Paris Pt. 3 🇫🇷

My last full day in Paris I wanted to do all the lame tourist things. So the Louvre, Cathedral of Norte Dame, the Grande Palace, the Pantheon, the Sacre-Coeur, Tuileries Garden, Laduree, and the Catacombs of Paris. If you’re reading that list and you’re rolling your eyes, I walked to all of these, so I’m sure I saw a lot more. I think Christmas in Paris is just … let’s go with, Magical. During the day there are all the decorations and festive vibe that overcomes the city and during the night everything gets lite up and the city sparkles.

My last day I woke up super early so I could get to the Louvre. Naturally, I wanted to see the Mona Lisa. I’ll save you some time, go to google and google, “Mona Lisa Louvre” Go ahead, do that now. Looks chaotic right? Well, I got lucky because I have a European student card which means I get in for free. Almost every person there that morning was there to see the Mona Lisa, all the other cool things inside kind of get cast aside. Now I did get to see it because I was a least a foot taller than anyone else in there. The Mona Lisa is small; it’s protected by bulletproof glass and there is a perimeter set up so people can’t get to close. To me, definitely not worth. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Louvre, but it is a cool place. It’s beautiful inside and out. There’s a little high-end shopping centre attached to the Louvre where you can get overpriced coffee from Starbucks (I went and bought a mug) When I got outside you can see everything that Paris has to offer. I apologise for the photos because the weather was less than cooperative.

Again I had one of those moments where I couldn’t believe where I was. The Tuileries Garden is right in front of the Louvre, it isn’t in bloom, but nevertheless, it’s beautiful. My next stop after the Louvre and Garden was to head to the second most iconic place in Paris, The Cathedral of Notre Dame. Yes, as a kid I watched Disney movies almost religiously. Anything new that came out on VHS I had to get. Mom and I had a bet, if I did well in school (which I did when I wasn’t busy being a badass) I’d either get McDonald’s or if I did really well, I’d get one of those Disney VHS and pretty much spend the weekend making sure I knew the movie inside and out. One of the first ones I got was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning it is evident that I’m a nerd so this shouldn’t surprise you, I’ve read the book by Victor Hugo.

Pretty cool eh? I stood outside for a long time taking in the sights. Perhaps I stood out there too long as I kept getting approached people to take pictures of them in front of the Cathedral and tree. Going inside was surreal, again with it being Christmas time there were decorations and people everywhere. Inside you’ll find the history of the Cathedral and a line that if you follow it takes you right up and through to the catwalk overlooking Paris. I’m a little afraid of heights, and it is a tight squeeze, so I decided against it. From here I decided to go to one of a few Canadian bars in Paris, again at this point, I was just missing home. I don’t remember the name of the bar, but it’s super close to the cathedral. When I went in, I was surprised to find that the bartenders where expats and we chatted a little about Canada and how great Canada is, and how beautiful Canada is and how Canada is the best and Canada has the… We both missed home. The other bartender however was not as friendly. The one I was talking to said: “She’s been here so long she thinks she’s a Parisian.” I chuckled and then paid my tab and left. Let’s just say there is a difference between being French and being a Parisian.

I decided that I’d pass on going to the catacombs, just in case I had another panic attack (Haven’t had one since Rome.) So I went to indulge my massive sweet tooth and headed for Laduree. Now I’ve written about some real personal things on here, and I’m about to share something once again. Firstly, on my way there I swear to god I’ve never needed to pee so badly in my entire life. I couldn’t find a bathroom to save my life so I ended up taking a leak on someone’s boat. Not like going inside and using the bathroom, but like against their docked boat. I’m a terrible person I know. I was also heading to Laduree because, this is hard to admit but a lot of what I did in Paris sort of kind of reminded me of my ex and I knew that Laduree would be one of the things, had she been there, that she’d want to see. I have her gift wrapped in the bag I got from there. I don’t think she reads this anymore so like I won’t be ruining the “surprise.” I got there in record time and didn’t wet myself, so I deserved something, that something turned out to be four overpriced macaroons and an eclair. No, they did not make it back to the hostel.

