25.07.14 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Those were the two longest months of my life. More precisely 1 month and 22 days. After leaving Alex and his family in Ohio on the 12th of June I faced what seemed like a million things to do in preparation for finally leaving for my yearlong world trip with Alex on the 6th of August. At the same time I would have to endure an eternity of waiting around and missing him.
During that time I reduced my life to a few cardboard boxes labeled things like “kitchen” “office” and “memories”. I moved my 9 pieces of furniture into the 1st floor of my mom and stepfather’s house, 30 kilometers from Copenhagen, Denmark. It took 4 people 5 hours to paint my entire apartment using 10 liters of bright white paint and unintentionally 1,5 liters of light gray paint. We didn’t realize that my kitchen suddenly had a suspiciously uneven grayish surface until I was already done painting it. After scrutinizing it for a few minutes we ultimately decided to ignore it and went on to removing my nametags from the hallway before silently closing the door behind us.
For a total of 5 weeks I worked in the closed psych ward 8 hours pr night, 6 nights a week. Going to work I spent 1,5 hours on trains, buses and metros traveling the 9 zones from my childhood home to the 16 story tall complex of the Hospital of Copenhagen. At 7.30AM every morning I got off work and faced another 1,5 hours of public transportation.
Luckily I had a gift-card to a coffee shop chain, and this bought me around 10 single-shot skim-milk lattes on 10 different drowsy mornings. Until the shop opened I usually biked around the 4 lakes of Copenhagen, soaking in my homeland and culture, knowing that I would soon leave it all behind. One morning Alex called me from a party and entertained me with drunk talking and interesting soundtracks for a while. He let me listen in on conversations he had with other people and I think he actually forgot at one point that I was listening from his pocket.
Every single day I went without him was spent wishing that I could somehow teleport myself the 5000 miles to where he was, or wanting to close my eyes and fast-forward in time. Initially it was a very immediate and present pain, a throbbing ache in my chest and a lump in my throat. For the first two weeks his absence felt like a deafening silence screaming out from the empty air all around me. I was extremely aware of the fact that I could not hear his voice, ask about his thoughts or see his beautiful face react to his surroundings. I could not even know who or what surrounded him. It felt as if I had left all the best sides of my personality - my appreciation of small things, my eternal optimism and my ability to see the beauty in rain - on the living room floor of his parent’s house in North Olmstead, Ohio. The floor on which I had wrapped myself around his body, fighting the dawn of that last night. First desperately and fiercely and since apathetically and limply when the hands of the clock refused to halt in spite of our whispering declarations of love and promises of more hours.
The bike-ride on that morning was a roller coaster of emotions. When I first saw his name on my screen I felt a rush of adrenalin and happiness. Shortly after I am pretty sure more than one pedestrian mistook me for a crazy person when I biked past them laughing loudly with headphones in my ears. An outsider would not have known that I was in fact in that moment listening to people making jokes and tripping over doorsteps. Later I raced angrily past strangers with tears running down my cheeks, because Alex had picked up the phone and declared that he would have to hang up. Listening to his surroundings I had felt like I was next to him for a second and the scenery in front of my eyes had almost disappeared, replaced by a dark street in front of a crowded bar. When we said goodbye and the only sound remaining was the noise from my rusty bike I was overwhelmed by anger.
So many goodbyes. Back when we first met in Granada, Spain. A week later in Barcelona. Then Texas. Denmark. Ohio. Over and over again. Every time I felt a chunk of myself being ripped apart. But no matter how many times we’d been apart, the separation never got easier.
28.07.14 - Ølstykke, Denmark
I was sitting on the patio in my mother’s garden. An empty house sat behind me, my entire family on vacation leaving me completely alone. In a matter of days our journey would start. I was exited to the point of exploding, but it is was slowly dawning on me what I was leaving behind. It was only nostalgia, I knew, but suddenly the sound of the birds out there in the garden, the straws swaying in the endless Danish fields and the smell of the metro in Copenhagen all seemed precious. Like small little gifts that I was given without ever knowing. I suddenly saw them all clearly. I loved the tiny innocent bugs, the one-lane roads, the healthy grocery stores, the beautiful people, the strollers in the streets, the hipsters by the lakes, wild berries, white haired children, clean air and the red sunsets behind the neighbouring houses. Those were small things that were merely characteristics of a place that I knew and loved, and as so they seemed to have a value in themselves. In reality you could find certain smells, sounds and things that characterize any place in the world. You could notice these small hidden beauties everywhere and I knew I would. I knew I would find so much beauty, but all of a sudden it seemed hard to give up the beauty of that specific place. That home.
