I wish I could tell you about the beauty of the game. About the sand, about the awe, about the wonder that I felt. I wish I could say that I noticed, that I relished it. I mean, yes, I ventured forward to satiate my own curiosity, I ventured forward for the sake of having an adventure. I was the person who mattered most at the start: my experience, my happiness. I was going forward for myself. Me.
I wish I could tell you that was always true, and that I never lost sight of it. But then, the other robed traveler appeared and for a moment, however foolishly, I believed I was not alone-
I am laying in bed with him now. I watch his chest rise and fall. Our bodies were clashing not so long ago, and though he is, at best, an inch away from me, the sheets between us create a mountain range of creases. As he turns away from me the sheets shift – it seems as if they rest above tectonic plates that stretch the chasm between us even further.
He thinks I do not notice that he is text messaging her. Or maybe I’m just being charitable: maybe he knows and does not care.
Later, we fight about it – even though I knew she existed before I left home with no money and no place to stay just to be with him, even though I didn’t think I could change anything. I knew exactly how it would end.
I’m noticing a pattern.
For everything around me – everything there is to appreciate, to experience, to do – the only thing I care about are the moments in which the two travelers intersect and light flourishes between them. Everything beyond that, I brazenly, recklessly throw away.
I want that evanescence. I want it fervently. They want it too, of course they do. It’s beautiful. But then the novelty fades and it’s me who is chasing after fleeting robes that are content to just sway in the wind. I chased and I chased and I chased, and all I could think was if you didn’t mean it, if you weren’t sure, why did you chase me back?
This is not the first time I embark on the journey, not the first time I run after the horizon to see what was out there. But every time a new robed traveler appears, I feel graceless. I notice how I struggle to keep up, how my jumps do not elevate me as high, how often I fall through a sea of mist. Sometimes, they wait for me. Often, I watch them disappear into the sand as I reclaim my footing, and I think yes, I’d probably do the same. Don’t wait for me, I am too late. I am too late.
I tumble through the dunes extending farther than the eye can see. I don’t know where I’m going, I just have to stay in motion. This way, I figure, I can stop thinking about those I have parted ways with. I ignore most of the pilgrims that call out to me; I am tired. I know how these things end.
Then the one with white robes appears, calls out to me. I think: this one, this one is different. And just like that, despite my better judgement, I forget everyone that came before. I stop worrying about where I was going, and instead I wholeheartedly follow.
I mistake this one’s actions as evidence of there being something more. They lead me to things I do not see on my own: symbols hidden beneath temples, a solitary flower flourishing in the desert. I would follow them anywhere.
Eventually I notice that they are not with me, and so I try to climb back up the mountain of sand to where they are, but it’s not use. I can’t stop descending. I chirp and I chirp – don’t let me go! They simply watch me slide farther and farther away without a word.
Eventually I cannot see them at all anymore, though I tilt my camera in the hopes that I will catch a glimpse of white robes in the distance. I never do. Framed this way, I can’t see the pillars and stones that my crumpled body races toward, but it doesn’t matter. Even if I could stop myself from slamming into them all, I don’t care anymore. The sand can take me wherever it wants.
I fall, until eventually a cliff spits me out into the darkness below.
Thankfully, my hair is longer than it was back then, as is my scarf. But exhaustion also has set in. You can see it in the dark pools under my eyes. You can see it in a series of wrinkles that traveling cartographers etched onto my face when they used me to find their way. I thought I was impervious once, but now I notice new wrinkles every time I look at the mirror. There is a map on my skin: I can show you every route a lover has taken, has left behind.
“You look so much older now,” my friends say. That doesn’t mean anything, it is only appearances. Wisdom has not come with it; I remain as foolish as ever.
My hands paw and dig wildly, they do not know where to go. Slow down. My lips untangle themselves only long enough to whisper “okay, okay,” and then I dive back in. They try to kiss me back, but what they don’t realize – what I don’t realize – is that I am not kissing the person underneath me. No, I am kissing beyond them, reaching out to something that was there once but has now been replaced with a new mirage, a new set of promises that seem familiar. No, this is too soon. I am pushed away, and then later, discarded altogether.
Another pilgrim. Another one who does not see the desperation, another who does not realize my fury is a testament to wanting more than he can give me. My touch is something that is merely happening to him, something that he cannot, does not know how to reciprocate. These moves were learned from people who knew how to kiss me back.
I know this, and yet every time I meet someone new in Journey I go through the same motions; I beckon them all in the same ways. I collide into them repeatedly, hoping the light blossoms make them pause. I chime and I chime and I chime – please, let me be something more than just a temporary distraction.
Nearly defeated, my chime does not radiate like it once did. But I keep climbing the mountain. I keep climbing the mountain even though the storm pushes me back. I keep climbing the mountain even though gravestones surround me everywhere. And when I finally fall into the snow, when this overwhelming, undeniable force finally buries me, I don’t feel surprised.
From the outset, what will happen in that ascent is clear. And yet we brave things like that still, at best making sure to leave easily-visible tracks on the snow, every so often looking back, hoping to spot a fellow traveller. If they appear, if they join me before I have to go, then maybe it’d all been worth it.
Despite everything, I didn’t die out in the snow like I thought I would. No, not at all. Eventually I picked myself up and moved forward, forgot all about the travelers that I collided with along the way. I didn’t share those final moments of magnificence in Journey with anybody, but did notice them for once. And so I soared. Alone, I soared.
About the Author:
Patricia Hernandez is the editor-in-chief of Nightmare Mode, a site devoted to writing critically about games, as well as a weekly contributor to Kotaku. She can be emailed at patricia (at) nightmaremode (dot) net.