I want to say this, the building looks pink, that’s because I spent some time editing the photo. It was raining, and the building looked like a shittier version of Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter. Yes, I made that reference. When I got back to my room I took the best nap I’ve had in a long time, and I managed to get another blanket and just burrito myself in the corner. When I got up, I went for Chinese food again and hoped on the metro for one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and check out the Sacre-Coeur, which was bhind my Hostle. Here’s what I want to say about Paris before I post the next photos, its a great city with a lot of culture. I had a lot of “Wow” Moments, moments where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That being said, I don’t know if I’d recommend it if you’re travelling alone. It’s not exactly the most welcoming place. If you are keen on going alone, I’d suggest downloading “Couchsurfing” It’s an app that allows you to connect with people in your area and if you’re desperate for a place to stay some of the people can help you out and offer up their spare room or couch. I enjoyed my time there because I got to explore, I just got to be alone and be free, and I had a blast.

Just breathtaking and then theres this outstanding building. Sorry the photos not better, my phone died. Next post is on the way and just writing about it brings back this horrendous smell. Oh well stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Finland Pt. 6 🇫🇮

As mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was stolen, along with some other things. I’m at home in Toronto, showered in a proper shower, slept in my big ass bed and played video games… sort of. I’ve been busy since I came home. Below you’ll find what I had written and saved; you’ll also see the rest of the post. I’d like to wish all the readers and followers a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous holiday season.

QWhile this post is entitled, “Finland Pt. 6” I thought about calling it “Comin’ Home.” Every time I came back home from university, I’d play “Comin’ Home” It’s a song by one of my favourite artist, City and Colour or Dallas Green. I saw him in concert a few summers ago, sang along to every song, and swayed to every slow song. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time, and I encourage you to youtube some of his music. In the song ‘Comin Home” he sings about coming home, about being on tour, knowing that it’s a cycle, but he misses home. The song also mentions a girl and the hardship of long-distance dating.  I’d play this song when I came home because it was aptly named and I liked to lean my head against the window and daydream out the window. Now I could relate to the song because long-distance dating is taxing. But now I think I can connect to it even more.

I came to Finland with a plan. Be a better Adel, do well in school, and get the girl. I’ve written about my ex on numerous occasions. A lot of the poetry and early writing is about her. I cannot express it in words but not only did she have a profound effect on me and push me to be better, but I’ve never loved someone more in my life. Even though it’s been a long time since our break up, I think about her, and I still do love and care for her. I needed this adventure more than I let on, not because of my break up, but because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. I kept looking ahead, I’d propose to my girlfriend most romantically, we’d move in together, I’d get a career job, we’d live in the city blah blah blah kids, taxes and death. There is nothing wrong with trying to map out your life, but when you set it in stone, the chances of you becoming obsessed with it are pretty good. That’s where I was, and it’s why this break up has been hard for me. I’m not saying it was easy for her, breakups suck.

My plan for being out here went out the window because I hated it. Planning has its perks, but going with the flow and following your gut is pretty good too. I knew this experience would change me, not because everyone told me but because the signs are in a different fucking language! Something was going to change, and I was going to pick up words and customs. I like learning about different cultures and people, and I knew I’d try to learn as much as I could about Finns and Finland. I did that because it’s who I am. I’m a nerd, and I had a list of all these things I needed to see. I knocked down most of them, I saw Old Trafford, I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to the cliffs of Moher and peered over the edge, I went to Rome alone and saw the Colosseum, I went to Paris apart and saw the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, and I went to Madrid and saw the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The last three might sound insignificant, but I did those alone. I do come off as confident, but I struggle with it all the time. But the amount of travelling I did alone just showed me that I need to take those risks. It also helped me reclaim my ability to be independant. It stopped being about someone else and just became about me. I didn’t forget, I could never, it just became more imprtant to look after myself. It’s what I’ve taken back from Finland. Personal growth is always something I can be proud of and nothing about the last 5 months have been easy.

Truth be told I miss Finland, I miss being on my own. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime and one that I’ll never forget. That there is the final photo I took in Helsinki. It is at the Christmas Market and I think its where I left my Christmas spirit.

Hurt

In my last post, I touched on the topic of sexual misconduct, abuse, assault, and rape. I may not have outright said it, but there were definite undertones that it was something on my mind. Why? Have I ever done any of these things? Regrettably, the answer might be, yes. Sexual assault has a very annoying skewed definition, it’s classified as “any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Now reading this carefully it definitely sounds like rape can be incorporated into this definition.

