Love

The Switzerland Travel Diaries: Days One, Two and Three

Alistair and I arrived to Geneva in the morning. Both of us barely slept during our flight, my makeup had worn off, my clothes starting to smell. His mother would be picking us up from the airport and I was nervous. I wanted her to like me. I went to the bathroom to slather lotion on my face. As much as I love meeting new people, I consistently feel like I'm not enough. I considered make up but it felt like a lost cause and besides, Geneva was waiting on the other side of the arrivals terminal doors. Alistair was going to show me where he grew up. I was about to have the best vacation but I didn't know it yet.

We exited the hall and his mother was standing right by the door, smiling enthusiastically. She was the same height as Alistair, with the same nose and mouth and smile. She was so warm and inviting. 

My first views of Geneva were of the cute stucco homes and green trees in the towns twenty minutes outside of the city proper. His mother took us to her house for coffee, in Coppet, then we went to his sisters house where we would stay the remainder of the trip. His sister's house was gorgeous and right on Lake Geneva. I could see the boats passing and the famous Jet d'Eau from her backyard. We dropped our things, napped and Alistair looked at his phone. 

"Sammy wants to meet us for a drink on Lake Geneva," he said. Sammy was his old friend who lived with her husband and kids in Barcelona but was in Geneva visiting family. We hopped in the car and drove towards downtown. 

"Do you mind if we make a stop?" Alistair asked. I told him no, and we drove into one of the little neighborhoods, arriving at a small graveyard. Alistair's grandmother died a few years back and they were extremely close. She was buried there with a very elegant gravestone. Alistair took my hand and said in French, "I'd like you to meet Ariel, grandmother." I didn't think it would be possible to love Alistair more deeply than I loved him before then, but seeing him clean her grave and speak to her made me love him even more. It was my favorite moment from the entire trip. I get a little teary eyed when I remember it. 

We continued on. Alistair pointed out all the places from his past. Traveling makes my find feel less dense and more elastic. Passing advertisements for companies I've never heard of, street signs in French, and cars I'd never seen before. Its like opening a slow door that never gets closed. I learn, and I do it happily.

We parked a car in the garage and walked to the edge of the lake where a beach club had been set up. We took a seat with a glass of white wine each and watched swimmers jump from diving boards in the middle of the lake. It was perfect weather, a perfect spot. It was exactly what I wanted. 

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Sammy's friends were all gathered at an outdoor bar within walking distance. So we crossed the bridge at the end of the lake, and arrived at a public park.

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It was packed with the after-work crowd. Sammy's friends were drinking a magnum of rose. Everyone was wearing Rolex watches. Sammy warned me not to leave my bag out of sight, though it was full of fashionable people, there were always purse thieves about in Geneva snatching bags from restaurant chairs. It was kind of funny that people were doing something that had long since died in New York, since no woman was crazy enough to put their bags on their chairs in the city. 

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We laughed and talked for an hour there, then decided to go grab dinner at Entrecôte, the steak frites restaurant where everyone gets the same meal: endless steak, fries and salad. Sammy and I have only met a few times, but it was nice to get to know her better. 

The next day we had plans to swim in the pool with Alistair's brother and three-year-old son. Then that evening, Alistair took me to  a restaurant on the water for the Geneva speciality: filets de perche, little fish cooked in butter. 

Saturday Alistair took me to the Old Town, a neighborhood of Geneva known for it's medieval architecture, adjacent to lots of good shopping spots. We had lunch at Brasserie Lipp, sitting in the back garden. I tried to order coffee in French, but the waiter corrected me.

"In Geneva you do not say noisette, you say machiatto." 

I was served toast to go with my tuna tartare, but suddenly a waiter came by and scooped up the toast. 

"But she needs it for the tartare," Alistair said to him in French. 

"This is Lipp! She can't have cold toast, I'll bring back warm toast," said the waiter with a flourish. 

Old Town was so cute. We went to the oldest house in Geneva, now a museum, and toured it. I saw a diorama of Geneva's fortification system when it was threatened by the Savoy. We walked to the top of the Cathedral and looked down on the city's terra cotta rooftops. 

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That night Alistair's mom had us over for dinner (she mad a burrata, tomato and basil salad that I have daydreams about still) and showed us photos of Alistair as a baby. She has a pet parrot who sat on her shoulder through the evening doing imitations of her "oh la la!" and the like. 

We had an early night, since we would be leaving the next morning for a five day tour of Switzerland and one night in Lake Como. There would be a lot of trains and cars and hotel rooms. Alistair had planned it so perfectly there were homemade diagrams for every train transfer. He knew the places well, and he was equally as excited. 

"Are we going to see something that looks like it's from Heidi?" I asked. 

"It's all Heidi," he laughed. 

A palette cleanser, if you will allow...

So the weeklies these next few weeks are very un-weekly, so while you wait patiently, I thought I'd remind you of all the thrilling posts in my archives. Take your pick, they're carefully curated by what you're in the mood for: 

 

I want to read about travel and adventure!  (Or, I just want to see pretty pictures.) 

