Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

Dispatches on life, love and the human condition by a wanderer and hopeful romantic

“My only advice is not to go away. Or, go away.”

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In one week, I will fly back to the U.S. after spending two months abroad, mainly here in southwest Portugal.

When people here have said to me that I’m on holiday — by way of explaining why I should relax and not worry about working so much — I have responded that I don’t really feel like that. I haven’t treated this time here as a holiday per se; rather, I’ve tried to spend my time here as if I were a local resident and planned to make a more permanent home here.

This last week or so the southwest Algarve is really beginning to feel like home, and with my return to the U.S. approaching, I have some decisions to make and ideas to ponder.

One of the week’s most pleasant developments is that R, the stranded hippie surfer, has become a partner in crime of sorts.

Bonded by the fact that we’re two Americans in a place where there are few others — and with common interests like surfing, music, writing and romantic idealism in common — we’ve spent a couple of nights hanging out in his van eating, drinking and talking and have been driving in my car around the countryside listening and singing along to music.

R is sweet and earnest and funny, and it’s fun to have a bonafide guy friend here now — my Portuguese friend D hasn’t been around much, and the other men I’ve met I haven’t clicked with so immediately, or have seemed to want something more from me than I wanted to give them, and so it made being friends somewhat awkward.

The thing about R is he reminds me of people I’ve known in my life before — a combination of a couple of male friends I’ve known, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and one in San Francisco. He looks so much like the former — a musician I had a fling with — that I have to remember to call him by the correct name sometimes when I’m hanging out with him.

I’ve also introduced him to my friend D, for whom I think he’s harboring a bit of a crush. (It’s hard not to have a crush on her, lovely and kind as she is. I think I do, too, a little bit.) We all went out for pizza Saturday night at an amazing authentic Italian pizza joint in a tiny town called Petralva, and the three of us are cooking a vegetarian pre-Christmas friends dinner tomorrow night for 11 people. I also took him to her yoga class yesterday, after which we all had coffee at the usual cafe in Barao de Sao Joao.

R isn’t planning to settle in Portugal the way I am and of course doesn’t live here like D does — he wants to move his van, in which he lives (when he wasn’t living on boats where he worked as a chef) up to Amsterdam when the weather gets warmer. But he plans to spend quite a bit of time around these parts before then, so it’s likely I’ll see him if and when I decide to return in February.

But it’s these friendships and connections that are making this place feel more like a home than New York ever did, even though I love the friends I have there and feel blessed to have them.

So I have to figure this out. Right now I am hoping to spend a month in New York to settle my affairs (apply for my Italian passport, sublet my apartment again for nine months, try to rustle up more freelance work, set my freelance business up officially as a U.S. business etc. etc.) and then return here in February.

There is a lot to consider between now and then, and I’m worried that New York, that unrepentant siren, will lure me back to stay in the month I’m there.

I am pretty self-aware, and I know that I have a tendency to be flighty and can be pulled in whatever direction a particular life current takes me; commitments often aren’t my strong point (even when I make them, I tend to try to sabotage them, even subconsciously). If an opportunity arises in New York that I just can’t say no to, or something happens in my personal life to make me want to stick around, I may not return here.

But as always, the future is unwritten, and I only have now to worry about. After two days of freezing cold, it’s warmer again here, and the sun is shining after an incredibly stormy night. The possibilities of today are endless, and right outside my door. I am going to open it and take a deep breath now, and see which way today’s wind carries me.

And in case you’re wondering: the title of this post comes from one of my favorite poems. It’s by Larry Levis and it’s called “In The City of Light.” Read it. You will be happy that you did.

Author: elizabethmontalbano

I am a writer, photographer, lover, fighter, traveler and bon vivant currently residing in southwest Portugal.

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