“You said you saw something in my eyes that day in Lisbon that scared you. What was it?”
I am sitting in London Gatwick airport. C is on the other end of the phone. This is first time I have heard her voice in a month. It has been an excruciating five weeks in London.
Every time I leave Europe, I fly out of Gatwick. It’s reliably cheap. Today, for the first time in my life, I’ve missed my flight. I’ll have to wait there in Gatwick, overnight, for the next flight home to New York.
On the phone, there’s a long pause.
Finally, C says: “It was hurt. I saw hurt in your eyes.”
My final weekend in Europe.
I’d imagined I would spend it somewhere romantic with C. A sixth country. Somewhere new; somewhere that could be ours. Some use for all that money I had saved, after months of living simply in New York and London. I would buy her ticket, I had told her in Lisbon.
“Be present!!” she’d told me in response, before spending the afternoon shopping for a washing machine and pointedly ignoring the yawning tension between us.
“I have three weekends left in Europe,” I’d told her on the phone. “Come meet me somewhere. Let’s not let things end the way they did.”
“I’ll think about it,” she said.
I hung up, went to bed with a smile on my face.
The next a.m., I woke up to a text: I don’t quite understand the point of the request. My answer is still no.
So I went to Brussels to see an old fling.
Someone much better at ‘keeping things light.’
In Brooklyn, I again try and write the story of C and I.
“This is a happier story than my last,” I say, by way of beginning.
I want to write everything. It’s a love story, I want to say. It’s the story I think of every morning when I wake up, and the story I dream of every night when I go to bed. It is the only thing that matters to me.
But I can’t write these things. I know I can’t.
C could never hear them.
And I can’t write about C without being honest.
So I never write that story.
And it all remains unsaid.
Just as she wants.
She must know, I think.
But as she dances around Lisbon, invites me to come live with her in an offhand way, and then refuses to talk seriously about an us, about a future… I cannot shake the feeling that, no — she doesn’t know.
She doesn’t want to know.
Which would be fine.
If only she wasn’t texting me every single day.
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.
“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.