Career versus love

I have received a job offer in New York City.

I have been Googling.

  • “Which is more important, career or love?”
  • “Job versus woman”
  • “Security or freedom?”
  • “New York versus Lisbon”

The job is in my field; a startup. A British company, opening a New York branch. I’d have the opportunity to shape the culture, manage the rest of the hires. I have always wanted to live in New York. I know I can do the job. There is lots of potential upside.

There’s just the one downside: if I take the job in New York, I can’t move to Europe, and I can’t continue my whirlwind Italian romance.

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An Almost-Disastrous Climbing Trip to Indian Creek

Indian Creek Creative Writing Essays

“There’s no cell service at the Creek.”

Jake’s garbled voice came through Meg’s car speakers. We were testing the ranges of civilization, on I-70 out of Colorado. Red, scrubby desert stretched for miles all around us.

“The only way to communicate at the Creek is by posting a note on the message boards,” the voice on the phone said. “We’ll meet you there tomorrow. Good luck.”

As we cruised through Moab, headed South, I sent the last messages I would send for three days. They bounced up from the Utah desert, hit a satellite, and then redirected across the Atlantic Ocean, to Italy.

We’ll be out of touch for a few days, I said. Let’s use this time to think about things.

Please be careful and come back in one piece? The response came. Otherwise all this pondering will be pointless.

Sure, I said, and the car continued on.

Within seconds: no signal.

Tomorrow would be the first day in four months, or maybe more, that this woman I and would not talk.

We drove on, and for there first time in months, I put my phone aside, my mind at ease.

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That time I had a whirlwind Italian romance

Italian love stories

I think I’m in love with her,” I tell my sister, out-of-the-blue, a few days after Christmas.

On my phone, a voice message: a song. An original composition. It’s about me. A dusky female voice sings about our days together, strolling up and down the Danube. I can see the city lights in your eyes, she sings, in the message.

“Yeah,” I say, listening to it again, grounding myself in the present, recognizing the feeling in my chest. “I am in love.”

We’re sitting in Shawn’s empty flat in Budapest, Hungary. Shawn and Dóra are off in the countryside, visiting family. My sister Christina and I are cooped up together in a claustrophobic studio flat, the ghost of a broken promise between us.

We were supposed to be off on a trip together; headed deep into the heart of Africa to find what there was to experience. Instead, we were in the middle of a bitter European winter. This situation was entirely my fault.

I’d met a girl; gone off chasing her to Europe; and now I’d fallen in love.

The girl had gone home to Italy. My sister had caught up with me for Christmas together in Budapest. Christmas had come and gone, and now, we had no reason to linger in Hungary.

I had a choice to make.

Play it safe, leave Budapest and travel on with Christina; or lay it all on the table in a high-stakes gamble for love?

Come on.

You already know which choice I made.

I text her: “I can’t stop thinking about you. If I’d like to see you again (and I would), what would be the best way to do that?”

I smiled when I read that, she will tell me, months later.

“Well, I am kind of stuck,” she says, “applying for jobs and all. So why don’t you come to Italy?”

“You can stay with me,” she writes. “Hold on, lemme just ask my mom real quick.”

“Yeah, she’s cool with it.”

I plan to spend four or five days in Italy. I end up staying for 25.

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How to forget a heartbreak

My friend Shawn lives in Budapest.

He has lived there for the past two years, ever since he met his Hungarian girlfriend, Dóra, in Laos. The two traveled together for a bit, fell in love, and he jumped. He took a risk; she took a bigger one; and now I have a reason to visit Europe.

Which, conveniently, is exactly what I was looking for, Christmas 2017.

**

In early November, when C left Chefchaouen after three days stay at the hostel I was working at, I intentionally did not get her contact information.

We had passed a wonderful time together. We had spent hours talking at the desk while I worked; we had kissed; we had just brushed the surface of each other. I begged her to stay another night, so we could spend one night together, fully. I managed to make her miss one bus, but not two. She left. I didn’t walk her to the door.

c banner

All I was left with: two pictures she had taken on my sister’s phone. Her, in one of Chefchaouen’s endless blue alleys, sticking out her tongue, which had been painted blue by some chemical-filled candy. She had been obsessed with finding those candies, she said, ever since she saw some kids with blue tongues on her way in. Cute pictures. They were all I had.

Better to leave it, in memory, I had thought. Just a shining three days. I took no contact info. I asked for no Facebook, and I let her walk out the door.  I had the sense, even then, that I could become obsessed.

She tracked me down.

Slowly, we started to exchange messages.

“I just wish I didn’t have all this rage in me,” over her last relationship, she wrote. A long-distance, international romance, it had taken place all over the world — but never at home. The hurt was still raw and oozing, I could tell.

“I don’t know why I am telling you all this,” she said, via Instagram DM

“Because we had a connection,” I responded.

“We did, didn’t we?”

***

I am careful with the messages. I use a light touch.

It is a cautious dance; one that plays out over the course of weeks.

“Men are stupid,” someone at the hostel says. “Why don’t you just tell the truth? Let her know how you feel.”

No, no, I say. Not with this one.

***

I tell her I am considering going to Budapest for Christmas.

If you go, I’ll come visit you! She says.

I book the tickets the next day.

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How I Became an Incorrigible Flirt

Our brother/sister trip around Africa ground to a halt at its second stop, in Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Chefchaouen is a sleepy little pueblo in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco. The entire medina is painted different shades of blue, creating a surreal effect when wandering the streets. Tourism has exploded here in recent years; “even five years ago, Chefchaouen was nothing,” my local friends said.

Chefchaouen is famous for three things, they’d continue:

  1. The water, which comes straight down from the nearby mountains, and is some of the purest drinking water in all of Morocco;
  2. The hashish, which is grown in the nearby mountains and offered to you everywhere;
  3. And ‘the relax.’

Sounds pretty good, right?

Yeah, sounded pretty good to me, too.

“I have to come here at least once a year,” said Waheeb, a Moroccan climber I meet in Chaouen. Waheeb’s a character: he claims to have crossed Africa on foot, from Somalia to Senegal. And I have no reason to doubt his claim.

“Even if I am somewhere else in the world, I will return to Morocco — just to visit Chaouen. My soul just doesn’t feel right if I don’t visit this place enough,” he told me one night, sitting out in the crisp mountain air, staring at the stars.

I could see where he was coming from.

Chefchaouen felt like a bath for my weary soul.

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