  1. That time I randomly went to Shelter Island with a boy I hardly knew. (Spoiler: I didn't get murdered.)
  2. Seven Nights in Hong Kong -- hiking, eating, exploring. (Part one, two, and three.)
  3. My trip to Las Vegas. Strippers, nightclubs, canyons, Hunter S. Thompson. (Part one, part two, part three and part four.)
  4. Living out my "Vertigo" dreams in San Francisco (Part one and part two)
  5. Hot Springs, and Mountains and Bears in Colorado.
  6. My first trip to Montauk and the one trip that made me fall in love with it.
  7. Paris and London the second time around
  8. Coronado, California and Boston, Mass., briefly.
  9. Newport, RI

 

You're annoying. Here's further proof: 

  1. My love triangle. (Yeah, you read that right.) 
  2. Ye old bucket list

 

I'm going on too many first dates. Honey, you ain't got nothing on me. These posts are one-tenth of one percent of first dates I've been on...

  1. My date with a prominent New York birder
  2. My MET Museum date.
  3. Dating men with cars and men with dogs
  4. A sad, "I was ghosted," post.
  5. That date with the famous photographer at my favorite bar. 
  6. How (most of them) take their drinks. 

 

I want to read about Mobile or, at least see some good photos.

  1. A frustrated take here
  2. An essay from my high school days when I used to ride horses
  3. A Christmas trip.

Everything I Ate in Paris and London

 

Paris

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Red wine, foie gras, perfectly poofed cheddar and chive soufflé, chocolate soufflé.
Three o'clock in the afternoon, La Cigale Récamier
At an outdoor table, Edward and I ease into wicker chairs, order a glass of wine, and then he says: "I can't believe you are in Paris with me." I'd arrived at noon after a horrible flight (I'm usually lucky on long hauls -- empty rows, decadent meals, good movies, waking refreshed). This time it was a nightmare, I slept one hour, there wasn't food service and my checked luggage was damaged. Edward had already arrived by train from Geneva. After landing, I headed to our hotel, Les Dames du Pantheon. He was leaning out of the window of our room, as if he knew I was arriving. An hour later were having lunch -- completely in awe at being together in Paris. After too much wine, Edward wanted to show me the Hermes store that was built from an existing swimming pool. I was tipsy, and we discovered my new tipsy talent: blindly pricing Hermes furniture. 
 

Yours truly at Café de Flore.

Yours truly at Café de Flore.

Noisette. Water.
Five o'clock in the evening, Cafe de Flore
We wandered St. Germain, shopped at Le Bon Marche and realized that we needed more coffee, so we stopped at Café de Flore. When we left, Edward noticed a famous philosopher and author reading the paper at one of the outside tables. I'm reminded of my first trip to Paris, when I was too afraid to go to the cool cafes alone. Was it really only five years ago that I was walking the St. Germain in the cold, trying to make myself love Paris, going back to my apartment and stirring Prozac into juice, falling asleep to the television? Back when I imagined a vacation would make me a mentally healthy person?

Two glasses of champagne, medium rare steak, wine, a shot of limoncello with a straw.
Evening, Le Poulette de Grain
I only know three people in Paris and Henri is one of them. When I visited in 2012, Henri and I spent two days together, and have kept in touch since. Henri and his girlfriend meet us for dinner in the Bastille and announce that they are actually engaged! A celebration this big calls for many toasts and therefore, many drinks. I climb into bed that night feeling as if my 2012 trip were yesterday, and that he and I are still the same people. [I also go to bed frustrated: embarrassingly, the waiter gaves me an iPad with an English menu -- I was the only English speaker at the table (Edward grew up speaking French). It becomes apparent that the French language is my lifelong rival. I took it in middle school, college and two years worth of private lessons in New York and yet, I still need the iPad to get by.]

 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bottled still water.
Four o'clock in the morning, Le Dames du Pantheon
We wake up to loud music playing at the hotel room next door, a song is ending, and the beginning of "New York, New York" starts. Edward lifts the receiver of our vintage 1960s phone (its a boutique hotel, with a 60s mod theme) and whispers in French. The only thing I can translate him saying is: "We can hear music, 'New York, New York.'" Then much more is said in French, then he hangs up.

"What did the night manager say?" I ask Edward. 

"He can't call him but he can come up and knock on the door." 

In silence, we wait for the managers footsteps to come up the hotel spiral staircase. Then we hear him rapping on the door, but the music doesn't stop. Edward puts on earplugs.

Dalloyau.

Dalloyau.


Croissant, apple tart, cold pressed orange juice, noisette.
Early morning, Dalloyau 
We eat at a cafe above the Jardin du Luxembourg. Out the cafe window I can see the park to my right, a traffic circle around a fountain, businesses, limestone. I keep asking myself the same question I asked in 2012: "Why does Paris seem so grim to me? Why can't I get that feeling everyone else gets here? What's wrong with me?"


Lobster ravioli in foam (Me: I hate foam! Edward: Wait till it goes away.), white wine, tuna tartare. 
Around three o'clock in the evening, somewhere near L'Opera
We visit Les Invallides and the Paris Opera House and then go to a restaurant Edward knows well. We think we're getting the prix fixe menu, but it was a misunderstanding with the waiter. Two full sized portions come for each of us.

"We'll need to go on a major cleanse after this trip," we laugh. 


Aperol spritz (served in a wine glass the size of a bowl).
Late afternoon, Le Stella
After the wedding we attended, there's a few hours time before the reception, so a few of the guests have decided to go drink. We walk from the wedding to a bar. What once was sun is now rain and I take Edward's arm and he holds our umbrella. "A gentleman!" some men joke as we pass. I am in four-inch heels, a pale pink lace dress and a trench coat. I think to myself: isn't it what every girl daydreams Paris is like? Wearing high heels and dashing to a cafe? Drinks last a little over an hour and despite just meeting these wedding guests today we have a very fun chat. I like these people a lot. Especially the French girl named Clara who has a very-French bob.


White wine, red wine for the second course, wild mushrooms, duck, sweet potatoes, Paris Brest
7 o'clock in the evening, Le Petit Retro
The wedding reception is in the private room of a charming cafe. The menu for the evening says that dessert is "surprise" and when Paris Brest's arrive everyone coos. It is my first, and I adore it. (Weeks later, I will get a craving and buy one from Francois Payard.) Over dinner we discuss politics, the French relationship to politics, apartments, apartment prices, tourism in Iran, Blackberry keyboards, World War II, Brooklyn in the 50s, and how all the couples met. We drive along the Seine on the way home, and I want so badly for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle as we pass. 

 

Friday, October 6, 2017
 

Croissant, baguette with butter, omelette, greens with olive oil and vinegar, noisette.
Early morning, Rotisserie du Pantheon
We spend the morning at the Pantheon (and get to see Foucault's Pendulum) and return to the hotel to put on our fancy clothes for another wedding party at a private club, Cercle de l'Union Interalliée. In the bathroom, I hear the sound of horse hooves on cobblestone (the prettiest sound) and open my window to see a carriage passing below.


Ham and brie on baguette, a bite of a canaille.
Gare du Nord
We miss our train from Paris to London and spend a half hour in the lounge snacking.

"I might cry," I warn Edward about our trip to London. For me, it is not some city, but the moment of my life that I stepped out of something into something else. I want to say "milestone" but it is not the right word. Edward just laughs. I'm still in shock when our high-speed train reaches St. Pancras. I don't know it, but I will exist this way the entire trip -- not feeling like I'm actually in London again. Clearly, I am in a mirage.
 
I looked down at my lapel of my coat. "Do we need poppies? Is it time for poppies?" It wasn't. It was too early.
 

London

Champagne, wine, two fingers of bourbon, salmon grilled outdoors, red rice and grains, broccoli rabe, pear poached in saffron with ice cream.
A Private Home in The Mews
Our hosts, Edward's friends, throw a dinner party upon our arrival. They put a grill out in their street (a Mews! A quaint Mews! I adore it!). I play with their newborn and swill champagne and feel comfortable and warm, even as a stranger to them. I love learning all the London slang and local knowledge. They explain to me what a "chav" is.

 

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Egg and bacon on a roll, brown sauce, espresso.
Ten o'clock in the morning, Fischer's in Marlybone
Breakfast. I learn that no one knows what is in Brown Sauce. It is just an English thing.

Quiche, wine, salad with walnut oil, carrots.
Private home.
Edward's niece invites us over to lunch, which is also as relaxing and lovely as dinner the night before. There is also another cute baby at which to fawn over. On the walk from the train we pass through Queens Park, and I see my first autumn leaf. 
 

Tea at Fortnum's.

Tea at Fortnum's.



Fort Mason tea, two scones with clotted cream (dressed in the Devon fashion), a stilton cheese and raspberry tart, venison pâté, an egg filled with lobster and soft scrambled eggs, truffle puff pastry, a variety of tea sandwiches, a lemon custard tart, a chocolate cream roll. 
Four o'clock in the afternoon, Fortnum and Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
It is noted again that we will need a cleanse upon arriving to New York. 


Dumplings, duck fried rice, pork ribs, Negroni.
Nine o'clock in the evening, The Duck and Rice
Edward and I walk in the dark to a late reservation. There are all sorts of young people out and on their way to bars. At one intersection, two smartly dressed men in nice shoes are foot racing down the street and a crowd of their friends are cheering them on. I can't remember who won. I want to know how this all got started, how they know one another. I remember that if I had gone to the university in London that I was accepted to that I would have been there at the same time as Edward. Would we have met? Would we have gone on one of these walks through Soho on a date?

 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

 

Chocolate cake. 
Early morning, a private home in The Mews.
We have leftover cake from tea at Fortnum's for breakfast, followed by a brisk walk through Hyde Park. My heart sings in Hyde Park. I'd come there in 2011 on my first trip to London and of all the memories I've had in my life, Hyde Park is a beacon among them.

My first English Sunday Roast (roast beef, vegetables, yorkshire pudding), chicken pâté, sparkling water.
Noon, a hotel restaurant in Marylebone.
Our last meal in London with Edward's friends from high school. I feel bad that we're rushing through the meal to make it to our flight, and even more guilty that I am the only person seated who doesn't speak French fluently. 

Gin and tonic, fish sandwich.
Three o'clock in the afternoon, Gatwick Airport Lounge
It's my first time in an airport lounge. My first time at Gatwick. For the first time on a return flight, I do not write and I do not sleep for longer than fifteen minutes. I watch a few awful films. 

Shelter Island

A year ago, "Harry" brushed past a cactus on a hike. It was one of those cactuses that loses limbs for protection and fell into his left hand, the spikes digging into his skin. Little scars now run up the knuckles where a doctor removed each spike in the ER. I watched this same hand guide the helm of his boat, The Montauk. His heel of his right hand he used to accelerate the motor. 

"This whole bay is so shallow," he said as we turned from an inlet into a larger bay. He'd gone there the weekend before to water ski. Now, just a week or two into September, it was already too cold too swim, too hot for a jacket. A beautiful Friday regardless. I looked at the time, nearly 3 o'clock. If I hadn't taken the day off to escape to The Hamptons with Harry, I would be in the office. To think everything had started with a pineapple.

On our first date on Labor Day, Harry showed up to a bar with a pineapple instead of flowers.

"I couldn't find any flowers," he said. "so I texted my friends to see if a pineapple was a good idea. They were like, 'abort, abort.'" The date went well, the pineapple came home with me in a taxi, cradled like a baby. The next day the whole apartment smelled sweet. The following weekend we watched a film and celebrated my birthday on his parents rooftop in the East Village. He grilled salmon, I made us gin fizz's. After giving me a gift, he played Fred Astaire on his laptop.

"It took me all day to find a song for us to dance to," he said. So we laughed our way through a dance. We'd gotten along famously enough to plan a trip to his parents Hamptons house for a weekend. A week later my friend Patrick pushed a copy of Max Frisch's "Montauk" across the table to me at Cafe Grumpy. I read it in less than week, totally engrossed in the plot that would soon be my reality -- a writer taking a new romantic interest to The Hamptons.

On the evening of the 22nd, Harry and I boarded a Hampton Jitney and arrived to the ferry to Shelter Island a little before ten. I remember the unpleasant chug-chug of the ferry slowing as we pulled into the dock. I remember looking at the other side of the ferry and sighing.

"This, Ariel Davis, is the craziest thing you've ever done." Maybe I'd reached my limit, maybe I'd done something too crazy. I think of my idol, George Sands, who whisked Frederick Chopin to Majorca. I think of Max Frisch. Maybe this is just the great literary tradition.

Harry put a hand on my shoulder. 

"Made it."

A cab took us to his house, a beautiful, wooden two story place surrounded by green grass and trees and nestled so far from the street it was entirely private. I was instantly envious. Harry gave me the tour: a living room and dining room with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows to the porch. Up the stairs, two bedrooms, ours the small one with twin beds, high ceilings and a large green plant. In the backyard, a grill and a farm. I had a glass of wine and Harry had a glass of whiskey. I taught him how to fry an egg without it burning, and we had it as our dinner.

We were up by 10 am the next morning. Harry gave me a primer on the espresso machine, so I made us both lattes. He was out in the backyard tinkering with the Vespa.

"Hey, can you come out here?" he asked. He'd just hung up the phone, he'd been talking through the repairs with his father. "I have a feeling you're lucky."

He pointed at the ignition on the right side. I tried turning the keys and the engine started to sputter, without gaining the expected hum.

"This thing!" Harry said, defeated. "We can ride bikes to breakfast."

"Bike?" I said. "I haven't ridden a bike since I was in Paris."

"When was that?"

"2012."

"You'll be great at it," he said.

"Are there a lot of cars?"

"These are back roads," he said.

Back roads. One-laned roads and a traffic circle. A little residential street that passes the elementary school and the library. There was supposedly a bike path, but we never found it. We parked our bikes (without locks) at the local diner. My hands shook from the ride, I was so nervous.

"Look at that," I said, and pointed to the tremor. Harry gasped and took my hand across the table, which reminded me of what a gentleman he'd been since the trip began. We'd slept in twin beds, and he grew upset when he caught me washing dishes. There was a spider hanging over the toilet in the bathroom (Me: "There's a large, vicious spider in there!" Him: "That little guy?"). He put it in a mug, and discretely released it on the front lawn.

