Conversations With Londoners

London, England Travel Blog

“So, second day in Lisbon, she tells you she doesn’t love you. Says she doesn’t have room for you in your life. You said it got worse every day — I don’t see how that’s possible.”

That’s Barney, my colleague here in London. He’s 22, 23. Something like that. He sits next to me in this office where I will be working for the next five weeks. 

I’d come here to London at the request of my boss, but more importantly, at the request of a romantic interest — the one I’d been chasing for the better part of a year. She’d wanted me in Europe for the summer, so we could continue our romance at a slightly closer proximity. I’d just spent an awful week with her in Lisbon, which I was currently recounting to Barney.

“Oh, it does get worse,” I say. “Third day and fourth days she’s very sick. UTI. Starts treating it with cranberry pills.”

“CRANBERRY PILLS?” Barney interrupts. “Shitting cranberry pills?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Doesn’t do anything.”

“Of course it didn’t do anything, because you need to take shitting antibiotics!” he rages. A modern man, Barney. He doesn’t suffer fools.

“Yeah,” I nod. “I know. Anyways, turns out after I leave that it’s not just a UTI — it’s a kidney infection. (Which antibiotics also would have treated.) So she’s had a kidney infection literally the entire visit.”

“Is she like a fucking hippie child?” he asks. “Kind of girl who would wear a flower crown? Why the fuck is she taking cranberry pills.”

“Ehhh… kinda,” I say. “She was wearing a flower in her hair in Lisbon,” I say, drifting off in memory. Weeks later, when I pack to leave London, I will find this bougainvillea in my luggage. I won’t know what to do with it, and will, sadly, put it back in the inner-breast pocket of my jacket. Unable to let it go.

“Hey! Hey!” Barney snaps in front of my face. “Finish your fucking story.”

“Oh, right,” I say, coming out of nostalgic memory, and back to the hard reality of the thing. “Fifth day was her birthday. That one was alright. We were supposed to go to the beach but never got there. Drank a pitcher of sangria by the famous tower, you know the one. That got her talking a little. OK day.”

“Sixth day — she’s promised me we’ll talk this day. ‘Just give me a few days,’ she said. ‘Saturday, Saturday we’ll talk.’ So, Saturday: she gets a new roommate. Her other one is out of town, so the whole time I’m there she’s been trying to sublet it, you know,”

“Jesus Christ,” says Barney.

“Yeah,” I say. “I know. I was less than happy about that. She was always trying to buy a fucking washing machine too, and shit like that? Didn’t seem very present. So anyways. Sixth day, new roommate. She gives the roommate the only set of keys.”

“Noooo,” he says.

“Yup. I told her not to, but anyways, she gives away the keys to this new person she just met. Then she makes me go pick up some more furniture. Awesome. Already told her I’m not into the whole building a house thing. But anyways, whatever, we end up getting this furniture, struggling with it on the metro, right? Then — of course — we’re locked out of the apartment. Did I mention she’s still got the kidney infection?”

“Jesus Dan,” he says, shaking his head. “You did not have much luck on this trip, did you?”

“Noooo I did not,” I say. “Anyways, so we spend that night wandering around in the cold, trying to get the keys. She’s miserable. I’m annoyed. We still haven’t talked any more about what happened on Tuesday. About us. Eventually we get the fucking keys and go home. Everyone’s angry. That’s it. That’s Saturday. No talk.”

“Next day’s Sunday. Last day. She wakes up, tries to have sex with me. I just… can’t. I’m so sad, I don’t want it, you know? Sex for me is all about the emotional connection. And she’s shut that down, completely. I go to the bathroom and just cry. 

“She wants to go to the beach, but I just want to get this fucking talk over with, you know? I force it, probably. Anyways, it goes from: she ends up inviting me to move in with her, to telling me she doesn’t have space for me in her life, to me telling her I was with another girl in New York. We run out of time, I gotta go catch my flight. And then I leave her a letter that says that I love her.”

There’s a beat.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Barney asks. “Really, what made you think ANY. OF. THAT. was a good idea?”

“Things did get away from me a little bit,” I admit.

“No fucking shit they got away from you,” Barney says. “Wayyyy far away.”

Then he adds: “Can I read the letter?”

I hesitate for a second, then say: “Sure. Why not?”

I have nothing left to lose.

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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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Nepal 22: Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square

As I wandered through the shady local streets, I heard snatches of what sounded like several different languages. I wasn’t really in the mood to shop, so I just kept going straight ahead. When the streets got too narrow for my liking, I turned down the next alley. In this way, I passed the afternoon.

Eventually, I emerged from the narrow, crowded alleys into a more open space. I felt the sun beat down upon my skin, and I warmed ten degrees. Those shaded alleys had been chilly. Here, there were souvenir stands and sunglasses vendors. It felt more like Thamel than the local streets I’d been wandering all afternoon.

Idly, I wondered if I had walked in a giant circle. Maybe this was Thamel.

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Nepal 17: Shopping in Thamel

Kilroy's of Kathmandu

The trek from Jiri to Everest Base Camp seemed too long to contemplate in my shell-shocked state. When I considered the prospect of trekking through rural Nepal for three weeks, alone, it sounded insane, bleak, and lonely. Not to mention, the trek would take at least 21 days, and I only had a 30-day visa. I’d eaten up a few of those days already, and I still needed to outfit myself almost from scratch. I’d been in the tropics for the past five months: I had only a single piece of the I equipment needed to venture into the high mountains — my hat.

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Nepal 3: Hong Kong to Delhi

Air India

[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]

I had a ticket onwards to Nepal, via Delhi. The five hours between when my girlfriend’s plane departed for home and mine left felt interminable. Yet, sitting in a shocked stupor, it also felt as if things were moving very swiftly. Nothing made sense.

I was a human robot, less than a lost child. I could not have thought for myself or made any decision other than to continue down the path I had set for myself a few days ago: I was going to Nepal, and Holly was going home. What had seemed to make so much sense in the weeks leading up to our parting now felt all wrong.

But she was gone, and I held tightly to two tickets: HKG to DEL, and DEL to KTM. The idea to buy a ticket home didn’t even enter my mind. I was utterly incapable of independent thought. So I sat, and I waited, and I boarded the plane to Delhi.

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