Here it is about six weeks since I was in Portugal and I’m about to embark on another journey–for a shorter time period, but much further away. In two days I’m heading to Australia–first a stop off in Sydney to attend a wedding and hang out for a few days (and surf, natch), and then to Melbourne and the nearby Yarra Valley wine country to visit my friend Libby and her mum Susan and stepdad Robert. I’m quite excited to get out of the country again, even if it’s only for about 10 days this time, not a month.
My time back in New York since Portugal has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, partially due to my own (sometimes foolish) actions, partially due to the actions of others, and partially due to a mix of both. There have been ups and downs, one major disappointment, one minor miracle and one brief entanglement with a man from my past who I thought I had gotten rid of two years ago.
That last skirmish may end up coming back to haunt me, as the person involved happens to be friends with a friend of my roommate’s, and I may not have seen the last of him. But no matter–I think I have that situation well in hand. It’s the major disappointment–something I had hopes for while I was away but that crashed spectacularly soon upon my return–that’s still troubling me, even as I am looking forward to another adventure abroad and a visit to my Aussie friends.
I would be lying if I said I don’t think about my experience in Portugal every day, if I don’t idealize it and my independence there as some kind of perfect time in my life. It was one month out of that life, sure, and it’s easy to enjoy one month in a ridiculously beautiful place having ridiculously beautiful experiences, and expect that it would always be that way if I was to live there on a more permanent basis. But still, I miss that place and the purity of spirit and joy I had there fiercely, and dream of going back again. I hope I can at least go for a visit in the fall, perhaps to celebrate my birthday in October.
My last night in Portugal I managed to finally connect with my somewhat elusive friend David, and we had a lovely time together over a long dinner and drinks that lasted way later than it should have, given my need to rise early the next day and drive three hours to Lisbon to catch my flight. (I am going to try before my flight on Thursday to break my habit of getting little to no sleep the night before long international flights, as the jetlag I will encounter traveling from the U.S. East Coast to Australia will be no joke, and I need to be rested for an afternoon engagement the day I arrive and the wedding the next day.)
David and I have one of those relationships that feels far closer than it should, considering the short amount of time we’ve known each other and how little time, in the grand scheme of things, we’ve actually spent together — a week getting to know each other in the front seat of his surf van while he shuttled us to and from the beach on my surf trip in September, and a couple of nights out in Odeceixe; two weeks hanging out in November, driving all around the countryside and eating and drinking in various establishments; and a few random encounters, several missed connections and two actual meaningful interactions while I was there in April/May.
But when he speaks Portuguese to me, I somehow understand it, and when we talk, even in stunted language because neither of us is particularly fluent in the other’s native tongue, it seems to make sense. It is almost like we are members of the same family that were separated long ago–this is the level of affection I have for this man when I am with him, this is why it is easy to put my frustrations about his previous flakiness aside when he actually shows up to spend time with me.
I love the last evening I spent with him dining at the best restaurant in Odeceixe, O Gabon, and then chatting over drinks at one of the little bars in Odeceixe before we parted with chaste kisses–cheeks and hands are the only territory they cover–under a full moon on one of the town’s cobblestoned street. No matter how often we see each other, I know in my heart of hearts we are friends, and I look forward to seeing him again sometime very soon.
I also have found a lovely email friend in Irma, who I’ve exchanged some notes with and who has invited me back to stay with her anytime, and insists we enjoy a nice dinner next time I am there. She is such an inspiration to a woman like me, who feels torn between being happy on her own and wanting a soul mate and life partner. I also look forward to continuing that friendship while I am both here and when I return to Portugal. I know I will get back there someday.
So I left the country on a high note, and it has been hard to be back and deal with the particulars of New York City, where people march to the beat of a very different drummer–this one’s on crank, not Xanax, this one is racing to the end of the road to see what’s around the next bend, not lazily enjoying the scenery as he meanders down the street. I get caught up in the energy of New York, which seems to go right for my dark side and sink its teeth in like a demented Pit Bull. I do have moments of pure joy in New York but they are usually chemically fueled, not the natural high I got from Portugal’s astonishing natural beauty or the surfing I did there. (I did go surfing on Sunday in Long Island, and while it was not Portugal it certainly did settle me down and help me find my center–and my childhood enthusiasm–for a little while.)
While I have to be careful not to idealize Portugal and the time I spent there, I have to be mindful of the lesson it taught me, and be wary of getting too comfortable where I am–in a place that in many ways goes against the very nature of who I am. I don’t know where I’ll go to from here, but I have a sense I should be moving on soon. In the meantime, I have Australia and my friends–some old, and hopefully some new–awaiting me, and that is indeed a very well-timed blessing.