“You have to come home at some point, you know. And don’t fall in love either. I’ll miss you too much if you stay.”
I laughed at my mother’s words as she hid the tears behind her sunglasses. I took it as a joke, but I knew she was at least half serious.
You have to come home at some point.
I boarded the airplane and opened my journal. I flipped through the blank pages, envisioning all the countless stories that were to come. It was the uncertainty that excited me. Cape Town, South Africa wasn’t the most popular study abroad destination, but it was the adventure I craved. It was the challenge I needed.
It was an unwritten story – every writer’s dream.
When you travel for long periods of time, it does something to you. Now, I won’t go into the ever-so cliché narrative of the ~wanderlust girl~ who finds herself when she travels abroad (K, maybe I will). I came home from my trip somewhat different and as much as I wanted to maintain that, I quickly fell back into old habits. I guess that’s where this story begins.
We sat on the old couches of our new home. 9 strangers. 6 countries. 1 landlord. It was like Real World except way cooler. Our eyes darted around the room, silently judging each other.
I thought he was foreign. Straight up thought he didn’t speak English. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I couldn’t help but react in shock when he said his name and where he was from in a total American accent.
Ah, starting off your trip wonderfully; passing wrongful judgments. Great.
Something about him drew me in. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I just wanted to get to know him more. He was quiet, but every time he spoke it made you want to listen.
I knew that I wasn’t his type. He was extremely intellectual, artistic, and mature. And I, was…well, overwhelmingly basic in my stupid Lululemon headband while asking what the WiFi password was.
Plus, I was sort of still seeing someone from home who I was going to be with forever. Maybe we were on a “break,” but being several thousand miles away wouldn’t affect the undying love we had for each other.
I quickly buried this initial attraction deep into the tacky carpet of our new living room.
Weeks went by, our friendship grew. I could tell it was tough for him, but he started to look past my drunken escapades and need to take selfies in every cool place we explored.
It was an unspoken attraction for quite some time. We were roommates and friends. Rule number, like, 8 of being a smart human being is to never date your roommate.
The closer we became, the harder it was to avoid the obvious attraction. I’d sit in my room, waiting for him to drop in to say hello. I could talk to him about anything and everything, the words came easy, and he listened. I did most of the talking but he didn’t mind.
He made me realize that I was much more than what I drew myself out to be and that’s a feeling I’ll hold onto forever.
It was easy to fall for someone under our circumstances. It was easy to fall into the cliché “study abroad love story.” It was easy to leave behind the person you once were and grow into someone totally new alongside someone totally unexpected. But, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the person I was becoming. I enjoyed how he made me feel, the thrill of being someone’s someone without any specific label.
It was the beginning of a story that I already knew the ending to. But one that I wanted to pursue anyways. It was a story with an expiration date, a story with a definitive ending in my journal entries. It had an ending from the first day it started.
And maybe that’s why it’s so hard to recreate.
Feelings were unspoken for so long, but so overwhelmingly apparent. Did I fall in love? I’m not sure. It was a story that flourished and developed in a world that was so far-fetched from reality. One that didn’t revolve around schedules and complications. A story free of tangled knots and misconstrued text messages.
I was going to end up in Boston, he was across the country. He had his life at home, and I had mine. Whatever relationship we had developed in South Africa would change the moment we stepped off the airplane in our respective homes. It didn’t make goodbyes any easier, but I was at least left with a thought that maybe, someday, it could work.
After our whimsical story had ended, we naturally grew apart as we both sort of expected. Fast forward 2 years, my feelings haven’t changed a bit. There are still “what if” moments and “maybe someday” ideas that pass through my head. Whenever we Skype, the connection is still there even if it has to be expressed through a screen.
We live two separate, totally different lives than we did in Cape Town. We’ve both dated others and moved on. I was never one to believe in fate, or a single soul mate. I still scoff at the “I fell in love abroad” stories. Perhaps I’m bitter, or maybe impatient to find something comparable to what I had with him, if that’s even possible.
Places don’t change you, people do.
My mom was right, I did need to come home. Even though Cape Town gave me every single goddamn reason to stay forever, my visa did not.
Someday we may cross paths again. Or we may not. I’m not really sure, but if I let my some days dictate my every days, I’d live a pretty depressing life.
Be hopeful, but not too hopeful to be in a constant state of vulnerability. Fall for people, but not so hard that it holds you back. Travel for destinations, but don’t let the destination take precedent over the journey.
Write stories, but know that everyone needs to have an ending.