Madrid 🇪🇸

I don’t know how much I have to write about my time in Madrid. Yes, I’m having a bit of writer’s block, I’ve also been sick, but I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to question why I’m doing this, why did I start this and should I even bother? I don’t have the answers to any of those right now. Disenchantment, that’s probably a good word for what I’m feeling, but enough of that right? Right. I don’t think that I want to talk about my first day there as well, I’ve told you. If I must be entirely honest, Madrid was a place that barely made the list. I only wanted to see it because of the Santiago Bernabeu. That’s the stadium that Real Madrid plays out of, I fucking hate them. I think they ruined football, but hey, their model of building teams is the way that everyone else does it, including Manchester United, the team I cheer for.

I’m not incredibly well versed in Spanish history either. Here’s what I know, they were at one point occupied by Muslims in 710 AD. Christians and Muslims fought for hundreds of years over Spain and the Iberian peninsula. The Spanish was a colonial power with a predominant religious and cultural influence that can still be seen today. For example, the Spanish colonised Cuba, the architecture in Old Havana and Madrid are similar. While on colonial missions, new lands were often conquered in the name of the Catholic Church. Most former Spanish colonies are still predominantly Catholic. They stayed out of the First World War and sold both sides ammunition. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Spain fought a civil war where Francisco Franco… I’m going to stop because maybe I know a little bit. All the buildings that I took pictures of I don’t know anything about them. I did have some friends from Madrid, so they told me what to visit. I’d say Madrid was definitely my vacation from my vacation. I spent a lot of time in my hostel reading and watching Netflix, so this won’t be as exciting as the other trips. Here’s a photo I took on the first night out, from on top of The Roof Bar. You can see pretty much everything from on top, and the food and alcohol is pretty cheap. I think my favourite thing about Madrid was how the streets were always full of people, there was still music, and most importantly there was always an abundance of food. I will, however, say that I never want to hear Feliz Navidad ever again. I enjoyed getting up late and being lazy in Madrid; I could stroll into the kitchen and get breakfast for three euros, pocket a bunch of things and just head up to my room and watch Netflix. Under the Arctic Sky, a film by Chris Burkard was one of those movies I watched. I do recommend it as it shows the outstanding views that Iceland has to offer in the winter. The film is about a group of surfers who were chasing an arctic storm in hopes of riding the swells. Yes, they surf in that cold ass water. It’s times like this where most people are like,

I did get to do a lot of sightseeing; it took a long time because I cannot make this up, at some points, there were so many people in the streets that emergency vehicles couldn’t get through. Christmas in Madrid is intense! I ended up at the Royal Palace of Madrid. It is quite the building and right next to it is the San Francisco el Grande, which I think is the royal basilica.

I’ll let you guess which one the church is. As cool as these buildings are nothing compares to the Bernabeu, but I wanted to save that for the last day. Back at my hostel, I ended up meeting this American kid who was also on his study abroad. Cool California kid who had the fattest passport I’d ever seen. This thing was loaded with visa stickers and packed full of stamps; I think he said he’d been to something like 79 countries. The kicker, he’s only 20! We ended up going to McDonald’s for dinner, and you can get a burger, wedges and a beer for like 4 euros. We talked about our travels and what was up next. He’d been in Europe for a year, so he was itching to go home, I’d been away for five months, and I was itching to come home. There’s something about home that calls to us all, I mean now that I’m home I’d rather be anywhere else in the fucking world. He told me about some cool places I should visit while I was in Madrid. With one day left that would be a bit of a stretch. The next day we said our goodbyes and I headed to the Bernabeu. I’m not giving a history or background; Real Madrid is the most successful football team in the world and the most popular. Don’t believe me? Well, they consistently dress one of the most expensive lineups and well there’s this,

Those are Champion’s League Trophy’s. A tournament that is widely considered a football tournament that’s better than the World Cup. Twelve times Real Madrid have been crowned champions, and they became the first team in the modern day format to win back to back championships. Impressive, as was this view

All I can say is that all the stadiums I saw or visited, I ended up being in awe of them. They’re nothing like we have in North America, let alone Toronto. Even though I despise Real Madrid, I think this is something you have to see to get the full experience of Madrid. You’ll see that there are a lot of people from all over the world, and it’ll show you how this spot is not only important but also a sort of pilgrimage for fans.

I took in a few art museums, saw the other Mona Lisa. Um, nothing new to report, less of a line, that’s it. The museums in Madrid are cool because they celebrate Spanish culture and it is definitely something I don’t know way to much about. I ended up walking to the Temple of Debod. I have no idea of it’s significance but it’s one of the few pieces of Egyptian works that can be found outside of Egypt.

