I have a confession: I never made it to Berlin.
Initially, I was ashamed to admit this. I made an impulsive decision to stay in Amsterdam because I wasn’t ready to say “Goodbye” just yet. I had an open ticket so I wasn’t worried about the cost but I still felt anxious when I got out of the shower and asked him if I should just stay so we could spend more time together. I laid back down and fell fast asleep in his arms but I felt bad on Sunday (April 7th) when I woke up because I was scared that I had already lost my way and given into a drunken, lustful desire rather than continue on my path. Then I rolled over and looked at him and realized that I made the right choice. It might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done but it’s also the most romantic; I felt like I was experiencing one of those moments that only happen in the movies. “When you least expect it, waiting around the corner for you…”
On my first Friday night in Amsterdam, I headed out on my own after discovering that there was a gay bar right around the corner from my hostel. I was there for about an hour and decided that I was ready to leave. I turned a corner, expecting to exit the bar, and feeling a bit disconnected; I was tired, lonely, and afraid that the remainder of my trip would be a completely solitary experience. I know now, looking back, that this fear was completely unfounded. It was my first night in Amsterdam and I really had no business worrying about never meeting someone. Perhaps I had too much to drink or I’ve watched way too many romantic comedies. I stepped around the doorway, fumbling through my pocket to find my coat check ticket, and stumbled onto this beautiful smile. There was a warmth in his eyes that I had not seen in a very long time.
His name is Zarek and he is from Brazil. We began to chat and I explained to him that I was new to town. He very enthusiastically invited me to meet his friends and dance. Almost immediately, he abandoned me to chat with other people and after a short while, I decided that it really was time for me to leave. I told him I was heading out and he smiled, pulled me close, and whispered in my ear, “Don’t be so impatient, Americano. You are on holiday. You have nowhere to be tomorrow.”
We are walking through the empty streets of Amsterdam, passing canals in the cold wind, holding each other close, and smiling, I realized that I was putting myself in danger. I’m impulsive and sometimes, I act without thinking.
“You know, you could take me home and kill me. I’m just a stupid American who is putting his faith in you. You better take good care of me. I have people that will come looking if I go missing”
“Aroncito, I won’t hurt you.”
That evening, he and I chatted for hours about our lives, the world, our ideologies, and our dreams. At one point he started laughing and asked me, “Where did you come from!?!”
When I arrived at my hostel the next afternoon, none of my new friends were around. I was a bit relieved. My bed was perfectly intact and I had to smile to myself. At least I had a place to store my belongings for the night. I promised him as I was leaving that I would call and keep in touch.
I left Amsterdam on Sunday (March 31st) to visit Melissa in Verghel. I realized that despite the fact that I wanted to see something outside of Amsterdam, I was longing to see him again. I knew that no matter what, I would be setting myself up to suffer as I would be leaving Amsterdam very soon but my soul was guiding me to reach out to him. I gave him a call and got his voicemail. It was Monday. I wasn’t going to leave Verghel until Thursday. Later that day, he texted me to say he was glad to hear from me and to finally have my phone number. I’m incapable of controlling my impulses.
I asked if I could come stay with him on Wednesday. I didn’t hear back from him for quite some time. I blew it. Sometimes, I wonder why I can’t just leave things alone and not force the situation?
Then, I got a friend request on Facebook. A series of messages arrived. He had emailed me earlier to say, “Yes, of course you can come stay with me.”
I met him at the tram stop by his apartment. We went grocery shopping and headed back to his place. Have you ever had that moment when time stands still but progresses in a blink of an eye? How can it already be 4:00 am? Why can’t I stop looking into his eyes? Why does my skin tingle every time he chuckles to himself and grins at me? He kept laughing to himself and saying “Beauty.”
On Thursday, he gave me his bus pass and sent me on my way to check in at my apartment. I texted him throughout the day but didn’t hear back until much later. He was kidnapped by his friends and was out late. I went out on my own that night and had a marvelous time chatting it up with people all over the place. When you tell people you are traveling around the world alone, they are suddenly very engaged and want to hear your story. I had no shortage of companions that night. I heart Amsterdam.
On Friday, he extended an invitation to hang out with him and his Brazilian friends. As the night progressed, his friends departed, and we found ourselves taking a tour of the Amsterdam gay scene. He walked me through several neighborhoods, took me to some clubs that he felt I should see, and after several hours, we decided to head home. As we were stepping out onto the street, I looked up, and discovered that two of my friends from the U.S. were passing. We came together and decided to go to Soho for drinks. We danced and laughed and rejoiced in the glory of being on vacation.
