In the summer of 2013, I traveled to Europe with a group of students from my university. We spent 5 weeks in France and Belgium learning about the history and culture of this particular part of Europe. I created this book to showcase some of my favorite photographs that I took on the trip. It also contains my personal journal in which I described my experiences and thoughts for each day I was overseas.
A short work of fiction
The atmosphere was blazing.
Flames of red, orange, and yellow ravaged the rapidly darkening sky. The clouds flickered and shimmered, casting a warm glow on the cooling earth below. Like butter in a pan, the golden sun slowly melted into the horizon. And then, without warning, nature’s glamorous display of light and color vanished without a trace.
Darkness fell. You had gone.
They say that the cosmos is no respecter of persons. Life moves on, regardless of human emotions or activities. Happy or sad, the earth doesn’t cease its rotation around the sun. Angry or jealous, the seasons still change. In love or heartbroken, the sun continues to rise and set. Babies are born, and people die. The cycles of life are cold and harsh, favoring no one.
“I don’t think I want our relationship to continue.”
I wish I could say that time stood still when you spoke those words to me. I wish I could say that my heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. I wish I could say that I couldn’t eat or sleep because I missed you so desperately. That’s more poetic than the truth.
In reality, life moved on.
I still think about you every day. It’s easy to remember the good moments because, for me, every moment with you was good. You were the woman of my dreams, even if I wasn’t the man of yours.
Remember the day we met? We were both fatigued from the long plane ride and you quickly fell asleep on the bus to the institute. I never told you this, but from the first moment I saw you, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you. Sporting a nose ring, black nail polish, and curly blonde hair tipped with Kool-Aid blue, you didn’t look like any girl I had met before. As the van bumped and jostled over the poorly maintained country roads, I gazed at the peaceful expression on your sleeping face, trying to preserve that moment in my memory.
Remember how quickly we became friends? Like a child playing with superglue who accidentally glues her fingers together, the bond we formed was immediate and permanent. I was stuck to your side. We had a connection that transcended words; a simple glance was all we needed to communicate. Instead of going to bed, we would stay up talking late into the night because we were so desperate for each other’s company. Like sponges, we soaked in every moment that we shared together. Our thirst for each other was unquenchable.
Remember our last evening together overseas? You asked me if I wanted to share a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the ocean, but I said no. I don’t know why I declined, but I did. I still find myself wondering what would have happened if I had said yes.
You know how sometimes you know how badly you want something, but you also know that it could never possibly happen, so you just repress your feelings until you actually convince yourself that you never wanted that thing to begin with? You were always too good for me. I knew that from the beginning. So I savored your friendship because I was convinced that was as far as our relationship would ever go. So, when I opened that note from you, it genuinely stunned me.
“On a scale of 1 to ‘I would totally date you,’ I would totally date you.”
I’ve never had good luck with relationships. Maybe I’m too passive. Maybe I commit too much, too soon. Maybe I’m just destined to be single. But you convinced me to take a chance with you. I told you at the beginning that I was not looking for a casual fling. I needed commitment, and you promised that.
The sun shone brighter, the birds sang more beautifully, and I walked on air. Sometimes writers are faulted for falling back on tired old clichés, but that’s the only way I know how to describe what it felt like to be under the influence of such euphoric love. Romantic love has been the subject of innumerable songs, poems, and stories, so it’s almost impossible to find a new way to explain it. As a wise king once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
So I continued to walk on air in this new world of vivid colors that presented itself to me. Some people like to say that they have fallen in love, but falling implies a tragic end. I preferred to say that I grew deeper in love with you with every passing day. Yet, somehow it still ended tragically for me.
Betrayal. A broken commitment. Maybe I overreacted, but that’s all I saw. You admitted that you had been faking it for a month. For a month you had spoken the words, “I love you,” but without conviction. For a month you had lied to me.
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Talk about tired old clichés. Of course it was me. If it wasn’t me, you wouldn’t have broken up with me, you heartless—
Sorry. You don’t deserve that.
I wish you nothing but the best. I hope that you find happiness. I hope that someday you find someone who loves you more than I ever did.
Don’t worry about me. I’m not going to try to win you back. We had our moment, fleeting though it was. You didn’t break my heart, just bruised it a little. They say that time heals all wounds and they’re probably right.
I still think about you every day. I’d say that I miss you, but I don’t know if that’s true. I miss what we had together. I miss the feeling of wet sand squishing underneath my naked feet as we walked side by side on the beach sharing our deepest secrets. I miss hearing your infectious laughter. I miss sending you sweet goodnight texts. But all of that is just a memory now… a memory that is quickly evaporating. So I think about you every day, trying desperately to grasp onto the remnant vapors of my escaping memories, but I know my efforts are futile. Soon enough I’ll forget about you and the moments we shared. I despise that thought, but I am bound by the linear nature of time and the fragility of human memory.
They say that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Mockingly, I used to retort, “Whoever said that must’ve never had their heart broken.” You’ve shown me how wrong I was. I don’t regret a single moment with you. I only regret that our time together was so short. I’d do it all over again in heartbeat, just to see your radiant smile and hear your teasing laughter one more time.
The darkness is interrupted by a glow in the distance. Gradually the sky is transformed into a muted pastel masterpiece. Soft pink morphs into a gentle lavender, which eventually dissolves into a radiant blue. The dense mist hovering over the earth slowly begins to dissipate. The sun peeks shyly through the mountain peaks, basking the cold terrain below with its warm rays.
A new day begins. Without you.