So three weeks ago the boy came to the good old U.S. of A.
I was super pumped, obviously, to see him, but also to show off my life. I don’t get a chance to play tour guide to Indy very often. I mean. I do city bus tours for work, but those still have a focus on IUPUI and the relationship between school/city. I don’t get to show the fun side of Indy or even introduce my culture to someone for the first time. Just imagine what would happen if I even mentioned a bar during a tour to 17-year olds. Chaos. Panic.
We started our trip in NYC, the Big Apple. Ale’s first text to me stateside was to tell me he arrived safely. The second was to tell me he had eaten the best burger of his entire life.
Welcome to America.
NYC was as overwhelming and awesome as ever. By the end of every trip there, when I start getting the hang of the metro and bumping into people without saying “sorry” every time, I start thinking that maybe I could be a New Yorker. I could totally do it. And then I remember that I’m a city girl but not a BIG city girl and would get eaten alive. Oh well.
After a few days, it was time for Indy.
I’d been warning him for months that as this represented his first trip to the states, and his first chance to meet any of my friends/family aside from my mom (who came to Spain last year), he was going to have to put up with a fair number of introductions. We aren’t sure when he’s coming back so this was my chance to have the people closest to me get to know the guy I’d been raving about for the last year and a half (HOLY CRAP IT’S BEEN A YEAR AND A HALF WHAT).
It’s a strange thing to view your hometown through the eyes of someone who never has. Even students who visit, just by their Americanness*, have a basic frame of reference. Ale had no basic image in his head to go off of because nothing in Europe is anything like the Midwest. The Midwest itself has its own culture within the larger US sphere.
It’s a doubly strange thing to see your hometown through eyes that haven’t been trying to escape it for a year. I’ve been planning my departure almost since the minute I came home July 31, 2015. So what an odd thing to have the boy I love, from the city I adore, come to this city I often feel like I can’t ditch fast enough.
And what an even stranger thing to have him love it here. Three visits to Longs Donuts (pretty sure he misses that basic yeast donut more than he misses me), multiple nights staying up late munching on popcorn and talking, fake Thanksgiving, a proper American rite of passage: a 4th of July celebration, and meeting countless people filled our days. We went laser tagging, target shooting (‘Murica), got deep dish pizza, and watched three seasons of Modern Family. All in the 14 days he was here.
It was a mind-bending experience. I’ve spent so much time this past year trying not to hate the hometown I once loved, the city I’ve lived in for the larger part of 22 years, the city that holds all my childhood memories, my milestones, my college years, my family.
But slowly and surely, as I loved on him for 14 days, so I got to rediscover and grudgingly learn to like (love is a strong word after all), my city again.
In the process, it made this the most agonizing goodbye yet.
While I obviously spent 7 months in Spain last year, coming home still almost like coming home from a drawn-out vacation. He and I said goodbye, with the plan to reunite at Christmas, but with both of us only tentatively expecting that two people with no long-distance experience would actually make it.
December really was like coming home from vacation. I spent a glorious two weeks in my favorite city on earth and then came home. Another goodbye, another set of planes, and boom. The next day I was back in class.
But this…This time, instead of the American going to Spain, the Spaniard came to the States. And he invaded (in the best of ways) my city, my culture, and my life instead of the other way around.
I accidentally drove to the apartment we were staying at twice this last week instead of my internship (which is a mile down the road). I went to Longs almost ordered half a dozen before I remembered that he wasn’t waiting for me to share them with and I really shouldn’t have 6 donuts on my own. I watched the one remaining episode of Modern Family season 4 that we didn’t quite finish and kept looking over, expecting him to sympathize with grumpy old Jay whenever I didn’t. I leave my car multiple times a day, preparing myself to tease him because he doesn’t slam his door hard enough, and then remember that mine was the only one being used now.
It’s much harder to ignore the traces of someone left behind than it is to be the one brushing off those pieces of yourself into someone else’s existence.
So we said goodbye at the airport until Christmas, I looked up plane tickets as therapy the minute I got home, and we started finding our way back to long distance normalcy.
And so another countdown begins. Or rather two. One to Christmas. One to next summer, when I move to Spain semi-permanently (permanently? Who knows).
But for now, it was another goodbye. Another year of this craziness. But one with a renewed appreciation for my hometown, for the people in my life, and my life itself.