Prologue

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One day I woke up, walked out on my job, and moved to a different continent.

Once in awhile we all wake up and think “fuck this!” yet we move on and get our asses to work.

I didn’t get my ass to work that day.

There is something about a terrible breakup and realizing that someone you were in love with was cheating on you. You wake up with a special kind of bitterness. This wasn’t some kind of “girl power” moment either so I’m not going to paint it that way.

I wallowed in self pity as I locked myself in my apartment for two weeks. I had to throw away the remaining bottle of wine I gave myself as a gift. All the songs on the radio reminded me of him, all of the objects in my home somehow brought back memories, and I couldn’t go for a walk without wanting to hit every couple in the face that crossed paths.

It was a decision made after endless hours of ugly crying and refreshing his Facebook page. Everyone started to feel sorry for me, and sometime after devouring too many Lindt chocolates (damn those were good) I started feeling sorry for myself.

When I gave Tony my two weeks notice, he smiled, seemingly unsurprised. He told me to give him a call if I needed anything. He probably just wanted a quick shag.

I decided I would start with the language course. After all, I had studied Spanish at college so I wouldn’t have too rough of a time understanding how to get taxi, perhaps renting out a small place, and eventually looking for a job.

I sat next to my window and looked down at the people walking by. Two girls walking to school wearing matching pink oversized backpacks. An eldery man with his over-eager French bulldog going for a walk. A middle aged couple holding hands. For fucks sake, another couple.

This isn’t going to be like one of those movies where a sad woman moves abroad and lives a life of luxury, meets tons of attractive men and “finds herself”.

I stood on a chair in order to fetch the dusty suitcase that was propped on top of my wardrobe.

This is a story of a woman who made a terribly impulsive decision (as I’m known to do) and moved to a country with no backup plan, a considerable amount of credit card debt, and difficulty finding her keys let alone some kind of personal realization.

There were quite a few attractive men though.

The 12 Adventures of Christmas

12) On the 12th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a delicious carbonara in the heart of Bologna, Italy.

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11) On the 11th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me – an evening walk through the twinkling streets of Mantova, Italy.

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10) On the 10th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – handmade gnocchi from a bustling Christmas market.

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9) On the 9th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – crowds of Christmas shoppers in Madrid’s main square.

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8) On the 8th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, a sunset above the clouds.

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7) On the 7th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a Spanish dessert on an empty stomach.

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6) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a late night conversation in an open cafe.

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5) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a fuzzy kind of feeling.

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4) On the 4th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – improv decorations.

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3) On the 3rd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a mouth-watering lunch in Valladolid, Spain.

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2) On the 2nd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – flying Christmas presents.

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1) On the first adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, an accidentally heart-shaped walnut.

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The one where you accidentally meet.

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We took the same bus on that humid Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t supposed to be on it, but I got distracted by a phone call and hopped on, didn’t think twice. I’d seen you around before, you’re what’s-his-name’s friend, right? The one from Naples? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

Our eyes met for a second. I gave you a hesitant closed-lipped smile, the “I-know-you-but-not-really” kind. You didn’t return it. You continued staring. I got painfully awkward and ran my tongue across my lips. Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Is there something on my face? It’s my hair, isn’t it? I can’t get it to look normal in this heat.

I’m sure if I looked in your bathroom, I’d find lipstick in the cabinet. Red lipstick, belonging to “her” of course. I can’t pull off red lipstick, it always ends up looking a bit out of place on my face. I don’t know who “she” is, but she must melt every time you look at her like that. Little pangs of jealousy found there way into my insides, hugging them without wanting to let go.

You weren’t particularly tall, or muscular, or any other quality that’s usually on a woman’s checklist, but you were..captivating. Your eyes were dark, almost black – with a lighter brown in the middle. It was as if two countries had a battle over your eyes, and neither really won.

I didn’t think about you after that.

I’m looking at you right now, sitting across from me, and mouthing the words to a cheesy 80s song that’s on the radio. We’re waiting for my train to come, (late as usual) inside a typical Italian cafe. The old man at the bar has a warm smile on his face, and an oil stain on his t-shirt. You slide my half of the pizza towards me, the one you divided unevenly – giving me the bigger half. You look up at me, smirk, and continue singing.

