I left Prague radiating with love, so naturally, that is what I attracted in the next city. I was swept off my feet in not one, but two cities, and truth be told, it became overwhelmingly real when I started to feel emotion again. I spent the greater part of 3 months in Asia learning to block out all the happy hopes you place in someone. It was just easier that way.
Looking back on traveling through Asia I was intentionally avoiding men. I was avoiding the thought of another broken heart and honestly didn’t want to waste another second fantasying about a future with any man. I think New Zealand left me so burned, that I was just trying to remember who I was before bringing someone else into the equation.
Turns out I was learning a lot about myself, and found so much joy in the friendships I was building across this journey. Funny, I entered Prague to see one friend, and left with a handful of genuine ones. One friendship in particular that I knew was different. Of course my pessimistic mind was already looking for reasons to run.
However what a pleasant surprise this city turned out to be, despite all the gloomy gray buildings. I arrived by missing Anna, my couch surfing host, by 30 minutes – due to a broken pay phone and using my last euro’s. She was the first female to host me in Europe and I was grateful knowing it isn’t all men attempting to get laid. It was cold and raining, so I killed time reading in a bookstore across the street. An hour later as the bookstore was closing, Anna came to greet me outside her flat. Her small Scandinavian styled loft was cute and even included a mini garden in the back! The first night was spent making a delicious potato/apple dinner and creating fun sounds together on her keyboard and guitar. Anna was a gently and incredibly intelligent soul.
The next day was sunny, so I roamed the city: I had big plans with a scavenger hunt for city buildings. Everything is so beautiful and it’s days like these where I make a wish for someone to share it with. Company that wouldn’t stop at the train terminal when we said goodbye. I was feeling blue, missing Grafton and the gang. I didn’t realize how refreshing the long two weeks there had been until I was reminded that I am exhaustedly jaded, jumping to a new location every four days again.
Fate would have it that I made previous Vienna plans with two people in this city. On the calendar for today was coffee with an old friend, Sophie. She was a young, woman from Vienna who couch surfed my room in New Zealand after my boyfriend and I split up.
I had previously been walking around the business district, for what seemed like hours, trying to understand the people of this city. Reserved gray suits lined the coffee shops. Everything was some neutral shade of gray. I had always thought German culture was colorful, but what do I know from family photos of my father and his family living there.
Suddenly I am distracted by the largest, fluffiest floof of a golden retriever, eagerly dragging a tall, lengthy lgonde woman behind. It was Sophie! I rush to greet the cute mop and then Sophie and I exchange a warm hug. The last time we saw each other was months ago, when I was going through a bad breakup, and she was trying to figure out work while exploring New Zealand. As we caught up over how everything played out, the question quietly lingered in the air: “How is Matthew? Ask!”
I casually brought it up and she blindly spoke about him as if she really didn’t get know him well. He was was equally great as expressing himself as he was shutting it down. It was foolish of me to think she would have all the answers as I was still searching for my own. The next couple of hours were refreshing as dropped our guard by talking about life, careers, anxiety, relationships and everything in-between. She seemed very different from the confident girl I met in NZ, however I knew she was still buried in there along with her wanderlust.
After our long coffee date, I sulked around the city finding little appreciation in the vast stone buildings. How is it possible that this man has the power to effect me months after, and while I am supposed to be having fun exploring other countries? There was a glimmer of hope that took my mind off of him in Prague, however I was worried he would haunt me for years to come. I was blind-sided by the chain of events that led to our end, despite all the conversations of self-sabotage.
Later I made plans to meet another old friend who was living in Vienna now. A guy from Texas State University that I would meet a second time, although I couldn’t even recall the first time. I got ready at the flat with Anna and her close friend Laura – they were going to a birthday party and I was going to meet them after drinks.
I took one look through my dull small wardrobe of five months. Aside from the special little black dresses, I had the last option of a purple sundress. It hardly felt like the right weather, so I heavily relied on this colorful scarf for warmth.