Perhaps I’m thinking of this all wrong. I’ve never done anything with any of my partners that I didn’t make sure they were okay with. Then I think about the relationships I’ve been in. Every time I’ve ever had sex with a girlfriend, it’s kind of just happened or I asked, or I turned around, and she wasn’t wearing pants (That was a code that my first girlfriend used.) There have been times where I’ve wanted sex more than she has and sometimes I got shut down because of perfectly valid reasons. I’ve never forced myself on anyone, I think I’ve asked every girl I’ve ever kissed if I could kiss them. Do I do it because I’m afraid of being wrong, afraid of being one of those guys? No, it’s just better to ask especially if you’re not sure. So Adel, why are you writing on this? Why did you say you might be someone that’s sexually assaulted someone? Because I can think of one thing I did with an ex that I’ve regretted and apologized for, but I did it. I won’t go into detail, but I think when I get home I’ll have to find a way to talk to her about it and apologize.

I’ve been thinking about her and my mistake a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about her a lot because well she’s all I’ve really been able to think about consistently for the 97 days I’ve been out here. Then there are the cases on the news and the fact that a few people here have opened up to me and talked about there experiences, on both sides. I’ve heard stories about the feeling you get when you hear someone say that you might have raped someone. A story recalling a time they got drugged at a bar. The moment they were almost raped. Or some guy stuck a hand in her pants, the list is endless. When someone tells you these things there is anger, there is sadness, I’ve dished out some hugs recently that I didn’t know I had in me. You can ask anyone, Adel Mohammed is not really an affectionate person. Okay, if you ask my ex she’ll tell you I am, that’s because I liked hugging her… and she smelled nice, but I traditionally I don’t like to dish out hugs or be touched or any of that kind of stuff.  Back on point, it breaks your heart to hear that someone had to go through this. I hope one day my daughter isn’t coming to me telling me any of this, I hope one day my son isn’t telling me he did any of this. I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot, I’ve been trying to write my next short story loosely around the subject.

I’ve been reading, and I’ve read stories from both sides. Not exactly the easiest things to read, I’ve also asked some friends to discuss their stories with me so I can get a better … Honestly, I think about talking to them about this, and I know it’ll be hard. So why am I doing it? It’s two-fold, I think it’s time I grew as a writer and actually wrote a proper story from scratch. Meaning I’d write on a topic I wasn’t heavily associated with. Secondly, maybe it’ll help someone, the talk, or the story. I don’t know, all I’ve got written is an opening. It’s also a challenge, and when I say it out loud or write it like I’ve done here, it makes me feel horrible. This is a subject that I don’t take lightly, it is a subject that I’m somewhat associated with. I don’t know how to end this post, maybe with a quote that someone told me. “These things happen, they happen all the time, and they’ll continue to happen. It’s the reason that in the back of my mind I think you’ll hurt me, that he’ll hurt me, that if you’re a man, you will hurt me.” That wasn’t written down, it’s just stayed with me since being told that and it keeps me up at night.

When in Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅲ

After my little adventure around Rome, I was ready to take it easy. I had a trip to Naples booked, I was excited to see Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. I didn’t end up going because it’s a bit of a rough place to be alone. I’m sure I would’ve been fine, but after what happened on my first night I wasn’t really up for anything like that again. The girl in my room was from Maritime Canada, so the craziest place in Canada. She told me about the mafia influence in Naples and shared some stories of what happened while she was there. Apparently, there was a stabbing and a mugging. I was a bit disappointed, but you know what? This just means I’ll get to come back to Italy and visit Florence, Naples, Venice, Milan, Turin and even Sicily. I’m reading that sentence again to myself, and it’s apparent that I have the travel bug.

I started the day with breakfast at this lovely little cafe. Anna (Canadian girl) and I walked down to the Colosseum and talked about Canada, travelling, all kinds of things. We split up, and she did all the tours, and I decided it was a great time to get lost. I had a lot of things on my mind, things that were just bumming me out, so I was more than happy to just be by myself. I didn’t take my headphones, and I wore pants. One of those was a mistake, it was 30 degrees or 86 Fahrenheit for my American readers. I walked around for about six hours and got five cones of gelato.

