365 Days In Paris: Goodbye For Good?

It all happened so quickly. And was over just as fast.

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I found myself unexpectedly waiting at the Gare du Nord, my heart beating out of my chest and my head spinning like crazy. It was only 12 hours ago that my ex-love, Alex, had come back into my life, and it took only a fistful of Euros and a three-hour train ride to close the distance—both metaphorical and physical—between us.

Strangely, it had been almost a year since Alex and I saw each other last. We’d struck up a blog romance last year and had such a profound connection that we had crossed the Atlantic a few times to see each other.I was in NYC at the time, and he at home in Amsterdam. Alex and I undoubtedly got our hearts tangled up in something complicated but beautiful. So when things seemed over last winter, I tried my best to put him out of my head. But moving to Paris definitely made the thought of him more present. Still, I restrained myself from writing too many emails (maybe four since September?), and have had a blast dating here, being flirtatious in my social life, and looking with excitement towards a future with someone I feel amazing about, whenever that happens.

Then, out of the blue last week, he emailed me, and before I could even wrap my head around how to respond, my IM was flashing with a message from him. Before I knew it, we were talking face-to-face with Skype video chat, just like old times. Ten minutes into our conversation I knew I was going to do something dangerous. My feelings for him were undeniably still there, and what was the point of him getting in touch if not to see each other? So I blurted it out: “Would you ever want to come visit Paris?” I suddenly wanted him to come so badly, but knew at the same time it’d be asking to get hit in the heart with a bat. “No expectations,” I added. Yes, he said. I’d just signed myself up to make one of those classic, vulnerable, 20-something moves that often end up being mistakes.

What happened next was crazy-romantic: He hastily tried to purchase a train ticket that night. It was too late to reserve, so he booked the first ride out at 6 a.m. the next day. He would stay through Sunday—and I’d finally get my first real New Year’s kiss.

The moment I spotted Alex’s obvious glasses and super-tall physique in the crowd of passengers, I instantly felt like no time had passed. I ran up to him with a smile, we hugged, and he moved in to kiss me on the cheek, but then brushed his lips past, landing them on mine.

We immediately moved into a place that clicked—passionate kisses, he expressing amazement at my humor, me admiring his smarts and affection. Of course, in the back of my head, I wondered, What does this mean? What does this mean? What does this mean? I was determined not to bring it up and hoped something would evolve naturally. Promise yourself you won’t cry. Promise yourself you won’t push him away with drama. Promise yourself you won’t say, “I love you.”

Yet the girl in me couldn’t help wanting to know what was going on in his head. At times I wanted to scream and shake him, shouting, “You idiot! You don’t just find this everyday. You know I’m not just any girl and you’re being stupid not to make me yours. You should be lucky to be my boyfriend, mister.” But then what? Drop everything for love? What’s more important? Yourself? Or doing everything to fill the hole in your heart—even if it’s under the most inconvenient circumstances? I thought about all my friends in long-distance relationships. What were they doing? Just going with the flow? Or working towards a life together? They all seemed to make it work. But at what price?

On Sunday, we were both silent as he packed and we ate breakfast. I just couldn’t go there. We were deadlocked into silence about any discussion of our future. Maybe the talk wasn’t necessary. I’m still not sure.

At the train station, my throat clenched up and as I kissed him goodbye on the platform, I shouted in my head: Don’t let him see you cry, you can’t let him see you cry. You can control this. Just two more minutes …

The tears started rolling as I walked away, but hardened on my cheeks in the freezing air as I exited the outdoor platform. When I got home, I finally let them fall and wondered how long the crying would last. This time, I told myself, I wasn’t going to give in, and if ever there was a moment to make your heart get stronger, this was it. I couldn’t let myself deal with this the way I normally would, sulking in bed and probably opening a bottle of wine, or asking a girlfriend to commiserate about boys over cocktails.

No, I would be healthy, and pick up my life where it left off. I would wash the sheets and go for a run and see some friends. You have to be OK. You have to. You must be OK. No, you are OK. I am.

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