I was running late and looking for a guy in a checker blue button up. Out of nowhere this tall, dark and handsome man jumps the fence across the street and energetically walks toward me. He approached with a massive grin and I am caught off guard; until now all his emails were professional and straight.
For such a quiet city, the night life really made up for it. Inside the 25hours Hotel bar, the people awake from their day slumber, the colorfully lite bar became jovial and loud. It was the complete opposite of what I experienced walking the streets earlier. Nick found us a seat at the bar and we sat beside each other while this subtle electricity charged between us.
His sweet southern accent felt strangely familiar and I felt at home for the first time in years. I enjoyed the way he would nudge me throughout our conversation, his way of showing affection the only way two once-acquainted strangers can. The bartender served his whiskey coke and my gin & tonic as I admired his freshly cut brown hair and stunning blue eyes that matched his bright blue plaid shirt.
From the plaid, voice and confidence pep in his step, it was no coincidence that I would fall for everything that reminded me of the state I left behind, and was now hesitant to return to. Texas-bred can charm the heart, Texans who roam, stay the hella’way’from’them’snakes.
We made our way outside to the open rooftop deck. The night air was cold on my thin sweater but I was easily distracted from the temperature when I caught the white, vibrant strikes of lighting in the distance. Dead black consumed the sky between the flickers and when they returned electrical particles spewed across the city. I can’t recall the last real lighting storm I encountered, but something in this moment felt big; as if the very charges between our electrons had the ability to project into the clouds above us. These brief moments are life’s little presents that are missed in the blink of an eye.
Nick was not your ordinary man, he left Texas earlier than some in search of worldly success. He left the comfort of home behind to pick up a foreign language and passionately practiced until he as able to enroll in a German finance program. Come to think of it, James AND Matt are very similar in their ambitions. AHH, I feel immediate guilt thinking about the wonderful time with him in Prague and desperately trying to push him out of my mind. After-all, I don’t know what we can possibly become and I need to protect myself.
Nick tells me he is set on graduating the next year and making his way to New York City. My internal jaw dropped – My sister and I originally started this idea of moving to NYC as a way to get me excited to leave New Zealand behind. She was sorting through an early marriage and we loved each other so much, we were willing to uproot and start over together. Now hearing this man across from me tell me that he will also be in the same city as me in about a year gave me sudden hope. Could this be bigger than Europe?
That closing remark was enough to make me drop all guard and enjoy where we were heading. I was suddenly smitten about the man as he calls for the check. So smitten, it didn’t bother me that I paid with my card while he didn’t even attempt to draw his. This will be a series of many failed attempts to pay the bill and I will later realize he enjoys taking advantage of financially strong women.
But tonight, I was in lust. We joined his friends at a house party where I was taken back in time to the frat-house parties at Texas State. Nick showed me off one by one to his friends, and they warmly welcomed me with a beer bong. The germans even drank beer the way we did. Well they probably did the whole funnel thing first. Come to think of it everyone was incredibly nice, all but this one blonde girl who seemed annoyed that Nick brought me. My naive smile was fuel to her vindictive character. I quickly noticed that I provoked her jealousy over this man, and threatened her hold on him. It was just intuition, as I pieced together that he liked her only to be shot down because he wasn’t someone she would bring home to her tight-knit European family. However, me being at this party tonight with Nick was her female stamp of approval.
The tension between them would never leave. In fact it would grow, as well as my long-distance relationship with this conniving man who would use me to further his gain. We would abruptly end and he would later marry her, possible attempts for duel-citizenship and eventually move west to change careers and drop her for a younger model. Life has a funny way of helping you ricochet bullets.
Anyways, at this exact moment in time I could not sense his toxic character. Thus began my new dilemma – do I temporarily trespass into castles with James or continue hope toward a better life in New York City?
Next stop! Budapest where I can sort this all out over a long hot bath.