“We met at the wrong time. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Maybe one day years from now, we’ll meet in a coffee shop in a far away city somewhere and we could give it another shot.”
I’m sat alone in Letna park, in a patch of shade overlooking the Old Town of Prague. The three Australian girls I met in my hostel room last night have just left me, and for the first time in over a week, I have a chance to think. To reflect, to write. And in a way, to grieve.
Last night, I saw a man in a suit hand over the lead of a black lab puppy to a haggard-looking woman who was clearly on drugs. He paid her 100 CZK in cash and she yanked the dog harshly, holding the leash tight and dragging it upwards by the neck, making it yelp. Watching it all sort of broke my heart, and I wanted to cry.
Some people might say I’m a pessimist, and a lot of the time I’d agree with them. But deep down, when it comes to it, I’m a dreamer. A hopeless wanderer, with itchy feet and an open mind prone to fantasies. I love adventures, and the idea of romance, and I want it all, together. I used to want it abstractly and from a distance; it was more of a “someday” sort of dream than an active one. Until I got a little taste. Just a drop—three days. But it was enough.
Enough for me to want more, and to realize I probably won’t get it. Not this time, at least. It’s odd, because I’d never really worried about being clingy before I traveled. I’ve always been pretty good at separating my feelings, isolating the annoying or unnecessary in the presence of someone who might not reciprocate them. And I’ve had flings, and even hookups, during the last three months abroad. They’re fun, and they don’t last. We go our separate ways. We might stay friends on Facebook, or we might not remember any more about each other than a blurry face and a first name. That’s the unspoken rule of travel: you let go. Everyone’s here to meet people and see the world, not to stay or settle down or fall in love. Not in a way that lasts, at least. But somehow, despite knowing all of this, I sort of did.
I don’t wish it didn’t happen, not really. He’s a good, good guy. One of the best I’ve met. In fact, I can only think of one other guy I’ve known, back home, who comes across as pure and lovely as this one. My cynical British friend insists I’m naive about it, too hopeful and foolhardy. But I know. I’ve met good guys, I’ve met decent guys, bad guys as well. But only a few are… tender and pure. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s more of a feeling, that they respect you, treat you like an equal. They might be more reserved with touch because they’re a bit shy and don’t want to overstep your boundaries. They’re sweet and can express their feelings but they don’t overload you with them. They feel lucky to be with you, but not because they’re insecure. I’m doing a shit job of trying to articulate it, but like I said, when I meet one of these guys, I know.
I feel fortunate, really. It was a beautiful thing for me, and I’ll always have the memories. But it still hurts. It feels like I lost something that I only barely managed to grasp as the time slipped away. Part of it is lust, of course; I’m not entirely immune to that feeling, or the knowledge that it’s a factor in all of this. But for me at least, there was an audible click. And the hard part is not knowing whether he heard it too. Or rather, whether it was loud enough to last. Like I said, I’ve never worried about being clingy, but expectations are different with travelers. Snapchatting or messaging a few times a day at home would be normal, but I’m suddenly worried it’s too much. That maybe I’m a bother. This is all internal fear; nothing he’s done has implied as much. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me that day, after we’d said goodbye. I left expecting it to be over, and was prepared to resign myself to it. I prefer to leave rather than be left, so perhaps I’m overanalyzing the signs, preparing for the worst and to be the first person to take that step if need be. It’s such a long shot for anything to come of it… And yet I want something to. That’s what makes me a dreamer, and that’s what makes it hurt. Because in some parallel world or storyline, something like this could happen, and does happen, for people. The knowledge that, if feelings and motivation were mutual, something grand could emerge from a simple travel fling makes the leaving hard sometimes. Painful even. Because they often aren’t or maybe they are but the two people don’t know that they both feel the same way. Want the same thing. We’re too scared to be honest, to make ourselves vulnerable, and who knows how many opportunities we miss out on because of those fears. I fear rejection, because rejection ruins the dream. And if you let it, taints the beautiful memories.
I’ve never had a breakup before, never had my heart broken. Not in love, anyway. This is probably the closest thing to it I’ve felt, and I don’t quite understand why. Why him, why now. I wasn’t even looking for anything that night, had worn a loose dress and little makeup and thrown my hair in a bun because I was tired of going home with someone. Tired of missing out on dancing with my friends because I’d met a guy. It’s funny how you find what you’ve been looking for when you finally stop searching for it. And it’s sad because the beginning was almost the end for us; we were both about to move on.
I could have stayed another night. Thought about it, but not really. I was going to stick with my new friends and see another town, because after all, that’s what I’m here for. Not boys, but places. And the people I meet along the way. But then he came the next day, and stayed up all night with me, long after our friends had gone to bed, because I had to catch an early bus and didn’t want to sleep and didn’t want to miss a moment of this goodbye. I can’t say how much I appreciated that. To sleep with someone—twice—without any sex. Without feeling like I owe something, or that someone expects it from me. Not to say I didn’t want to, because I did. But I think it means more to me this way. It’s more special, rare, and therefore treasured.
It’s hard right now to imagine meeting another guy. Charlie Puth’s lyric “Does it feel, feel like you’re never gonna find nothing better?” comes to mind. I’ve only thought that before about one other guy, the only other good, good one that I’ve known. (Known and been interested in, I should say.) And even with him, it wasn’t to this extent. That adds to the sadness, because I can’t help but wonder about the “what if’s” and the “might be’s”. Will the feelings fade? They have to, if nothing comes of them, because people move on from real relationships and breakups all the time. They survive, and thrive, and fall in love again. At the moment, I don’t understand how, but I guess I’ll just have to trust the journey. Travel is crazy, and can make you crazy, I swear it. Yet I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
After a week, I think that’s what I needed to say. To get it out of my system, or at least sort it out a bit in my head. Writing down my feelings helps me validate and understand them, and I’ve been in a bit of a limbo this last week having them bounce around with no sort of sense. This has been a stream-of-conscious post, which I love doing when I want to dump my thoughts and feelings onto paper (or in this case, the notes section of my phone) without worrying about making them sound orderly or pretty. Despite the fact that I’ll probably post this on my blog, it’s not for anyone else. If you can take something from it, all the better, but I wrote it for me, and I hope that if you’re reading it, you can understand and respect that. I’ve been pretty open and vulnerable, and I hope to God that doesn’t make me come across as fucking clingy. Or crazy. And that I can stop worrying about those words entirely.
“So we’ll just let things take their course, and never be sorry.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald