me is in fact not empty, and my hands tremble as a I write. I type frantically. Fast. I am writing as therapy. I don’t think, just type. It flows from… somewhere. I write to get me through this journey. To get me safely from A to B. It seems to help. Will anyone ever see these words? Will I have the guts to ‘publish’ it, there for all to see, judge, cringe at and unsubscribe to? At this very moment as the train speeds through the darkness under a snow clad mountain, I believe they call the ‘dead woman’, it doesn’t actually matter. Nor does it matter whether anyone will read this or even whether the words combine to form anything particularly ‘good’, that people have suffered greater loss, greater pain. The only thing that matters is literally typing out the pain. Exorcising it. If I get it right, I’ve learned it can feel like it is seeping out through my finger tips and writing can allow me peace. If I get it right.

I called my best friend from the platform in Segovia. I sometimes, even after all these years, think that nothing, or rather no one can help; that only time, and a finite amount of wallowing will one day release me. If there is to be a release. Then each time I reach out, it still surprises me when J says exactly the right thing and makes me feel a little better. An hour ago, I was sure I was going to succumb and look up Her number and call. Now I am once again reminded how wrong that would be. ‘It’ll only bring you more heartache‘ she says. And as always she’s right.

We exit the tunnel…


I have to lean back in my seat. I’ve been hunched over the keyboard. It must look odd, if anyone around me were interested. They’re not. My back has started aching, so I lean back, stretch, breathe, and try to let my thoughts catch up with me. I’ve started a journey now that I have been dreading for weeks. There’s no turning back. I never had it entirely mapped out and didn’t know it would start in beautiful Segovia, to which I have, being here alone, done no justice. But it is a journey to which I did know, and feared, the ending; Malaga. Oh Malaga. This morning, as I could put the logistics off no more, I realised it would be worse than feared even; I will this evening need to catch the train that in fifteen minutes could take me to Her stop. I must however, make myself travel in the opposite direction, to get to the airport and my hire car. And go. Just go.

Call? Email? Visit – turn up at the door like the movies? I shouldn’t, but I just don’t remember seeing many where that doesn’t end well. Though of course whomever rings the door bell is always accompanied by a clever line. There usually follows a kiss. Clever line! If only it were so simple, I could write a thousand… One line to win it all, one line to bind us… how does it go? I shouldn’t just turn up, I know and I won’t, but thanks to geography, for the first time in four months, the point is, I could. I could. And that is powerful.


Instead, nothing. Do nothing. DO nothing. Any deviation from this will lead to more heartbreak said my friend who knows me well and pulls no punches. I tell J that there could just possibly be a letter in my postbox when I get all the way home. It’s one of the crazy thoughts whirling around in my head. I’ve been away for four months. In that time I’ve sent one gift and posted one short letter. No emails, texts or calls. I’ve tried to do the right thing. Just as she asked. That’s all. But I could not entirely disappear though, could I? Maybe she’s chosen to reply in that same way? A letter? ‘She doesn’t know I’ve been away all this time‘, says I. ‘She could be wondering why I have not replied‘. I’m trying to explain that a letter is likely. To J and to myself above all. ‘Ok, then let this thought be what gets you past hers and to your door‘, says she. And immediately I feel better. It’s hope again (another of my companions). Once I returned home and found a letter from Juliet . Oh to find a letter in just a few hours from my real Juliet. Of course J and I, we both know I’ll once more have to cross the bridge of disappointment when I get there. But for the next few hours, I need to get past all the Mermaids singing to me – calling me to divert from my route, to turn right along the sea instead of left, and just get home. If a thought of a letter can do that…

I also know at home lie more memories in ambush. I have not been there for months and when I packed and left, I did so without being able to put things away. Things, objects, just objects. But they will shortly greet me as I walk through the door. And in these objects, live memories. They are the manifestation of everything we shared; hopes, dreams, a common story. Per se, nothing, but put together the ingredients one giant monkey, two coffee cups by the sink, a solitary sock, left behind, still on top of the wash basket, one set of bongos, whisk them together in a mind of regret and… Well, maybe if I can call them out now, one by one, prepare myself, I can ‘defuse’ their power. Maybe. But that’s painful, so I stop.


The train picks up a further delay and I end up having to run across Madrid to make the final leg of the journey over which I have no control. After that I will be taking charge. I will drive myself. I must decide. When I run with my luggage, pain does seem to struggle to keep up, so I run without thinking and I make my train, just. It’s now 14:43 and I face a countdown until 17:18 when I’ll be in Malaga. Writing helps, but I can’t possibly continue to write for nearly three hours. What about?

Somewhere during my run across Madrid, from station to station, I must have decided I simply can’t face that airport train. She could even feasibly be on it. I’d feel like bursting as I got on. A taxi to the car hire place. Yes T, that’s the, expensive, but only answer; then just drive. That’ll also mean avoiding the station ticket machine where we had such a pointless fight. Oh to be able to undo… Don’t think. Just drive – get away. Malaga. Oh Malaga.

And yet, all this… all this, is just the power of geography. That’s the absurd thing. Geography. I’ve travelled. Sure I’ve not travelled alone. The ‘pain’ was always there. I never slept a full night. I always wished for a second chance. Hoped I’d hear something. I missed Her terribly. In my head ‘un-made’ my mistakes a thousand times. Took back every word spoken in anger. I daydreamed and longed for the life I knew before, but I was not like this. Not like these past days, since my return to Spain. I coped. I danced, drank, chatted, made friends, skied, worked, laughed. I coped. ‘Sais fort‘ texts G. ‘Get a grip’ he said once. And in France I was fort and I did have a grip. So why as we race along, the kilometres flashing past, is that choking feeling inside getting stronger and stronger? Geography. I could literally see Her in just a few hours. Malaga. Oh Malaga.


