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.
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.