I melt.

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The one where you feel grateful.

Prompt: Life just isn’t the same without your trusty sidekick. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your partner in crime.

The first words I ever said to my partner in crime were “get the f*ck out of here! you’re annoying.”
About a month later I fell in love with him though, how’s that for a paradox?

We were studying abroad in the same Spanish city. We were both football(soccer) fans. Unfortunately, our teams were playing one another, so we were both cursing each other’s team.
We met again later at a football match where the local city team was playing at home. I was “oh hell, you guys know that assh*ole from the bar?”
We sat next to one another and I was really mean and he asked me out

See: The one where you fall in love.

We compliment each other in the right way, just like any crime fighting team should (I’m definitely Batman by the way, he’s Robin – let’s make that clear).

We were born and raised on two different continents. When I get angry I cry, and he makes a series of hand gestures that probably have some sort of meaning.
He’s rational, I’m emotional. I exaggerate everything and he tells me to relax. He can cook better than I can, but that’s not saying much – besides if you’re from Italy it kind of runs in your gene pool, doesn’t it?

The reason he’s my sidekick is because he’s always there. When you reach your mid-twenties, finish school, and get a job, your social circle shrinks quite a bit. You begin to value people you can have a great conversation with, and those who listen to your hopes and worries rather than a good night out on the town.

Living abroad really sent the message home. When you’re living a million miles away and constantly saying hello and goodbye, fewer people stay in your life. Your heart becomes a home for those who count, and my Italian version of Robin has the master bedroom.
Maybe I should have gone with the Mario and Luigi combo?
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Sunday Morning

We’re in that moment, you and I. It happens to a lot of couples. The one where we’re seconds away from letting go, forgetting one another, and moving on.
I’ve loved you more than I’ve ever loved any other human being, but we’re destroying one another.
The fights are becoming more frequent, and apologies don’t come out as easy as they used to.
I don’t know what it was, maybe the distance did it to us. Our circumstances doomed us from day one.
But then there’s a part of me that thinks about your warm body against mine on a winter Sunday morning. I mumble “5 more minutes” and you don’t object.

There was always a sense of comfort that came over me when I turned around in the early hours of the morning, mildly conscious and in a deep slumber, feeling you sound asleep next to me.

The other half of the bed is cold now.
So what do we do, do we give it another shot? Another plane ride, ecstatic hello’s followed by a series of hurried goodbyes at the airport?

I hate you sometimes. It used to be so simple, then you had to come in with your beautiful eyes and your compassion, and energy, and charming personality and..

You’re getting me off track again. I’m eating an overpriced sandwich waiting at my boarding gate, wondering when we’ll see each other again.

I’m seconds away from letting go, forgetting you, and moving on, but I wanna wake up next to you on a Sunday morning.

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The one about the roadtrip

I don’t want you to become a story, a memory I recall about my crazy twenties.

You’re in the driver’s seat next to me and the windows are open. You have a sly grin on your face because you know you’re annoying me with your singing. Your dark hair has recently been cut, exposing the tanned skin on your neck that I notice when I slide my palm around it. It’s August in northern Italy, so the streets are completely empty, as everyone has made a mad dash for the sea. No one will notice if you drive a little faster – since the road ahead of us is completely empty.

We’re on our way to some small town 200km away on the coast. I convinced you to go after I read about it last week. I convince you to do a lot of things, it seems. Maybe it’s because you know that a few weeks from now, you might never see me again – so you’re trying to memorize every detail of my face, every reaction, every moment that we spend together in this hot car – or maybe it’s just me.

We stop at a ice cream shop, gelateria, because thanks to you, I’ve also developed an addiction to the myriad of flavors begging us to have a taste. We always choose the same. I’ve memorized your order, and you know mine. If we always choose what we’re comfortable with, why did we choose one another?

I don’t want to find a photo album 20 years from now, with this trip documented on the inside of it. I don’t want you to be a story I tell my kids one day…”when I was your age, I was in love with this incredibly handsome guy…”

I don’t want this to fade into nothing.

I’m at a crossroads between a career and love, and the two things happen to have a body of water in between. Unfortunately that body of water is the Atlantic Ocean.

So what if I choose the irrational option?  The stupid girl who stayed for love. The one that gives us one more road trip, one more ice cream, and one more horrible rendition of your favorite song on the radio.

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Identity Crisis

There are hundreds of travel guides on the shelves in front of me, Europe, Asia, South America. For €9.99 I can find the best places to eat in Madrid, what hotel to stay at in Istanbul, and shady neighborhoods to avoid in Rio de Janeiro – yet none of them have a chapter on coming home. None of them can tell me what to say when I find myself at a table with my hometown friends as they discuss their wedding plans, new jobs, and baby showers.

“How’s Spain? What have you been up to over there anyway?”

Everything.

How can you possibly encapsulate a lifetime of experiences to someone that hasn’t even left their hometown. I don’t mean to sound like a snob, either. In fact, I envy her.

The worst possible thing you can do is begin to love people in different places, because when that happens, you will never be able to call one place “home” ever again. A part of your heart will always be missing. Always wondering, what are they doing right now? They must be at that bar, the one with the blackboard on the outside with today’s specials written on them, and the tacky, yet charming Christmas lights that illuminate the tables on the terrace, always full until the sun comes up.

When I’m home, I’m there, and I’m not there. My bed is not my bed anymore. My parents’ house is a memorial for someone that died years ago and will never come back. I do goodbyes, I can think quickly, eat strange food without asking too many details – but I can’t wait up in the morning and feel completely at peace with myself …because I’m always going to be wandering from one place to the next, searching for something that I can’t find – a restless purgatory.

“Not much, same old. Just moving around a bit. Nice weather, as usual.” I reply.

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The one where you fall in love.

I slammed the door so hard that the picture on the wall next to it began to shake. It was the same old story, you find someone you think is great, but there’s always a catch. This time, the catch wasn’t so much a bad habit or a series of arguments, it was another person. A beautiful person that won everybody over within the first 5 seconds of every conversation. Statistically, it takes a person 2 minutes to form an opinion about a new acquaintance. In her case, you’d be swooning from the start. So how could I blame him? Besides, he was my roommate and we’d broken the roommate bible. So why was I taking it so personally?

I couldn’t be the bigger person. I didn’t want to share a cab with him and his little lovebird because he was making the biggest mistake in his life by choosing her, and he knew it.

I rushed off to take the bus with the rest of the group heading for the match, and that’s when I saw you.

You hear all these stories about love at first sight, the butterflies, the deer in headlights look you get when you see your so-called soulmate – but I felt nothing.

In fact, I didn’t even make eye contact because I was too pissed off and loathing in my pool of self pity. I had a chat with you and your friends, and didn’t think about you afterward. I remember thinking you had nice eyes, more than nice…intimidating. It later became one of my favorite things about you. Remember?

It wasn’t that moment that got me though. It was later on, in the pizzeria where we went that one time after I cancelled and rescheduled 3 times within an hour. You were telling me a story and you were speaking Spanish with an Italian accent because even though we were from two different continents it was the language we had in common. You were exaggerating every character in the story, stereotypically using your hands to describe your feelings- using a chair as a prop, and everyone in the restaurant was looking at you like you were nuts, but you had us all laughing at our table.

You were full of life, and that’s what got me. You had some sort of fire that hypnotized me from that moment on and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get away, no matter how hard I tried.

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Storytime on a Spanish Island

Everyone I know says I exaggerate about everything, and it’s completely true. My reactions to everything are melodramatic. So here’s a picture of me, sitting on a deserted beach in Mallorca, Spain, in 2012. The summer beforehand I was studying in Barcelona, and when I say studying, I mean everything but actually opening a real book. In the midst of an awkwardly bad breakup (if you can call it a relationship), walking hungover and alone in a small Greek village in the blistering summer heat in order to find a train back to civilization (long story) – I realized that going back to Canada wasn’t the right thing for me, anymore. So I packed my bags and moved to Spain, which sounds ridiculously impulsive, and it was (especially because back then I didn’t speak the language).  Fast forward to this picture in April 2012, looking back on all the incredible experiences I’ve had – like visiting over 40 different cities, learning to speak Spanish, eventually perfecting Spanish, learning to speak Italian, falling in love, moving to Italy, seeing a ton of football matches, and thinking – yeah, this is definitely the best decision I’ve ever made.

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