And as we approach Malaga, I realise that just as you, readers, do not, so also do I not know the end to this piece. That’s a different feeling to when I usually write. In fact what will I next write? From where? Will I ‘be strong‘ and drive straight home? Will magic intervene and she walks through the station at the exact time… Will it all just fade away? This is no movie, or even a novel. This is real, ordinary life. There is nothing extra-ordinary about me, or my ‘pain’. Chances are, for as of right now at least, I do feel like sharing this with you… why not? I am who I am. Chances are, I’ll simply copy and paste this to my website tomorrow when I once again have an internet connection. No dramas, no magic, no intervention of fate. No happy ending, no sad ending, just a plain, ordinary… end.

But. But, as I read back over what I have typed in these few frantic minutes on two trains, I realise that in doing this, this writing, it does help. Suddenly, overwhelmingly and powerfully a feeling comes over me as I read the above time and again, it feels like this is happening not to me, but to someone else. Like it is just a story. And it feels good. For the first time today, I feel ok. And with this comes the realisation that the ’empty’ seat next to me, is now in fact empty. ‘Pain‘ has moved two rows back. I won’t get carried away, he’ll catch me I am sure, but for now, maybe through acknowledging each other we’ve struck a compromise and both granted each other a moment of peace.



And of course, whatever does happen next, Friday, again, I do what I always do and…


For you S

Tout ce que j’ai pu écrire ,
Aura longtemps le parfum des regrets


~ by Support on May 4, 2017.

20 Responses to “Segovia to Malaga – A Journey Better Travelled Alone… (or The Power of Geography)”

  1. Always thinking of you Thomas. Xxx

    • Dear Michelle, oh how nice it would be to see you guys again soon..x x x

  2. Poignant words Tommy boy. Chin up, tomorrow is another day. If there is one bright aspect to reading your words is I (the reader) get dragged into the story and very much so. You live a life that many would be envious of, you offer a world of knowledge to all those parties that you guide about. You are the sort of person that in 20-30 years, people will hang on your every word. Keep ’em coming. Stay well

    • Dear Colin – thanks so much. You always read, bless you and I am so grateful for it and your words of encouragement. I am ok, doing better each tomorrow as you say and if it leads to ‘better’ writing, well maybe that was all it was meant to 😉 Big hugs

  3. Keep writing, Thomas. It’s cathartic and your writing is especially powerful. And hold on to these musings. There will come a day when you will be able to read them with just a small ache and know just how much you have learned and grown. Here’s to that day.

    • Thank you Jody – and please give a big hug to Vic for me… I’ll drink to that – thanks for reading 😉

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Thomas. Like probably everyone who reads your thoughtful postings, I always find comfort in realizing that we all have lived some version of this story and all your stories. We hear you, we get you, we are you. May Pain mostly always be several rows back for you.

    • Dear Peggy, it matters so very much that people read and it is so nice for me to receive your kind kind comments. I love the ‘several rows back’ comment. Thank you!

  5. Ca me coupe le souffle e ,che e raro ,non so piu cosa dire—Ti mando solo tutta la magia chi e rimasto nell mio cuore—-Chissa se questo ti aiuttera ,sto sperando di si.Sono anni—e rimango li, sempre.x

    • Tu più di tutti con la tua magia e amore mi aiuti – grazie grazie Strega Bianca 😉

      • Grazie ,amico carissimo.Sei tutti momenti nell mio cuore e ci rimanerai tutta la mia vita.Ci sara sempre un filo che ci lega.A

  6. Thomas, I always love seeing you in my inbox. Here’s hoping pain is always a few rows back. May our paths cross again soon.

    I’m off to Iceland and Ireland this summer. Any advice/tips?

    Renae Rebechini

  7. Oh, Thomas, I’m sorry to hear your feelings are still so raw. Unfortunately there is no timetable for these things. I hope your upcoming tours in France help,especially the time with your friend Benoit. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, which you certainly know how to do. Speaking from experience, it will eventually get better.


  8. Your writing moved me. Didn’t think you could pick us readers up from the Blue funk you described, but you did…so subtly too
    Enjoyed the read very much…on the road myself right now, at roadside cafe , with a cup of coffee

  9. Thomas, moving words, to be sure. As a fellow writer, I’ll send you these words from Thoreau that hang near my writing desk and haunt me whenever I see them: “Write while the heat is in you… The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”

    Keep writing, my friend. Your words will eventually begin to heal the hole in your heart and be a personal recording of your life forever. Take solace in your travels and the making of new friends along the way.

    All My Best,
    Sue Minor

  10. Take care my friend. Sending you my best.

  11. Dear Thomas, Losing someone you love is always shattering. I feel your pain. I applaud you for the courage it takes to move yourself forward no matter how many tears you have to shed and for the wisdom to know that writing and publishing will help you (and others) understand and cope with your grief. And you will heal! Your love for travel, for teaching, and for helping others will ultimately make things less painful and even joyful again. It may take more time than you expect, but I promise you, it will get better.

  12. Believe in healing. It will come. I know.

  13. You have a gained a reader and a fan. Finding when and with whom to share one’s private and often, too chronic agonies is always fraught with uncertainty. This site is as good a place as any to do so. Keep writing, keep traveling, keep sharing. You do all of these so well.

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