London: A Love Affair (Part One)

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I think it is time to tell you a story about a girl who flew to London with two pieces of luggage, a duffel bag and a worn NorthFace backpack.

She applied to a program in a foreign country in hopes that the dedication to return to London would persuade her then-boyfriend that they were meant to be together. He rebuffed this advance with a lengthy phone call and text message break-up that was as elegant as a pot of coffee being spilt on one’s lap. When her acceptance letter arrived via email, she hid the knowledge until after her two-week journey to London and Ireland. He was supposed to visit her, but as most stories are, he broke his promise and remained far away. It took a few nights of tears, a half a bottle of tequila, screaming and a pint of ice cream to remember why she had loved London in the first place.

When she told her mother, she quickly saw a flash of emotions cross her face. First there was excitement (my daughter got into grad school! In London! Bragging rights!) and then the fear of abandonment. But in typical mother fashion, she did not ask the question or pressure her daughter to stay. Instead she gave her space.

When she told her father, the first question he spoke was “is it for him?” and while the girl knew whom her father was insinuating, she girl shook her head as though she was appalled by the question. While she may have originally applied for the school for him, she would not, could not, accept for him.

It was when she told her stepmother that she felt as though maybe she was doing the right thing. Her stepmother look at her with no shock and shrugged. “So when do you leave?” she asked  “Because we all know you’re going to say yes. We’ll miss you but do whatever you want, Connecticut will still be here.”

Seven months late said girl pulled two large suitcases, a duffel bag and a backpack to the airport. She hated that she had a layover in Detroit, but she couldn’t change it. When she landed in Detroit she ate twenty dollars of Chinese food, took one large sleeping pill and began her nine-hour journey to London.

Over the course of the year, she found herself in vulnerable positions. At first, she saw the first boy whom she had loved. He had the messy brown hair she adore, the shining eyes that could melt her and hands that seemed to piece her back together. But as time went on, no matter how much she tried and how much she cried, it wasn’t what it used to be. They didn’t love each other as they once had and she had wasted all this time hoping that one day he would love her as he once had. It didn’t stop her from trying to be perfect for him. She over thought the way she dressed, what she ate, what she texted, what she spoke. She wanted to be good enough for him. She wanted to be everything he needed, he wanted, he hoped. At one point, they had loved each other so deeply that she knew they could love each other again. Instead, the last time they had spoken face to face he said that “it’s not even like you like me as a person anymore. You look at me like a memory” and the words cut her to the core. Now three months later they’ve given each other distance and she looks at the memories they have with a fondness. No hatred, no wanting to repeat, just a fondness. Sometimes if she looked too closely though, it hurts like a tender bruise. One day it won’t but she knows that part of her will always remember the boy who kissed her under Big Ben and promised her the world.

Then there was the Joseph Gordon-Levitt to her Zoeey Deschanel. They were never destined to be together, no matter how much she fought it. He became her best friend. He challenged her to feel, something she hadn’t allowed herself to do after her first heartbreak. He stood in the middle of the street blocks from her apartment and told her that she needed to be honest with herself, with him, with the world. He cut her open with a simple glance and she could feel her soul flying into the world. She could feel everything she had ignored for months pour out into the middle of Kensington, as though she was a cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding. They stole kisses away from their friends and she ignored all the warnings. It wasn’t until she finished a half a bottle of rum that she realized that maybe he wasn’t Mr. Right, he was simply Mr. Right Now. Since that drunken moment of realization, plus other situations that simultaneously occurred on the same night, she realized that they were better off as friends for the moment. Maybe one day, as all romantic comedies are, they could be together. But for now they needed to work on themselves, and if their paths crossed at the right moment, something magical could happen. She reads his blog posts religiously and she rolls her eyes at his FaceTime calls, but he is one of her best friends and she cannot wait to hear the music he created in the city that never sleeps.

Then as she likes to believe, she put herself into a self-defined ‘man cleanse’. She did not look for anyone special, instead simply relied on the world around her to bring whoever she needed. There was the Dutch boy who wrote her a beautiful song. There was the teacher that taught her how to eat cold McNuggets. There was the Englishman at the German bar who loved breakfast as much as she did. There was the boy whose ex-girlfriend lived a town over where she went to school back in the states and it was too much of a coincidence for them to move past. And there was the boy who told her she had a unsatisfying personality and she didn’t talk enough on their date (still hate you, Steve). Sure, she dated. She enjoyed getting the free food as much as the next person and exploring her favorite city. But nothing was serious, and that seemed to be the way she liked it.

So she flew home as a surprise to her mother and spent a few days in her favorite beach town where she saw her favorite American boy. They stole a kiss outside a faded yellow house and then he disappeared into the town. Her heart had never beaten so fast, simply because she hadn’t been expecting it. They had been talking about ‘taking chances’ and he took the biggest chance of them all. Yet here she was, confused as ever, wondering if she even wanted to return to London now. She did, of course, but her suitcase was filled with many more bittersweet feelings.

When she returned back to London, she found herself scheduling a double date with a handsome boy. She grabbed her coworker, with the expectation they would need to crawl out the bathroom window at some point because double dates were never successful. But boy, was she wrong. Not only was he as handsome as she thought (those eyes! those glasses! that booty!) but he was nice. He made her laugh harder than she had in the previous months and when he held her hand outside the bar she felt a nice warmth radiate through her body. Maybe this was what she had been looking for, she thought. He successfully took her on dates where she never had to pretend to be anything more than what she was. They talked about their fears, their hopes, their dreams (she wanted to stay, he wanted to move to New York City). But as most stories go, he was the Mr. Right Now not the Mr. Right. Instead, he gave her memories that taught her how to be happy with someone, that she was enough for someone. So while she knows that everything good must come to an end, she looks back with the biggest smile to him. After all, he has the best nickname.

And now? She leaves for London in less than two weeks with no extra baggage. She had her three suitcases and a carry on and nothing else. Very bittersweet. The last time she left London she left in tears because her heart was breaking at the idea of losing her true love. He wasn’t a true love, just a first love. Now she leaves with extra clothes, shoes and bed sheets packed inbetween knowledge of what it means to care for someone versus want someone. She leaves with the knowledge that maybe all that stuff she preaches about being good enough for yourself is actually true, that the best things happen to those who don’t look for it. That sometimes, the things that don’t work out, the what ifs of the world, help prepare you for whatever is next.

To the boys who broke her heart, to the boys who pieced her heart back together and to the boys who taught her the best lessons : I don’t even know if you read these blog posts anymore, because let us be frank, reading a girl’s blog post is so last year. But thank you. I don’t hate you. I’m sorry for all the crazy things I did (ie: crazy letters, crazy snapchats, crazy rants) and I hope we can look back on each other fondly.

If you ever find yourself close to Boston or New York, I’ll be the best tour guide.

Listening to: Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith

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