I am now in a plane from Vienna to Barcelona. It’s been two years since the last time we went together on a holiday, and it’s been months since the agony worn off. But blame the lady in the check-in counter who checked my passport really slowly by opening it page by page, now you come back into my mind. My passport is like a memento of our travels, all the places we went together. It records the places I went to, with you.
I surmounted the pain of seeing you pack your things and leave, until this morning. Now you’re creeping back into my brain. Not that you haven’t done that before. I see you everywhere. The coffee stain on my white shirt reminds me of the time we tried the best cappuccino we ever had, gasping in shock when we found out that it only cost one Euro. It was a hot day, and we were desperately thirsty after spending half an hour doing that touristy thing at the Trevi Fountain. You, never been a believer in such thing, threw in a five-cents coin. I threw in a one-Euro coin. You said it was such a waste, but I didn’t care. I’d always believed in superstition, and if that one Euro could bring me back to Rome, why not?
Oh, how much traveling reminds me of you. This morning I had to toss my things in the suitcase, three hours before I had to be at the airport. If you had been there, you would stare at me and frown, and start lecturing me about how I should pack my things the night before. You usually had your things packed even two days before that, neatly stacked and arranged in your black suitcase. In the last minute, you would give up and help me put my things in.
How can we be so different yet so much alike? We shared the same fondness of traveling, the vibe of a new city, and the long hours on a train speeding up through the countryside. We loved being mesmerized at the first glance of something, be it a monument or an architectural ruin. We savored the lust for trying the local cuisines. At other things, we were like cat and dog. You were the neat and prepared one in our team, with itinerary and maps and budget plan, and I was the messy one, the one who always had to run to catch the train for not being in one place earlier. You hated being lost, while on the contrary, I was enamored of it. You said it was a waste of time, being lost. I said it would bring us to something we hadn’t thought before, something we wouldn’t know if we hadn’t got lost. We never agreed on this. And you, being vivacious as ever, always hopped on one place to another when I hadn’t even caught my breath. My energy drained so fast on traveling, while you always had an abundance of energy to explore every corner of a city. Your vehemence sometimes got on me, but most of the time, I would plead you to stop at a café for either two scoops of ice cream or a cup of tea. By the end of the day, I would be exhausted that I became tetchy, while you still had some energy left to go to the nearest pub and taste the local beer.
We were a perfect mismatch, weren’t we?
On the train to Bruges, which was apparently the last time I ever boarded a train with you, we talked about Christmas. We agreed that after Bruges, you would go back to Dresden and I would go back to Turin, and for Christmas, we would fly to Trømso and meet there.
I bet you forget that talk.
Would it be ludicrous if I really fly to Trømso this December? My brain is screaming that it would be futile and inane, but everybody knows my heart always beats my brain.
“…landing. Please return your seats to their upright position, make sure your tray tables in locked position and your seatbelts securely fastened.”
The announcement disenchants me from the thoughts of you. You’re somewhere out there, heaven knows, and I’m here, on a plane, ready for Barcelona. I look down from my window, and I can see the coast, the mountains, and the buildings. The temperature in Barcelona is 30 degrees Celsius, the captain says. This will be a perfect holiday. This has to be.
Maybe I’ll miss arguing with you about whether we should stop for a treat or not. And maybe I’ll even miss your patronizing look on me and my scattered stuff on the floor. You were the one who was always up for an adventure, and that made you a perfect travel match for me, despite our disagreements on so many things. You were my perfect mismatch.
The plane has touched down the runway now. It’s a rough and patchy landing. Soon I’ll have to disembark. And I promise, I’ll leave everything about you on this plane. Once I set down my feet on the ground, the thoughts about you will be gone.
Tim Cahill said, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
I do hope you’ll find your perfect match for traveling, and everything else that matters.