Harry is an environmental lawyer by trade, but spends all his time hiking and climbing mountains. Biking in the streets was easier for him than it was for me. He was always biking in cities. He joked often that he was "a caveman" even on our first date -- he was worried about his table manners. He's a pragmatist. He never wears matching socks because matching socks is a waste of time. If he can turn something into a sport or a competition, he will.

He taught me to play penny soccer until our breakfast arrived. I won.

We climbed on our bikes for a short ride to the pier. Though I was frightened by the speed of the hills, the cars rushing past, the branches in the streets, I think a bike ride is the best way to see Shelter Island. We got lost in a neighborhood of only old houses and a very old church. We stopped riding so Harry could consult the map.

I began to feel a strange, dull pain in my neck, blood rushing to the area. I'd been stung by a bee in the same spot I was stung when I was seven. When I was seven I cried and made a phone call from school to my mom. The school nurse opened a paper towel to show me the stinger. She'd found the bee laying on my shirt collar.

"You must have squished him," the nurse said. She didn't know, like I did, that all bees die after they sting someone. I still don't understand the biological need for them to die after defending themselves. Growing up, I erroneously translated this into a lesson: don't fight until you die fighting. Give up.

Now, at 32, I can be stung by a bee and not notice it.

"Harry, is there something in my neck?" I asked him. He, being six foot three, loomed over me, leaning down.

"There's something," he said. I took my fingers and pinched the spot, putting pressure on it and dragging my hand downward, like I've seen people do in the bee documentaries.

"I think a bee stung me," I said.

"We're going to the hospital," Harry said. "get you some cortisone."

"I'll be fine, I..." I started laughing. "I hardly felt it." ("I've grown up.")

We continued on. We would need to cross the island to make it to the pier. My neck only hurt when I turned it to the right, then it stopped hurting at all.

 

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The closer we got to the pier, the more beautiful the ride became. We saw the water between the trees; the sun bouncing off of it. We parked our bikes against a garage and raced down to the boat. Harry asked me to be the Skipper.

We began to navigate the waters. Harry at one point revved up the motor and we bounced along the waves.

"This is too fast!"

"That was nothing!" he laughed. "You have to hit the waves head on."

We found an empty body of water, there was only a massive yacht bearing Australian flags beside us. Harry cut the engine and we layed down with our legs up, talking about life.

On the way back to shore I waved at the boats we passed and he let me drive her for a bit. We made it back to the pier, back to our bikes, back to the streets. At the house, the sun had drained our energy. Harry was insistent that we watch an episode of my favorite show, "Poirot."

"You'll fall asleep," I warned him. Twenty minutes in, and he was out. Talk about idyllic! Harry was still holding my hands as he slept, his chest rising and falling, his eyelids fluttering from a dream. I could see out the front windows. A doe wandered on the property; it's mother not far off. Harry shifted.

"How long was I sleeping?" he asked.

"Not long," I said. He yawned and decided to take the bike to the market to get us dinner before sundown. He returned with a salmon steak, greens, an avocado and bread. We stood side by side at the counter top chopping vegetables while listening to jazz.

"Hanging out with you us just so easy," Harry said before a very romantic toast.

"I agree," I said. We took the salmon and mixed it with onions and a variety of spices and mayonnaise then grilled them like burgers. Harry whisked Dijon and lemon and olive oil into dressing.

"I'll cry if I have to watch you eat cold food," he said, looking over at my salmon burger patty resting on the counter while his simmered on the grill. 

"You're spoiling me," I said.

We turned off all the lights and lit the candelabra in the dining room. My phone rang. My mom. I told Harry I'd tell her where I was when I was back in New York.

After dinner we decided to watch a movie. I'd never seen "No Country for Old Men" and Harry wanted to see it again. With all the violence, I was most offended by the scene where the sheriff notices a bottle of "sweatin' milk" on a coffee table as a sign that their culprit has just left the house, I jumped up out of my seat. The sheriff pours himself a glass.

"You can't drink that!" I shrieked at the TV. "That milk is sweatin'!"

Harry laughed and squeezed my shoulder. I blushed. "You know how I am about expiration dates."

We went to bed around midnight and woke around 10 am. If we had gone to bed in summer, we woke up in fall. It was so chilly we wore jackets and sweats and shivered on the ferry ride back. The bus ride home was three hours, and we held hands for most of it. At Grand Central he was to take his train and I had to take mine. He gave my hand three sharp squeezes before running down the subway stair.

In two weeks he'd be in Hawaii. In two more weeks, still traveling the world, destination unknown. I felt a sort of sadness, not only about his departure but about my life. I was staring down my nose into the next few years, and there was nothing to see, nothing to look forward to. Not one hope nor milestone. Madame George Sands wouldn't have cared, perhaps? But I'll never be her. 

