The Stranger That Isn’t You

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

It’s dawn and the light casts a shadow across the person laying beside me.
I wake up thinking it’s you and then I remember,
As I smell the scent that’s not your aftershave,
Your toothpaste,
Your shampoo,
That there is someone else sharing my bed.
I smell their musk, their lemon-scented skin
And I remember that it isn’t you.

Their hands are clumsy
And don’t fit nicely inside of mine.
Their skin isn’t the one I want to reach for to cover me from the chill.
The slight intake of their breath isn’t synced with mine;
It isn’t the record I’m used to listening to before I fall asleep.

And here I am,
Alone with the stranger that isn’t you.
Alone with the stranger that I called your name over and over.
The stranger I hoped would help me get rid of the taste of your mouth.
Your skin.
Your touch.
Your everything.

Here I am alone with a stranger I didn’t want to be you,
But cried because he wasn’t.
They say it takes twice as long as the relationship to finally get over someone,
Then I will wait years, months, weeks to get rid of this hole.
I’ll have to wait years to feel whole.
Healed.
Human.

And I’ll hold my breath whenever someone has your name.
Your laugh.
Your scent.
I’ll still turn off the radio whenever I hear that song
And fall into the arms of strangers,
Hoping to find someone that has brown eyes, not green.
Someone who doesn’t care that I wear my heart on my sleeve.
Someone that will be okay with openly loving me.

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For My Brother’s 30th…

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The first movie I remember watching with my brother is “Space Jam.” He had friends over in the basement of Ruth’s house and they watched it as I snuck in and laid on the floor watching the movie with him and his friends. They laughed at everything—most of the things I didn’t understand, so I laughed along with them wanting to belong. Feeling like I was part of my brother’s world that I only got occasional glimpses of growing up.

I asked everyone I met that was the same age as him if they knew Scoot. And when they did, I got a look of surprise and respect because everyone who knew him, liked him. And that made me feel instantly cool because nothing was cooler than being Scoot’s little sister. There are a lot of things that I did growing up because of Scoot. I took French because he took French. I played sports because he played sports—specifically basketball because he loved it and I wanted to love it too. I fell in love with Dashboard Confessional, put scrambled eggs on toast with jelly, and practiced front flips on a trampoline (and failed miserably) because he liked those things and I wanted him to like me.

We didn’t and still don’t have the most conventional brother/sister relationship. Growing up apart from one another can do that to anyone. A lot of the time, sad to say, I think we forgot about each other when we weren’t pushed together at Christmas or birthdays. As an adult, I look at my friends relationships with their siblings and realize how much we missed out. How much we still don’t know about each other. How I don’t know the things he’s allergic to. What his favorite song is anymore. I never teased him about his first kiss. Or had the opportunity to be the annoying sister who switched his shampoo for hair remover and took his car without asking (that’s what annoying little sisters do, right?).

Throughout the years we’ve gotten to know each other better. Finding out stupid shit to create a relationship we never had in the past. While we don’t talk like other siblings do—hell, we haven’t seen each other in years—we’re still trying to figure out this whole brother/sister act. Trying to figure out how to fit in one another’s lives. While most siblings are constantly communicating, we’ve never quite figured out how to consistently stay in touch. But, as soon as I text or he texts me, we always immediately text back, even if it’s a simple “hey.” We really try, which is more than I can hope for. ❤️

Now, he’s turning 30. It’s a new chapter. A new story. It’s the next step in his life. For both of us, we’re still trying to figure all this out. Life, family, love, relationships. For him, school and work. For me, what the hell I’m doing next. Life keeps slipping by and I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to be a good sister. I’m going to be communicative and talk to my big brother about things. About life, love, relationships, all the crazy shit in-between. We’re not the conventional brother/sister duo; he may be my half brother but I whole love him.

Happy birthday, Scoot. Love you lots. See you sometime this year because it’s been way too long since I’ve seen my stupid big brother.

Notes on a Train

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As I sit on a train, passing through Brussels and on my way to Amsterdam, I can’t help but have tears spring to my eyes as I think of how wonderful and beautiful and how much I love the world. How much I want to explore every inch, even the parts that scare me. When I woke up this morning, I was nervous, like I always am, when I’m traveling somewhere new. It’s a nervous excitement where I have to make sure all my paperwork is in order, my money, my clothes, my travel plans and my accent when I speak. Will they understand me in this new country? Will they laugh at me? Will they be accepting? As much as I traveled for the past seven years, ever since I got on the plane the first time I went to Paris when I was 18, I’ve learned that most people are accepting and want to learn your story, your culture, your experiences. Although I’m one of those people that screams “ugh, I hate people!” when a minor inconvenience happens, it’s not true. In all reality, I love people. I love laughing with strangers, and hearing their anecdotes, and learning new curse words in different languages “putain!” It’s exciting and wonderful and everything the world should be.*

*Notes found in my iPhone

How to Fall Out of Love

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I was 16 when I first picked up a copy of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” to try and figure out why the guy that I liked wasn’t texting me back. I couldn’t understand that someone who chased me for months, said they really liked me, kissed me, and as soon as I confessed I liked him too, disappeared. It was later on that same year the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” came out and things started to click into place. He just wasn’t that into me.