Eventually, I ended up here, Piazza Navona (picture below) Its the super cool open space in the heart of Rome. The obelisk is the obelisk of the Roman emperor Domitian.

IMG_2717

There is also a fountain there, but there wasn’t any water in it. Right now in Rome, there is a bit of a water shortage, so many of the fountains have been turned off to conserve water. I sat around eating my gelato and people watched. There were a lot of tourists, I struck up a conversation with Tanveer, a Londoner on his honeymoon. They asked me how to get to the Trevi Fountain, I didn’t know how to direct them, so I ended up walking with them to the fountain. I felt a little off because I for the first time in a long time I wished I had someone with me. I wished I was there with my significant other, I felt sad like absolutely fucking pathetic. Its normal, I’m still working things out, but after I left the newlyweds, I walked around some more and eventually found a place for lunch. That’s not exactly hard because there are food options everywhere. When I sat down, I was the only person sitting alone. Look I’m not going to lie to you the last few months have felt like hell. I wasn’t afraid, I just didn’t want to be there alone. Guess what? I was, I was there alone, and nothing in the world was going to change that. I had seafood linguine, the most filling lunch I’ve had in a long time.

I wasn’t grateful for the alone time, I know that will happen from time to time. Yes, it’s been hard, and things come up all the time that really get to me, but I was walking around and here’s where things got better. I was in Rome, a few weeks earlier I was in Ireland, Estonia and England. What I’m going through isn’t permanent, I’m out doing the best I can, and I’m taking risks on things that scared the hell out of me. I’m doing it alone and guess what, I’m proving a lot to myself right now.

On my way back I saw crossed a bridge and took this photo. That’s the Tiber River, the 3rd longest in Italy and one of the reasons Rome was such a power in the ancient world. It eventually drains into the Tyrrhenian sea, the sea that is near the tip of the boot of Italy.

IMG_2728That night when I got back to the hostel, I went out for dinner, alone. This time I enjoyed it and had the most fantastic lasagna ever. After dinner, Anna and I went to the bar, and I met a bunch of people. Some Aussies, a Finn! Some Americans, Germans, French, Korean, Canadians and some Danes. I met a girl from Minnesota, Danni and we agreed that we’d get breakfast and head to the Vatican the next day. It’s on my list to go, some of my friends make jokes about me not being able to go because I’m the devil. Can’t make to many arguments there.

I’ve harped on this but staying at a hostel is amazing, the people you meet will surprise you. ALRIGHT, I didn’t do a whole lot this day but I promise you there are some cool things to come and some good stories!

The Window Seat Pt. 4 🛬✈️🛫

I remember the night I met Alice, Halloween night we were both at the same party. She was dressed as Paddington Bear, I was dressed as Cookie Monster, naturally. We spent the whole evening hanging out, and she kept stealing cookies from the bucket around my neck. I found out that she went to Western, our rival school and that she was communications major with a minor in business. I know its weird, but I knew then that I wanted to let her in. After that one night, it was impossible for me not to think about her. The night ended up with me walking her to her friend’s place and asking her if I could add her on Facebook. She laughed at me because as I later found out, she thought I was such a nerd; she says I still am. The screen in the headrest in front of me keeps switching between telling us where we are and advertising the free Wi-Fi for first class passengers. I think about asking for the code and messaging Alice. But before I get the chance, “Sir would you like the chicken or the beef? We also have vegetarian and vegan options.” I tell him that I’d like the beef. Tiia shoots me a look of surprise, we just ate, but free food isn’t something I’ll ever turn down. I made that row in University when I had to mix mac and cheese with eggs. It was the worst meal I’d ever had. “I can’t turn down food.” Tiia laughs, “None for me thank you.”

To my surprise the food is delicious, and for dessert, Tiia gives me a cookie. She can tell I’m starting to think about Alice. “Tiia, can I ask you a question?” She nods at me, “What did Tobias do? About what he thought? About Rory not loving him?”