It is pretty cool. From here I headed back to the hostel and checked out, I spent the next couple hours watching crap on Netflix until I decided to go to the airport. My flight was at 8am and once again I decided to spend the night in the airport. Worst idea ever as Madrid’s airport was under construction. Also pro tip, there is a shuttle to the airport that costs five euros, if you want to take it the stop for it is NOT where all the bus shelters are, it’s right next to the Cybele Palace.

That’s the palace and where that blue light is coming from, that’s the side where you get the bus. Also if you look closely you’ll see a, “Refugees Welcome” banner hanging from the top, I thought that was pretty cool given the recent negative feelings directed towards refugees and immigrants in general. I know I kind of just threw this post together and my trip got off to a rough start AND at points I’ll admit it sounds like I’m shitting on Spain, I’m not, but I’d have to say that Madrid was probably one of my favourite spots. The food was great, the sangria … I’ve decided to stop drinking, but sangria I think I’ll miss the most and it was so cheap and so good in Madrid, and I want to say this, the people in Madrid were incredibly friendly. They were always smiling, dancing, singing, and always willing to lend a hand. I find myself thinking back and really wishing I’d done a little more while there, one day. Thank you for reading, I might do a little post about my last days of my trip and after that, I guess back to the scheduled programming. I start classes on Monday and then my internship, but lets face it adulting and being a student comes with procrastination!

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.

Coming Soon 📆

I’m writing this post on my iPad. Not something I like to do but I’ll have to use this for the foreseeable future. My first night in Madrid I had my laptop stolen. I was watching highlights at 9:30 in the morning, dozed off right in my bed, on the top bunk, with my computer right in front of me. I felt my laptop brush against my back, but I thought I was dreaming. When I woke up, it was gone, along with a phone that belongs to one of the guys in the room. I took all the precautions when it comes to locking it and double locking it, went to the police everything, I’ve even got a replacement one in mind. I was able to find some of my files in the cloud (Thank God), but my laptop is my life. I have countless projects, posts and stories on there that I might never get back. I know it’s just a laptop and I’ll get another one. I’ll have to work hard, but hard work never scared me. This whole ordeal could’ve been way worse; I could’ve had my passport taken… Madrid would be an excellent place to live. Anyway, I apologise for the delay in posts. I hope to have the next one up soonish! And…. 5. More. Days.

Week By Week 📆

Somehow I’m still alive. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog or do anything other than school work in the last little while. It, however, is starting to pay off. So I’ve been thinking about staying here and doing another year and getting my masters. Then when I woke up this morning, there was an email from an internship that I applied to saying I’d been accepted. I was talking to someone and telling them about my dilemma of wanting to stay and wanting to come home. Strange how things can change in such an instance.

So what’s on the docket? Well, I’m heading to Stockholm this weekend which should be a lot of fun. I’ve always “threatened” that I’d run away to Sweden. In reality, I’ve just always wanted to visit. In December I’m heading to Paris, then Madrid and then meeting up with some friends from Barcelona in Barcelona. So more travel is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it. So Paris? Why Paris? I’m Canadian, and I’ve heard a lot about Paris, it’s almost romanticized. I understand its a beautiful city, but I’ve heard the worst things about the people there. We’ve got a lot of Parians here, and well they’re not the friendliest. I’m not going to let a few bad apples ruin the entire pie, so we’ll see what the people of Paris are like. I do plan on doing all the tourist attractions while there, but I also think it’s important for me to go and visit the Canadian war memorials in France. Vimy Ridge, Neuville-St Vaast Canadian Cemetery are the two that I have in mind and of course Juno Beach. 359 Canadians died taking that beach, they’re all buried behind the beach. I want to visit these sites because I’m a first-generation Canadian. I’m also very proud of being a Canadian and I wouldn’t be a Canadian without the sacrifice that those brave men and women gave.

Now in Spain, well the list is rather long. In all honesty, I don’t know a lot about Spain. I have a list of things to see, for example, Spain was once under Muslim rule in the medieval period. Their rule lasting in some areas more than 700 years. I think it would be amazing to see some of the old mosques. Obviously, football is on a religious level there so I hope I can get to a game while I’m there … Maybe El Classico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) But we’ll see how much money I have if anyone wants to give me money that would be the kindest gift! I’m just kidding, I’ve actually budgeted reasonably well.

So a few more trips, a couple of things to see and do and then I’m coming home… Oh, I haven’t mentioned, my school back home is on strike, and well I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a potential that they lose the entire semester, I hope not, but it’s a very real possibility. It could affect my internship, that’s a little bit of a stressor but we’ll find out soon enough. Sorry for the delays in between posts, there will be photos and posts about Sweden and the upcoming adventure. I’m also working on another short story, but it requires a lot of research.

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.