When I was 20, it happened again. The exact same cycle I put myself in before. This time with bigger repercussions—a broken heart. Something that I never thought would happen to me. I was too protective of my heart, I thought. No one was going to break it. I wouldn’t allow it, until one day they did. I honestly don’t know how it happened. The warning signs were there from the beginning but I chose to ignore them because he was sweet, charming, attractive, and quite a good kisser. And I was young, naive, and wanting someone to like me. Then, kiss, bang, boom. A broken heart.

The thing about the self help books that I turned to is that none of them told you how to mend a broken heart. Yes, they explained the “10 Signs A Guy Isn’t Interested” or “5 Ways To Make Him Jealous and Wanting You Back,” but there was no listicle on the “10 Things To Do To Fall Out of Love With Someone” or “5 Ways To Stop Eating Ice Cream and Heal Your Broken Heart Quick.” They never tell you the one thing that is true in all heartbreak: how hard it is to get over someone. They tell you all these things you should be doing—working out to get that revenge bod, sleeping with someone else, finding a hobby, anything really to get your mind off them—but they don’t explain what to do when all you’d rather be doing is wearing joggers, eating pint after pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and watching Bridget Jones on repeat wondering if anyone would really love you like Mark Darcy.

I’ve tried a variety of ways of falling out of love—mainly drinking copious amounts of coffee, throwing myself into work, and avoiding any mention of the one that got away. Any mention at all. For me, it was a coping mechanism and probably not the best one, but after a month of his name not being uttered, it got a little bit easier. You almost forget about them. Until you see them in line at the grocery store while you have your hair in a not-cute messy bun, no makeup, and wondering why the universe does this to you. Then you have to rewind and redo all the progress you made before.

There’s no checklist of how to mend a broken heart. If there were and people could get over a break up in “5 Easy Steps,” would it be worth it? Was the relationship really that meaningful if there was such a quick fix? Would we cling to that list throughout the relationship and never really commit to that person because we know what could possibly happen?

I’ve always been the type of person looking for the exit. I know exactly how many rows behind me and in front of me there are to the exit doors. I can find the escape, the loophole, the way out of any given situation and how to not get myself hurt in the process. But, what’s the fun in that? When I finally allowed myself to be vulnerable and open up, it was exciting and scary and wonderful and horrifying and all those things rolled into one. It was everything I hated and longed for. And looking back on the end and the goodbye and the months that followed where I was wallowing in this strange pain, when there was an emptiness in my stomach, and I constantly felt like I was outside of myself, I wouldn’t trade those days. I wouldn’t want a checklist of items that I needed to fulfill before my I was well and truly moved on. I learned what I could take on. I learned about myself. I rediscovered my identity. That piece I’ve been missing for far too long.

The thing about falling out of love is that it takes time, it takes screaming your lungs out, crying so hard your body hurts, laughing until you can’t take it anymore, eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping with the wrong people, sleeping with the right people, swiping right on Tinder, deleting Tinder, breaking your phone, deleting social media, waking up at 3am and not being able to fall back asleep, calling them, texting them, regretting everything and regretting nothing. It takes whatever it takes. It takes you however long it takes. It takes you opening your eyes one day and thinking, “holy shit, I’m okay.”

Dear February

Dear February,

You were good to me, like most Februarys. Most people don’t give you the credit you deserve because they are either too cold or too bitter when the 14th comes around. But I appreciate you more and more each year. I spent most of this month traveling around and visiting cities I’ve never seen before, like Amsterdam and Berlin. Cities that I can’t wait to go back to and discover more of. I want to devour the cities until no stone is unturned.

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As much as I love you, February, knowing that you’re already gone is hurting. In a couple weeks I’ll be 25 and I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet. I still feel like I am 16, awkwardly walking down the hallway in high school wishing my acne would go away—which it still hasn’t nine years later.

I hate that you’re so short. I hate that it’s always a blink and you miss it when it comes to you.

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I made some new friends as I traveled around this month. I met Sarena in Amsterdam, as we traveled around the canals, eating as much food as we could stuff into our faces, and breathed in a city that has so much strange and fascinating history. I met Christine, Kayla, and Dan in Edinburgh. Christine challenged me as we climbed up Arthur’s Seat and as my very un-fit body huffed and puffed the hill, we made it. And it was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I was so proud of myself. Kayla and Dan made me feel so welcome in my Airbnb, giving me tips on places to go in the city that was now their home—at least for a little while.