The Shirt Incident

Valentine's Day weekend I walked into the kind of "Same time, same place, never in a million years" coincidence that I couldn't even begin to write about. I know, I know, it's all probability but things have felt a little topsy-turvy and foreboding since. I have the same job, the same apartment but its the minor changes and new projects -- my evenings are now for business calls to Mohali and Dallas and Pilates or barre classes. My muscles are either hurting, or growing, or reminding me of their new presence. I started eating hard boiled eggs. I still pull my hairbrush past the short ends of my hair, forgetting that it's now just past my chin. I fidget in the steam room. I cancel plans constantly because I'm always short on funds, it cripples my ego in a way I'm not accustomed. 

For this reason, my brain is constantly grasping for the familiar. 

Monday night I rode the 1 train home and for the first time I tried to remember Bo's smell and I couldn't. I began to cry. My breath became short, I knew I was panicking. I'd left my sunglasses at home, which I normally wear on the train if I'm crying. I'd have to calm myself down so no one would notice.

"I know what I'll do," I said to myself. "I'll get his blue shirt out of the closet and I'll smell it." He'd left a blue checked button down in New York, along with a Chinese tea set, a backpack, a variety of scarves, paperback books, a few items of memorabilia from a German Papal event, a deep fat fryer, a pasta machine, a broken espresso machine, a dozen or so unused gift cards, rice wine, Japanese miso, an undated human skull and a repurposed plastic juice bottle filled with ink pens and mechanical pencils. When I got home I pulled his shirt from the back of my closet, and ran my nose around the collar, but his smell was gone. My safety net failed.

Before the break up, I told Bo that my biggest worry about being long distance was that I was afraid of not knowing him as well as I did when he was in New York. Despite now being broken up, I spend a lot of time trying not to forget Bo. I know what happens in time: the details fall from your brain. The important things, like the sound of his laugh, become fuzzier and fuzzier. Now facets of my own life are different, frighteningly different, it seems to only make it harder all around. 

I put Bo's shirt back. I wondered if I should cut the nonsense and mail it to him. 

"When do I get to make progress?" I asked myself. "When do I get to 'feel better?'"

I still cry when I have to tell my co-workers. The word "Tinder" makes me recoil. I still find excuses to message him any silly thing that connects to any shred of something he would like: articles about Italy, video's of otter babies, "so-and-so says hi" sort of things. This doesn't include all the times I wrote to him and deleted the message, only to sulk at my weakness. Everyone asks me how I've been doing, and I tell them "Okay," but there's a blue shirt in my closet, and it says, "not true." 

Fin.

[Ed note: This won't be good literature. Apologies.] 

According to the women I know, I'm supposed to be chopping off my hair in a mirror, half drunk, or booking a month-long trip to Costa Rica and a yoga retreat, or saying uncharacteristic things to strangers in nightclubs and wearing heels, or quitting my job and going to Italy, India and Bali, or selling my apartment and buying a home in Tuscany, or, you know, in some places I'm supposed to be a superhero when I wake up tomorrow morning after that trip to the science facility in New Jersey. Oh and then there's the ice cream, the romance films, pajamas three days straight and chocolate.

Other than that, I'm not sure what to do. Halfway through his three-week trip to New York, Bo and I decided to break up after he left. Let me backtrack a bit.

#

Last year, on Ash Wednesday, Bo and I went to the Hungarian Pastry Shop. We had our first date there, so he thought it fitting for the type of talk we were about to do. I was so nervous that night. I was the only patron wearing ashes on my forehead, I was near to tears because I thought Bo would say that we should break up. Instead he said the opposite: he he brought up the option of me moving to Italy while he was attending medical school for the following six years there. He wanted to know if that was something I could see myself doing. I told him I could. We decided that I would visit him in the fall, try it out, then make a decision.

In my mind, moving to Milan would be the "the big gesture" a phrase I'd stolen from one of my favorite films, "Chasing Liberty." The main character, "Anna Foster" (Mandy Moore) is President's daughter. She escaped the Secret Service in Europe on vacation and had befriended a Brit, "Ben Calder". She asks him how he grew up. 

Ben Calder: Born in Wales and then moved to London with my mother when she left my father. My father was always at work. Never at home. My mother wanted him to make the big gesture.
Anna Foster: What's the big gesture? 
Ben Calder: You know, "I'll quit for you. I'll stay home for you, darling." But he didn't. Because... Well, people don't really do that, do they? 
Anna Foster: I don't know what people do.

If I were 17-years-old, I the "big gesture" would never be a question. The answer would always be "no." I grew up with women that I felt like didn't live up to their own potential because of marital compromise, raising children, following "love." I always put "love" last on my hierarchy of needs (partly because I believed a miracle would have to happen for me to ever be in love regardless). I told myself that I would be different for all those people I knew who were silently suffering. I believed in this so strongly that in my college French class my teacher asked me, "Do you think you'll ever get married?" 

"Je ne me marierai jamais," I said, no, I will never marry. The other girls in the class gasped.