“Tobias had done everything to push Rory away. I don’t think he did it on purpose, but he pushed because to Tobias, Rory didn’t deserve this. They sat down and talked for a very long time. From the minute I met Rory he always felt like another son. They decided that it would be best for them to take some time apart. At first, it was hard, I’d catch Tobias walking around like a zombie. He was sad, he didn’t say anything but he was broken, and it started to creep in more and more that Rory didn’t love him anymore.” I go to say something, but she interrupts, “But, and I told Tobias this, Rory loved him, and Rory always checked in with me to see if how he was doing. But I told Tobias this. You don’t give up because if you could if you did then that isn’t love.” I used to be like that, this hopeless romantic, always thinking of ways to surprise Alice, having all these grandiose ideas about love. “Tobias never gave up. Rory never gave up. Like I said, if you can let go, then it isn’t love. Now they’re married, and they’re about to adopt a child.” Their love story is messy, and I suppose that that’s how love is, messy. “Thank you Tiia.” I have an idea of what I should do. “James, it will be okay. Everything in life is a path, but I have an inkling that you know what you have to do.” I have an idea, but its life-altering. I decide that its best shut my eyes and try to nap.

ALICE

Rolling over to an empty bed can sometimes be a great thing, this morning is not one of those. I reach for James, but he hasn’t been here since February. I wish he were here, I wish we weren’t fighting, and I wish I were in his arms. It can be hard, the long distance, the time zones, this, him, he can be so difficult. Before I know it I’m crying, “I don’t know what to do… I don’t know.” I think about texting him, but I can’t do it. I text Ian and tell him I can’t come in today; I can’t be there. I make up some bullshit excuse about being sick, and he tells me to take care of myself. The apartment is so quiet, it’s like a scene from a horror movie. Even though the suns out I see everything in black and white. If he were here he would’ve made breakfast, or surprised me with coffee, he would’ve done something to make me see why I fell in love with him in the first place. I need that right now; I need to know that he’s still here not whatever he’s become. I’m looking at the first photo we took together; he was this random guy I struck up a conversation with at a Halloween party. He dressed up as cookie monster and had a bucket full of cookies around his neck. I thought he looked like such an idiot, but a cute idiot who wasn’t dressed as a nightstand or a fucking pile of laundry. We spent the whole night talking, I found out he was an archaeology major, he found out that I didn’t go to McMaster and at the end of the night James walked me home and asked if he could add me on Facebook. I laughed so hard but he was serious, he’s such a nerd, he was then and I think he still is. I hold the picture; I wish he was here.

JAMES

I help Tiia with her bags and I wait with her until Tobias comes to get her. He’s a tall blonde man with a strong bearing. We shake hands, and I help him load the suitcases in the car. I’ve been dreading this moment, its time to say goodbye. “Tiia, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you and thank you so much for listening to me.” I go to shake her hand, but she quickly knocks it away and gives me a hug. “Don’t mention it. Give me your email, I’ll send you the cookie recipe. And James, remember its all a path.” I can feel myself holding back tears, I stand there waving for what feels like forever. When I finally find myself willing to get a cab, I turn my phone on. There aren’t any messages, but for the first time that makes me happy.

ALICE

I’ve been sitting on the couch for a few hours, I feel like a bum. Not even Luke wants to cuddle with me. He just sits there on the opposite side of the couch watching television. “Come her Luke!” His ears perk up and looks at me, that look means no. Stupid dog, I get up and head to the shower. The warm water feels so good until I notice one of James’ body wash bottles. I take it and open it, it smells like him, and it makes me miss him even more. I stand there like a crazy person sniffing the bottle when I hear Luke bark.

JAMES

As I fumble with the keys, I can hear Luke barking. I haven’t seen him in so long, I rush to open the door. He jumps on me and starts licking my face, “Oh I missed you too buddy.” The bathroom door opens, and Alice comes out, she doesn’t say anything. Luke paddles over to her and she scratches behind his ears. It’s time.

 

ALICE

I guess Luke didn’t like the way I smelled, he comes over to me as soon as I leave the bathroom. I scratch behind his ears; James hasn’t said a word. The calendar says he was coming back at midnight not noon. Unless I read the calendar wrong. He can tell I’m confused, “James.”