And then I met up with an old friend in Berlin. One who always gets me thinking about what’s next. Makes me think that maybe I can make it here in Europe and not regret the choices I make on a whim. Not regret spontaneity and this weird internal longing I always have with a country that’s not technically considered home. I’m so proud and jealous of how much she is making the world her oyster (as much as I hate that phrase) and it makes me believe that I can do that too.

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The last week, though, I’ve felt a little out of place, February. I’ve been out of touch with people from back home and am starting to feel like I don’t quite know who they are or who I am anymore. The world has gone on without me and as I get pictures sent to me from home, more and more things look so different and I can’t quite recognize what home actually is. Is that weird, February?

I received a text message from a friend, someone who I met under strange circumstances, someone who I’ve only hung out with three or four times, someone who feels like I’ve known her my whole life instead of the past couple years, and the text made me miss my friendships more than ever. I love this town. I love my students. But I need something bigger. Something that has people and life and a car or a metro so I can get around. I need people, and as much as I claim to hate people, it’s nice being around them every once in awhile.

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February, you made me miss life. You made me miss connections as I traveled around Europe and made some good ones along the way. I appreciate you more than you know.

Dear January

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Dear January,

You started off like any other January—me alone. This time I actually had an excuse as I had traveled for almost 24 hours straight, was jet lagged, and smelled like all those wonderful travel smells. Flying from St. Louis to Chicago to Dublin to Paris to Argenton is no joke and I promptly fell asleep by 7:30 and then was suddenly wide awake just as the clock struck midnight. There were no fireworks, no banging of pots and pans, just me alone in an empty flat.

You passed rather quickly—much more quickly than I was expecting. It was like I blinked and you were already gone. Dust between my fingertips.

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I cried a couple times this month, mainly because of politics and feeling incredibly frustrated about what’s happening back home. But I also tried switching offline more this month by actually putting my nose in a book and reading. READING. It’s glorious and wonderful and why have I gone so long without sitting down on my couch, feet curled underneath me, and laughing out loud at words written down on a page? I’ve missed it. It was a limb I forgot about and how desperately I needed it to live.

January, you helped me rediscover passions. I started writing again, not a lot, but a little bit here and there. You made me realize the importance of solitude—not loneliness—but also how important it is to have family and friends to miss and rely on.

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This month I booked tickets back to my favorite place on Earth, London, for my big 25th birthday, and booked tickets to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Berlin. I’m going to expand my horizons and get more stamps in my passport and remember to live again and not just sit idly in front of Netflix jamming in as much The Good Wife as I can in a day (although that show is fantastic).

You made me realize how much I enjoy teaching English as a foreign language, and how much I’d love to do this again for another year. In the same place. Who would have thought that I’d want to stay in this small town life? Not me. But January, you’ve made me apply for things that I never thought I’d apply for—grad school in London, Winterine in Boston, TEFL in Berlin—I want to live in Europe, at least for a little while longer.

January, thank you. You made me start believing in myself again.

A Weekend in Brussels

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If you’re living in Europe, one of the best ways (and most fun ways!) to get to Brussels is train. I really like Thaley’s train, as they do something called Tick Up, where you can hop on a train to Brussels for 29. It’s really quite handy and wonderful, if your train is actually on time and not over an hour late and you end up missing your train to Brussels like I did. (Yay, France and your late, late trains.)

Where to Stay

Youth Hostel Van Gogh

This is where my roommate and I stayed. While the rooms weren’t A+, the location and the main areas of the hostel are spectacular. The location is very central to everything you’d want to walk to in Brusselslike Grand Place and delicious, delicious waffles.

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Made in Louise

Literally steps away from Brussels city centre, this hotel is gorgeous and offers anything and everything you need.

Where to Eat

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Image courtesy of Trends Shaker

Maison Dandoy

Yes, you can get waffles on the street for 1€, but Maison Dandoy is worth the extra euros for the ambiance and wonderful views outside of their restaurant windows upstairs. Plus, its hot chocolates are drool worthy.

Elisabeth

Brussels is well known for the delicious chocolate shops on every corner of the city. Elisabeth is my personal favorite chocolate shop and Instagram-worthy shop. With an assortment of chocolates in a variety of flavors, this is the chocolate shop to stop into.

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Café Capitale

While scouring the city for a coffee place that was open, my roommate and I stumbled upon this gorgeous café. Not only does the interior look like it spit out the pages of Kinfolk, the coffee was heavenly and the pain au chocolat est parfait!

What to Do

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Grand Place

Grand Place is a spectacular sight to see. It’s hard to explain how stunning it is to stand in the centre of the Place and turn on the spot to see 360-views of buildings that are older than your country. It’s truly breathtaking.

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Atomium

Definitely a tourist trap, but have you really been to Brussels if you didn’t see the Atom? Probably not. You can head inside the atom structure and see wonderful views of the city.

Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat

Love chocolate? If that’s a no, why are you going to Brussels? This museum is all about chocolate and the history of chocolate in Europe. Plus, you get some tasty treats as you walk through the museum.