There’s no easy way to say the next thing. I failed miserably that night and I made a complete fool out of myself. Not to mention, I put him in a very awkward situation. The evening ended on a sour note and I was extremely upset by the time I arrived back at my apartment. For all of my wisdom, life experiences, and education, I’m also incredibly naive. I’m insecure and because I have a big heart and I bond to people very quickly. Sometimes this is to my benefit but sometimes it leads me to make assumptions about my relationships with people, both longterm and newly established, that are unrealistic. I woke up the next morning feeling like a complete idiot. I did my best to enjoy the day and I spent the time with my friends and even had a heart-to-heart with one of them with whom I was actually dating before I left the U.S. He provided me with some very profound insight and assured me that what happened the prior evening was not something I should spend my time worrying about and that I need to start getting used to the fact that the world is a crazy place and I need to let go of my American sensibilities if I really want to understand the places I am visiting. All this being said, my response to most anguish is to process the problem, ignite a fire within myself, and move on. By this, I mean retail therapy.
Later that day I received a text from him and he assured me that the previous night was a terrible misfortune and that he still wanted to see me that evening. I met with him again and he could sense the distance in me. I had agreed to go with him and his friends to “Pink Istanbul” at Paradiso. I was really unsure of this but I decided to give it another shot. If anything, I could hang out with the other Brazilians and dance the whole night away before heading out to Berlin in the morning. He and I ended up talking for about an hour and I was able to make some sense of how I was feeling and to acknowledge that my little heart was experiencing a lot more than just an infatuation with some gorgeous man. It was an emotional time in my life, I had a lot of excitement around me, I was meeting new people and seeing new places, and I was still thinking with a heart that was stationary. In many ways, emotionally, I had not completely transitioned to being on the road. He continued to tell me how much I am going to learn and how different a person I will be once I finish my trip. He’s very gracious and complimented me incessantly. If Zarek has anything, it is an amazing heart.
The evening was an incredible experience. He and I joined his friends for appetizers and drinks and then we met up with some of my friends at Paradiso. He and I danced until the party closed and then made our way back home. I always have so much to say and we chatted well into the morning. My intention, or course, was to wake up at 8:30, pack my things, and leave for my train to Berlin.
It’s now Wednesday (April 10th) and I am en route from Amsterdam to Prague via Duisberg and Berlin. I avoided the subject of Germany for most of the week because I didn’t want to be scolded by people for making such a capricious decision and for changing my plans for a guy. I’m on vacation. I chose to do what made my heart feel good. I had to do some juggling of ticket reservations but the choice to stay was completely worth it.
There’s so much that I can say about him but I’ll leave at this: I believe that there are people who come into our lives to guide us and reassure us. Some might call them angels. He could be called an angel. In the two weeks I have known him, he has gifted me with so much valuable knowledge that is going to inform my trip in a positive way and our conversations have inspired me to see the world from a much different perspective than I have been throughout my life.
Will I meet many other people along my journey? Yes. Will I feel like I am falling in love multiple times? Knowing myself, undoubtedly. Does this seem like a lot for someone I’ve only known for two weeks? Absolutely, but it doesn’t change the fact that I connected with this person very deeply. A lot can happen in one minute and yet there are people who go through their lives having never really felt passion for anything. I know I’ve only just started this trip and I have so much to see and learn but that doesn’t change the fact that it was agony to step out of his door this morning and look back to see tears in his eyes. I promised myself when I defeated cancer that I would live life to its fullest and with all the passion I can muster.
Before I left, he got up and made me coffee and pastries and told me what a wonderful man I am and how much he is going to miss me. He also packed me a snack pack and encouraged me to take my vitamins and eat a more healthy variety of foods. The previous night he looked into my eyes while holding my hand and said, without me uttering a word, “I feel the same.” Perhaps, I’m just a hopeless romantic who sets himself up for bittersweet heartache but I don’t care.
Life is riddled with tragic irony. I couldn’t find a right fit for me for years and now that I am on the road, the first guy I meet, steals my breath.
I fall fast, I fall hard, and I fall often. “Love comes quickly. Whatever you do, you can’t stop falling…”