JAMES

She misread the calendar I can see it from the confused look on her face. She always does this, but to be fair, we haven’t been talking today. I usually send her a text before I leave, but obviously, I didn’t do that today. She’s standing there in her towel, “James” I hold my hand up to her “Alice.” She stops, “You misread the calendar didn’t you?” She nods, “I knew it.” I take a step forward; I can tell she’s been crying. “Ally, I know you have no reason to believe this, but I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the fighting, just sorry for everything. This isn’t easy for me to say.” She comes over to me and takes my hand, and we move over to the couch. “Tell me,” she says. “I’m not happy anymore. I’m not happy with the fighting, but I’m not happy with myself. I don’t want to be away from you anymore, I don’t want to be a professor anymore, I don’t want to be on a fucking plane 32,000ft in the fucking sky for hours at a fucking time. Babe, I’ve been having panic attacks and this is the result. I’m not happy, and I’m sorry I’ve kept this to myself. I just don’t want you to think that any of this is your fault…” She grabs my hand and wipes the tears away from my face. I know what I have to do, I take her hand, and I get up off the couch. “Alice I love you, more than anything in this world and I want you to know that I’ll never keep something from you again. I also don’t want you to let go.” I put my other hand in my pocket and get down on one knee. She’s let go of my hand and cups them over her mouth, “Alice King, I promise to never hurt you, never keep anything from you, and to love you for the rest of my life. I promise that I’ll never let go of you no matter how hard it gets. I promise that I’ll see someone about the panic attacks. I promise that we do find ourselves apart from one another that I’ll always come back to you because you are where my heart is You’re home.” She’s crying, and Luke’s come over to make sure she’s okay. To think once upon a time, she didn’t love him. “Alice, would you marry me?”

ALICE

“I will be here. Every. Step. Of the way because I love you. Yes, I will marry you. ”

JAMES

“It was on a plane ride where I knew I had to ask Alice to marry me. I’d struck up a conversation with a woman, and she told me about the struggles her son faced. When I envisioned this day, I always saw Alice next to me, and I’m proud to call her my wife. I don’t know if I’d have the courage, to ask her for it, not for Tiia Grandlund. What she said to me will forever resonate with me, and it’s the reason we’re all gathered here today.” I raise my glass, “Unfortunately Tiia passed away a few months ago, but I know she’s somewhere looking at us all.” I can see Tobias wipe a tear away from his cheek, I give him a smile because it’s the only thing I can do. “You don’t give up because if you could if you did then that isn’t love. Those were the words that got me here today. Those are the words.” I turn to Alice, “Those are the words that will keep me loving you for the rest of my life.”

The Window Seat Pt. 3 🛫✈️🛬

As we sit down, I recheck my phone, no messages. I wrote a message to Alice and saved it in my notes. I think about sending it, but it’s a working day. I can’t do that to her, can’t let her start her day like that, I need to give her space, but it’s tearing me up inside. Every situation has gone through my mind. I can see this being it, I can see her breaking up with me. I can see her hating me, I can see her never talking to me again. We fight but we always makeup but I know the fighting needs to stop. I know I need to tell her that I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied with work, I’m not excited about where I am in my life, and I’m probably not happy with myself. I don’t know how to tell her this, I don’t want her to think that this is her fault. Although there are times where I want to blame her, I know I cannot. “James? Are you alright?” Tiia has a very concerned look on her face. The waiter sets our food in front of us, Tiia doesn’t break concentration. “I-I’m fine, just a lot on my mind.” I can feel my heart racing again, “You know you remind me a lot of my husband. Terrible liar, it was all in the eyes.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard that. “Okay. Alice, my girlfriend. Well, Alice and I, we’ve been fighting, a lot. Mostly because I won’t tell her that I don’t want to be a professor. It sounds fickle, but I don’t know how to tell her. I don’t know how to tell her after she stuck by me through everything. Grad-school, unpaid internships, me only being home six weeks a year, just everything. I feel like I’d be letting her down” I haven’t said that to anyone, here I am spilling my guts out to some lady I don’t know. Tiia puts down her fork, the waiter places a cup of coffee in front of her. “Thank you.” She fixes her eyes back onto me “Do you love her?” Lately, I’ve felt like I don’t, or I don’t know how to love. “Is she constantly on your mind?” I take a sip of my water, the phad thai is a little spicy, “She means the world to me. When I think I’ve hurt her, I feel like the worst human being in the world. That’s been me lately. Everything in my life seems so chaotic, and I’ve been taking that out on her.” Tiia reaches across the table and places her hand on top of mine, “My husband was the almost the same and my oldest, Tobias is the exact same way. He was a doctor, a cardiac surgeon. Rory, his partner, was there every step of the way. Gave him the courage to come out, helped him study, made sure to help with the stress of medical school. Tobias is a teacher now, a high school teacher and Rory and him are married.” She lets go of my hand, we both hear the boarding call. I give her a faint smile and go to pay the tab.

