That Time I Had My Heart Broken in a Foreign Country

Lisbon, to put it lightly, was a disaster.

On the very first day, jet-lagged and sun-drunk, I found twenty Euro on the ground.

This was to be the high point of the trip.

C has a photo, somewhere. Me, with the bill, by the sea. I must look very happy.

I’ve never seen it.

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‘Someone *Always* Gets Hurt’

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.

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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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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.

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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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