As the dumplings I’d ordered arrived, the choice became clear: buy a car and settle down or try my luck abroad. Suddenly, the lovely backyard of flowers, paper lights and wood of my favorite Asian restaurant felt oppressive; the loyal, patient man across from me once again felt like the wrong partner. I got into the mode I’ve known so well, picked a fight with him for no good reason. I ruined the date he’d planned for us with the little stabs of my worsening mood, hitting where I knew would be most irritating – not fatal all at once, but inching closer to the veins of our relationship until they’d burst open. But I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t express my restlessness in a constructive way. I couldn’t be honest that I just couldn’t go with what he was trying to convince me to do. I’d never buy that car.
The futon he’d helped me pick, and which we’d shared so many nights in my apartment, was one of the last pieces of furniture to go. He insisted on keeping it for himself. He insisted on hanging out with me until nearly the last moment, but not until the very last moment, until the car – which I’d borrowed from my parents – pulled away, because that would’ve been too painful. I read breakup poems I’d written for him, in front of him and others, and said out loud that they were, in fact, for him. He turned red. He felt uncomfortable. Why did I insist on giving him these last few stabs? Why couldn’t I just leave peacefully, without leaving reopened wounds in my wake? I’d gotten what I wanted – except not when I wanted it. I was leaving Wilmington, North Carolina, just when I’d finally become happy there.
I stepped outside the hotel room I was sharing with my parents, as we visited my brother’s university in Orlando, Florida – my last trip before moving away from the U.S. The voice on the phone expressed regret that he wasn’t coming with me. But how could he? Leaving the home he’d managed to buy and friends he’d managed to nurture as family after so long would’ve been unthinkable. I couldn’t understand him at the time, although one day, several years older and quite travel-fatigued, I would. I spent the last weeks at my parents’ Miami-area home largely shut in, studying Danish on Rosetta Stone like a maniac, binging on “Dexter” episodes with my brother, spying on my ex on social media to see if he was already, or should I say finally, moving on. The feelings were mixed and results inconclusive.
Two large suitcases and a backpack was all that I could carry, and after much packing and repacking, I’d finally decided on the essentials with which to start my new life, alone, in a place I’d never been to. But somehow it felt so natural and right. This time I hardly picked any fights with my parents. The goodbye at the airport was as undramatic as possible; I think we’d all seen it coming for a long time, and my parents had learned to be happy for me from progressively farther away. As I sat at the gate waiting to board, as I stepped inside the plane, as I took my seat and got carried all the way to Copenhagen, I played and replayed the soundtrack of my life thus far, songs that reminded me of my ex on constant repeat, a bittersweet liquid filling my throat and chest from the feed in my ears.
Sitting alone on a grassy little hill at Roskilde University, I looked at my phone and saw a message from him, jokingly inviting me to join him at a concert back in Wilmington. Even after four breakups with each other and being so far apart now, we still stubbornly tried to hang on. But the end of our addiction was inevitable. Incessant new and exciting learning, daily dorm parties and excursions and fascinating new people, from all over the world, pulled me away, unsurprisingly. A smiley face in response to his question on whether I was dating someone would put a final stop to our regular chats. For him, it wouldn’t take very long to find the woman who’d turn out to be his love match, meshing seamlessly with his family of friends and the Wilmington lifestyle, according to photos on social media.
He stopped wishing me happy birthday. He asked her to marry him. I felt happy for him, and happy for myself for sincerely feeling so. It only took five years and three European countries since our final parting, and becoming deeply jaded from too many discoveries, bouts of continent-hopping, brushes with danger and a couple more devastating failed loves for my addiction to drama to finally wear out. I still feel pangs of guilt for the too many unnecessary stabs I gave him, and others since. At last, one important thing I have learned from living a transient, dynamic lifestyle in Europe is that there’s neither space nor time for cultivating open wounds – I’ve got to keep on moving, and learning and adapting to survive, and hang on for dear life to the kindred souls who understand and support this.
by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, founder of Leipzig glocal