One of the best feelings in the world is getting on a trans-Atlantic flight and seeing that the plane is not full. Tiia asks the flight attendant if we’d be able to sit next to one another, she asks us if we’d be okay with First class? As if that’s even a question, complementary Champaign, proper meals, and plenty of leg room. We’re ushered to our seats, and asked if we’d like Champaign. We both nod yes. “So your son is a teacher?”

“Tobias is yes, Jacob, an investment banker, and Elli is a fashion designer in Sweden. But yes Tobias is a history teacher.” With a slight jerk, we begin to move, and I watch the flight safety video. I can’t help but think that if we crash it’ll be in the frigid rough water. Most of us if not all of us will die. At our funerals the chances of there being a body in the casket are slim. I roll my eyes; I can’t believe I’m thinking about this. My least favourite part of flying is the takeoff, I’ve watched too many shows about planes blowing up on the runway. Completely irrational but it could happen. When we’re in the air I look over to Tiia, she has her eyes closed. She must know I’m looking at her, “I don’t like take off. Don’t like it at all.” After a few moments, the seat belt sign is turned off, and Tiia opens her eyes. “So I was telling you about Tobias.” I nod, “Well his dad and I never wanted him to do something he didn’t want. But he got it in his mind that when we got older that it was up to him and him alone to provide for us. Imagine, working so hard for something and thinking every step of the way that you hate it. That it isn’t your dream. That it is the last thing, you want.” I can relate to that, I wanted to provide for my mom and dad, and now that my dad is gone it’s up to me. “One day Rory came home, and Tobias was sitting on the couch all snot and tears.” She mocks his crying face and gives a little laugh. “So they’re sitting on the couch, and Rory told him, looked him right in the eyes and told him that it was going to be okay. That night they came over for dinner, and he told us what had gone on over the last few months. Jacob and Elli were both shocked, as was I and my husband because that wasn’t his job, all we ever wanted was for him to be happy. I know it’s a cliché, but Tobias taking care of himself  was all I ever wanted because of he such a kind man, a loving husband, a terrific son, and he’s just got this way about him, makes people gravitate to him.” I’ve taken my phone out of my pocket and spin it around between my index finger and thumb, “So he quit?” Tiia turns to look at me, “No James, he decided that being happy was what he wanted. And you know what, Rory supported him because he loves him.” Alice loves me, I know I question it. “Did Tobias ever think Rory didn’t love him?”

“Absolutely.”

The Window Seat Pt. 2🛬✈️🛫

She’s an elderly lady, wearing a wool cardigan with a very distinguishable maple leaf pin. “Ma’am, these cookies are delectable.” She gives me a little laugh, “I’m glad you liked them. It was either this or wine.” I laugh, wine would be a great idea, and I suppose that it’s five o’clock somewhere. Come to think of it I’d really like a drink. “So, I assume by your accent you’re also heading back to Toronto?” The one thing I’ve learned as a Canadian living abroad is that we do in fact have a discernable accent. It’s not as crass as the American but very distinctive, and as we know, everyone loves Canadians. “You are correct.” I extend my hand, “My name is James.” She takes my hand, “It is very nice to meet you, James. My name is Tiia.” She has the slightest of accents, one that I recognize. I can feel the look of scrutiny come across my face, “Tiia, you’re Finnish aren’t you?” A look of surprise comes across her face. “How did you know that?” When I was an undergrad, I did a year abroad in Finland. That was the first time I’d ever been outside of North America. I was 21, and I’d just packed up and moved halfway across the world. It was strange, the signs were in Finnish, the temperature, well it’s almost the same as in Canada, the food is bland, and the people are best described as socially awkward. Which is why I’m a little surprised by Tiia’s behaviour. “I did a year abroad in Tampere when I was in university. So I got accustomed to the accent.” She’s signalled the flight attendant, “Would you mind getting us each a glass of wine? Please, and thank you.” The best way to get to know a Fin is to drink with them. After a while, we’re both sitting there with empty glasses. In that time, she’s told me that she immigrated to Canada when she was twenty-five and settled in Toronto with her husband. That was almost fifty years ago which explains the slight accent. Instinctively I take my phone out, it’s on airplane mode, so I have no notifications. I stare at it for a second and then place it next to the empty glass, face down. I’m no longer smiling, the distraction is gone, and I find myself thinking about Alice.