Despite this, I knew that I loved Bo enough to consider a big life change. We'd lived a whole year in happiness. It was the first time in my life I wasn't in psychotherapy, coming out of psychotherapy, considering psychotherapy, or on antidepressants. I didn't need them. Bo was my something to look foreword to in life, my bright light, my destination. 

Oh, how hard it was. I spent everyday up to now asking the big question: Should I move to Milan? I looked sadly up at the high rises in the city and wondered what life would be like without them. "The only two things I know for sure are that I love God and I love New York," I told him.

There were the practical concerns (of my head): I would be without a job, and I didn't have a hefty savings to support me. I'd have to abandon my apartment, which took a lot of strife to get on its own. I'd have to abandon all my life dreams of being a New York writer to follow him. I'd never been to Italy and I might hate it. The emotional concerns (of the heart) were all positive: I'd get to be with Bo. We were an excellent team, he made me smile and kept me away from my general bouts of depression. Marriage was certainly on the table, and I would finally get to be married. I felt like Bo was the best person I'd ever met, and we were deeply in love.

I solicited advice from everyone, as if it were a riddle.

"It's a no-brainer, it's Italy," one friend said over her shoulder as she was crossing a crowded bar. 

"You'd be signing up for a new lifestyle," L. said as she reflected on the possibility of a nomadic life.  

"I don't envy you," Philippa said repeatedly. "It is a tough decision." 

"You should move to Rome, true love only comes once," a groom advised at his wedding reception in Maine. He then looked at his wife and batted his eyelashes, not in a mocking way but in a true, glazed-over, bliss. 

"You have to make sure that you're doing it for yourself, too," warned my hiking tour guide in Hong Kong. "Otherwise, you'll become resentful."  For whatever reason, his advice was the most impactful. We'd only met three hours prior, and I divulged this problem to him so quickly because I was stumped. Truly stumped. He was too. 

Fall came. I couldn't afford the trip to Milan, so Bo decided to spend his long Christmas break from school in New York. Within the first few days, Bo admitted that he was horribly lonely in Milan. He was sad that I didn't come as I said. My "moving" process was taking too long, already three or four months off the schedule. It was immediately shocking to hear this, from all our conversations I had no idea he was sad and lonely or that the timeline was so strict. Knowing myself, I knew that it would take many years to make a decision. I couldn't put him up to that. 

So with every muscle in my heart rearing back in disgust, we decided to break up after his trip. We would enjoy the last few weeks we had together keep the breakup a secret for awhile till we were ready. 

This proved the most difficult in Philadelphia for Christmas. Bo's landlady happened to be in Philadelphia and invited us to meet her. We ended up at an Italian expat party in a gorgeous town home downtown. 

"When are you coming to Milan?" the hostess asked. "I cannot wait for you to come, you must come to Siena to visit." I only smiled, looking down at my glass of prosecco to delay crying. Every other pair of guests spoke in Italian, they kissed each others cheeks in greetings. Bo was off to my left, talking with a man in English, we exchanged a smile. I suddenly realized that this would have been life in Milan. If we were at a party, together. The hostess was so excited that we were together and that I was moving. All things that were no longer true. 

#

We had our last date at the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Saturday, January 9. Then that night Bo sobbed and I couldn't. "I'm in shock," I told him repeatedly (I still am). The next morning, we rode the train to the airport. Just like when we parted in September. 

We were that couple in the terminal, hand holding, hugging, giving eskimo kisses all the way through the security line. Then an agent separated us, a barrier wall between us. The last time I saw him, he was mouthing, "I love you," and I was mouthing it back to him. Then behind a wall he disappeared. 

I cried on the Air Tran, and the other passengers stared at me sadly. I was back in one piece for the two hour subway ride home. I found a seat, pulled the Times out of my purse and started reading. I began to feel lost. 

"It's just me and The New York Times now," I said to myself, looking around a nearly empty car. If I broke that sentence down it was just "me and New York". The train was snaking closer to Manhattan, all the major buildings only peeking behind the Brooklyn skyline. 

"I gave him up because of you," I said to the top of the Empire State Building. But I quickly recanted. No. I gave it up because I was a coward.

As the weeks passed, I told a few very close friends. Most people responded the same way, "that's a very mature decision." 

"Not really," I said. "I'm operating off of fear." 

Swaying the Mob

Swaying the Mob

Dating Leon was like stepping in to a play in-progress. The characters already poised, a swirling world of parties and new places, never seeing the same face twice. 

Bo's Last Few Days

Bo in Portland. 

Bo in Portland. 

September 6, 2014

At my birthday-party-slash-housewarming last year, my friend Hope leaned in to me and whispered. 

"Is he here?" 

"Yes," I said, pointing across the room. Bo was on the sofa, in a blue polo shirt and plaid patchwork shorts, talking to a guest. 

"How is it going?" she asked. 