Maybe it’s easier to go through change when it’s unseen. Throughout life you give up people and places all the time as you move forward. But you rarely know “this is the last time I will see my high-school sweetheart” or “this is the last time I will ride the bus from my childhood home”. When you aren’t aware of all those “last times” occurring, you don’t give any thought to it. Only years after will you think back and realize that you don’t remember the last time you rode that bus. You will feel nostalgic for a second, but that’s it.
The change that I was going through right then was huge. This time I was not cutting a rope or two. I was cutting all of them at once, watching all my bridges go up in flames behind me. Everything was burning and in two weeks I would be in a complete darkness, my current world ashes beneath my feet. Alex and I would find new worlds together, I truly believed that. But it was a huge risk. What if he decided to let go of me? I would be completely lost, floating away in nothingness.
I decided it was a risk I was willing to take. My life changed the day I walked onto that patio in Granada. Ever since I fell for him my life had been a struggle to keep his hand in mine, figuring out how to make the ground stop shaking. Fearing that an earthquake would at any moment crack the ground beneath us, ripping us apart. It was terrifying; it was risky and reckless and immature, some would say. But leaving was a decision I would never regret. No matter what happened from then on, I would never regret pursuing love. I had to face those fears and jump off the bridge, leap into the unknown. In other words: throw myself at life.
As the last ray of sun disappeared behind the roof of a house, I closed my eyes and observed the mark it left on the inside of my eyelids. I smelled fall in the air as I got off of the hard garden chair. Time for coffee before work.
04.08.14 - Copenhagen, Denmark
7 weeks before, I felt so sick I couldn’t even eat. I was sitting in a tiny hostel in Brooklyn, caught in between Alex and Denmark. I had visited him and his family in Cleveland and was going through NYC on my way back. I was panicking and honestly didn’t know how to be there. In desperation I went on to breathing uncontrollably, as if I could breathe out my soul and leave it in the American air, not bringing it with the body that moved further and further away from its energy source.
7 days before, I could barely wait any longer. At first a week seemed like a very short time, and I was almost jumping up and down screaming “one week, one week”. Then suddenly it seemed like forever. It was so hard to believe that in seven days I would go to the airport and he would walk through the automatic doors. I was walking on water and running the speed of light those days, feeling invincible. The reunion was so close I could taste it, and I was incredibly happy.
7 hours before, I was trying to figure out what to wear for the airport. I had a list of things to do (empty the mail-box, water the flowers, buy milk) in preparation for my parent’s return from vacation the next day. On my list was “pick up Alex”. I felt completely numb. It was a point on the list, a task to tick off, and even though I really tried to understand it, my mind couldn’t grasp the fact that he was actually coming. I felt like I had forgotten so many things about him, I might as well have made him up. Everything I remembered was too good to be true. As I flooded my mom’s orchids I was actively searching for a feeling – a tinge of excitement or nervousness, but my mind simply refused to respond. I wondered if it was a defence mechanism; maybe my brain knew that if I actually let myself feel everything I’d be too overwhelmed to function and forget how to water flowers. In 7 hours my life would begin.
7 minutes before, I was waiting in the airport. I had been standing in the exact same spot for an hour, unmoving and staring intently at the automatic doors. My feet were aching but refused to move and in my head I was cursing Danish people for being so tall that they blocked my view. I scanned the crowd constantly moving like a never-ending stream of faces, jumping every time some tall guy with glasses appeared. I could hear the blood pump in my ears and my breathing was remarkably fast considering I was frozen in my shoes. I was extremely aware of the fact that within mere minutes I would see his face right there in front of me. As my eyes locked on the giant clock on the wall for the billionth time I was almost positive that the hands were moving backwards.
7 seconds before, I finally saw him in the crowd. He appeared at the back of the moving sea of people, his face the only thing in focus in the wild blur of colors. The pain in my shoulder from holding my bag in the same hand and the pain in my feet from standing still for an hour immediately went away. He was looking around with a confused expression so I had a second to compose myself before he saw me. When his eyes caught mine I completely lost composure though, and I don’t know what expressions went over my face or what emotions got stuck in my throat. The world turned black around me and I could only see his smile coming towards me.
The moment he touched me I felt like I came back to life. As he held me close, the world reappeared around me. All the colors, smells and sounds came back on full force. Until that moment I had not even realized that everything had been quiet, grey and passionless. Without him my world was a black and white mute movie. Now that he touched his lips to my neck beautiful people with singing voices and smiles on their faces surrounded me. I buried my face in his shoulder and was determined to never let him go again. We were leaving together from now on.