“Why do you always do that? I ask you something, and then you just say nothing. James something is wrong just tell me.” I look down, and I can see the spelling error in the first line of the paragraph of the essay I’m marking. “Revulition” I just shake my head, and immediately regret it. “Yeah, you go ahead and just shake your fucking head. James, I’m your girlfriend you can open up to me, you can tell me things. I know that’s not your strong suit, but you’ve done it before. Since you’ve left, you’ve been… like this! Tell me, what’s wrong.” My hearts began to race, and suddenly I feel like I can’t get enough air. “James!” I hold my finger up to the screen grab the trash bin next to my desk and throw up. The bile burns my throat, and tears are flowing down my cheeks. I can hear the concern in Alice’s voice, “Please tell me you’re okay” She’s been saying that a lot too, I’m the furthest thing from “Okay” After a minute or so I wipe away the tears and head for the washroom to rise out my mouth. When I look in the mirror, I can see how dishevelled I look, just worn out, ragged, sad. My eyes are bloodshot, and my hair is a salt and pepper mess. I go back to the computer, “I’m fine babe.” She can hear it in my voice that I’m lying, “You’re lying, but you know what? James, I care about you, and I love you but this shutting me out, lying to me shit, it’s not fucking working for me. So I’m going to go. I really wish you’d talk to me. I really wish you would, but I’m not going to beg you anymore.” She ends the call without saying “I love you.” Every time she doesn’t, it makes me think the worse. Deep down I know its just one of those things that you don’t need to say, epically when you’ve been together as long as us. But lately, when she doesn’t do it, it makes me think the worse. I can feel the urge to text her, I can feel the anger boiling. I take my phone and throw it across the room. “What’s wrong with me?” I know the answer, but admitting it isn’t something I can do right now, I have papers to mark.

“I know that look.” Tiia is handing me some gum, the seatbelt sign is on, we’ll be landing soon. I slide my phone back into the inside breast pocket of my jacket. “We’ve got quite the wait till the next flight, I know a nice restaurant in the airport. Would you like to have lunch? It’s on me, for the cookies and the wine.” She’s fumbling with the tray, “Well its been a long time since someone asked me out, but yes I would love to.” I smile and help her tray. When I look out the window, the sun is beaming down, it is a shame that we’re not here long enough to enjoy it.

We’re the last two to leave the plane, her company has been pleasant, its made me forget about the fight with Alice. We’ve got to go through customs again which means taking off jackets and belts, but luckily for me, Tiia tells the customs officer that we’re travelling together and I’m escorted to another line. For someone who’s almost eighty she’s remarkably sturdy, most people her age would have asked for a wheelchair, or require one. “James, would you mind if we stop off at the duty-free shop? I have to get something for my husband. I always promised him if I was in Ireland I’d get him a bottle of whiskey.” Come to think of it I wouldn’t mind picking up a few things, so we head in. Ireland has always been a favourite of mine when my dad was alive, we’d come every year and get drunk at a different bar. Last year I came here for a conference and did the Guinness Brewery Tour and the Jameson Distillery tour. When Alice found out she was a little jealous, she’s always wanted to go. I feel myself get quiet, I take my phone out and connect to the Wi-Fi, no messages, just a few work emails and some social media updates. “James!” Tiia is waving at me, “You have to try this!” She seems so excited. When I get over to her, she’s holding a small shot glass full of some kind of cream or milk. I look at her and take the shot glass, the sales rep looks at me and says its Irish cream mixed with white chocolate. What comes out of his mouth next leave me in disbelief, “That right there is better than Baileys.” He’s right, it was. We both buy a bottle.