"Good, except I don't know how he feels just yet," I said to Hope. Bo and I had been seeing each other for a month, but he hadn't even hugged me goodbye or pressed my hand. It'd been a true formal courtship, which I liked. But also it made me nervous that we would become "just friends". 

"I would just grab him and plant one on him," Hope laughed. 

"I don't know if he'd like that. I want to wait for a sign," I said. We shrugged. Through the night he kept his spot on the sofa. I periodically glanced at him and made note of the angles on his face, the arch of his laugh. He spoke French so casually and well. I wished in that moment, he would want to give me a sign someday, but I didn't know when. I didn't expect it would come so soon. 

 

September 10, 2014

It was my actual birthday on September 10, so Bo texted me during the day, "I'd like to cook you dinner," he wrote. I told him that it would be a late night. He didn't care. 

We met at the Westside Market and bought steak. Then we went to his apartment, cooked up the steak and sat at his dining room table together. Bo lived in student housing in Morningside Heights, a two bedroom apartment facing Columbus Avenue. He explained that he frequently threw parties and left the decor up for months. He had tiki stuff everywhere from his Polynesian-themed birthday party earlier that year. I peeked in his room, a little space with a desk, lots of religious literature, and quotes on the wall about personal sacrifice. I liked the quotes, and had him explain them. I decided in that moment, that if I wrote about him on the blog I would nickname him "Victor Lazlo". But as you and I both know, the name didn't stick.

Bo showed me the view out over on Columbus. We sat together on the windowsill.

"If I lived here, I would sit in this window all day," I said. 

"I like the way you look at things," Bo said. "I never really look out this window." 

When the conversation slowed, I grew the courage to proceed.

"I have a question for you," I said, treading delicately. "When you're courting someone, how long is long enough?"

"Before...what?" asked Bo. 

"Well, I mean..." I stammered. "My friend Topper texted me after my party. He said that I should you let you know that I like you, just because you might run away, if I don't. He had a feeling that you like me, I told him that I wasn't sure." 

"Well, he's wrong," Bo said. My heart sank, and then lifted. "I would never run away from you, if I didn't feel the same way, we could always be friends," Bo said. I sighed to myself, prepared for bad news. 

"Ariel," Bo took my hand in his. "I've been waiting for the longest time for you to give me a sign. But I figured that you just wanted to be friends."

"Oh, well it's quite the opposite," I said. I looked down sheepishly at the carpet. Moments later I asked Bo if I could kiss him, which smiled big and said: "Please." 

It was the best birthday I'd ever had. Bo walked me to a taxi cab, hand in hand, and said that he "felt very lucky." We made a promise to see each other that weekend. Then we saw each other again and again, until a whole, glorious year passed. We decided that our anniversary would always be on September 10.

 

September 5, 2015

September 5, Bo and I went to Hackensack to rent a car. We would be moving the rest of his belongings to a storage unit for the next few years that he would be in Italy. I had managed to make it for months without crying, even though whenever we held each other, or snuggled close to watch TV, I felt a pang of sudden sadness. 

We had a long day with many stops, including one in Connecticut to briefly see his parents. They invited us to stay for dinner, but Bo and I needed to beat the clock home. The car rental deadline was 6 o'clock sharp and we'd hit traffic on the way up, we knew we'd likely be late. 

Driving through Connecticut, Bo suddenly slowed near a park. We were in his hometown, Darien. 

"I know we're on a deadline," he said. "but I have to do this." 

"Do what?" I asked. 

"I'm going to kiss you in Waveny Park." 

"What?"

"I'm going to kiss you in Waveny Park because I love you and because this place means so much to me," Bo said. He parked the car on the green, and smiled. "I love you as much as there are stars in the sky," he said. 

And with that, I cried. Bo couldn't see it, I turned my face away from him in the passengers seat and put my sunglasses on. 

 

September 8, 2015

A few days later was Bo's last day in the city. I met him after work, we took the train out to JFK airport. I was cross. The sun seemed offensive, the world seemed unfair. So many other people had the luxury of being near the people they care about, and Bo was leaving. I didn't know how to respond. We took a train to a bus, and then the Air Tran, speaking about small, insignificant things. Ignoring the clock. We had Korean food at the terminal, such a cold, antiseptic place for emotions.

The time came for Bo to leave. We walked down to the security gate. 

"Is this how we say goodbye?" he said. He didn't seem satisfied with the surroundings. He offered to walk me to the AirTran instead. The train was already in station, leaving no time between us to hug and kiss goodbye. I boarded, reluctantly. Bo stood on the platform and waved. I imagined that my heart would immediately sink, and grow cold as it was accustomed to doing to keep itself safe but I felt nothing as the train smoothly left the station. Oh, if only life were cinematic, if only there was thunderstorms and endless tears. 

I did not cry all week but felt disoriented. My brain continued to be cloudy through the week. So cloudy that I almost forgot my own birthday and turned 31 without confections or hoopla. And Bo and I spent our first one-year anniversary, apart.