We started the day earlier than either of us wanted because the train to Munich left at 7:15. Apparently, this didn’t matter to anyone else because there were so many people at the station. Our car was jampacked, too. For breakfast, we had schnitzel sandwiches (I get the appeal) and some shitty hot chocolate. I did too much office work, which led to a lovely guilt cycle. Why not write? Why not talk to my new husband? Why not read? Why not stare out the window at snow-laden mountains and trees? Oh, well. There’s no one way to do things, though going on vacation without bringing your job with you seems like a simple equation.
Due to travel delays, Richie and I could only spend one full day in the city instead of two. It didn’t help that we both woke up wicked late, thanks to jet lag. My new husband was kind enough to go downstairs and get us breakfast while I washed my hair free of travel. After eating way more chocolate for breakfast than we should have, we had to scoot quickly to the Belvedere, where we had time-sensitive entrance tickets. When researching Vienna, not a lot caught my eye; however, Klimt is a favorite of mine, so we had to see The Kiss: A perfect start for a newly married couple.
Honeymooning is a novel concept to me. In my life, I think I’ve only met two or three couples who were enjoying what the Germans call “flitter weeks.” Maybe that’s because I’ve never lived in a scenic locale that’s both memorable and Instagram-worthy (to let my bias out for a walk, my hometown’s beach is one of the nicest in the world. I’d much rather go to Pensacola than Miami, but whatever). I can’t cast stones, though, considering that my honeymoon takes me across the ocean to have my bags checked in Portugal before being delivered to the scenic views of Vienna’s MuseumQuartier.
This winter has been hard. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this out of control, but it’s as exhausting as I remembered. The dry heaving, the racing heart, the upset stomach, the lack of appetite, the binge eating, the mood swings, the wanting to fall into the nearest river and not swim back to the top. Even when life is objectively good, things can feel so bad. Hopefully, tomorrow changes things because, well, I’m going on my honeymoon.
With your cayenne lips still burning, you drive up the interstate. Family far behind, it’s easier to be at peace. Vacation becomes vacation, and New Orleans is a place to be at ease. The drive seemed longer when you were a kid, but it’s only three hours. You stop at the gas station your cousin insisted you go to, the one she goes to for fun. You kind of expect to make fun of it, but it really is quite the to-do. Employees get paid almost $20 an hour. No wonder it’s so clean. You wish every gas station in America was like this. The snack aisle is more fun than any memory of Disney you have.
Going back to your Gulf Coast hometown after a long time is weird, a little uncomfortable, especially in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic. Things look the same; they look different. Buildings you grew up in became Panera Breads or are abandoned altogether. Your childhood home is still yellow but is covered in the green mold your mother pressure washed off every summer. There are more broken shells on the beach than you remember. It’s weird to be a Southerner who’s become a Northerner in so many ways.
Montreal is a very clean city. More than that, it is a very approachable city. Even though my French is rusty, and Richie’s is nonexistent, we managed to get ourselves around without incident (except when Rich somehow knocked out an entire POS system by clicking on the wrong button at check-out). The food was great, the coffee was great, it wasn’t quite freezing. What more could one want?
Let's get the cliché out of the way now: It's been a long year. Like, a really long year. As someone who is very comfortable at home, man was lockdown hard. About midway through it, I found myself restless and irritable and certain that nothing was never going to change. Anxiety attacks were making a more consistent appearance in my days. When I talked about it with my therapist, she asked me what I did throughout a typical year. After thinking about it for a minute, I said that I normally went on several domestic and one or two international vacations a year. In that time, I typically had a lot of revelations about myself and wrote a lot. So, in that light, the anxiety isn't fear so much as is claustrophobia. For the last year and a half, I've been trying to shed my skin but haven't had the room. Now, though, as the world begins to open to vaccinated people, it feels like it might be time to molt.
I finally come to terms with my self-inflicted solitude over a tartlette citron (which I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to eat with a fork, but there's none to be had, and I'm a dirty American tourist so who really cares) and five fresh manuscript pages. Both of them are so good that I say, "Fuck you" out loud. No one is around to be embarrassed. Something about that is freeing. And when I inevitably get lost without my GPS and wind up stomping up and down an avenue I can't pronounce with no one to witness both my failure and my triumph? There's something freeing about that, too.
I start the day later than expected, but this is understandable when one considers the night full of fun and pho (another shout out to Victoria and her patience with me and my glorious introduction to picone beer). My hair is at peak fluffiness, I'm feeling strangely energized, I'm optimistic about what the day will bring. Then again, I feel this way a lot and sometimes wind up being nearly arrested, or lost on a train, or drop my food on the floor, or I'm accused of being a "snitch" by some rando on the street (I'm still highly offended by this bold claim. Mama didn't raise no snitch). Perhaps today really will be a good day. Or better yet: Today will be as good as I make it. Optimism is the secret to all good things in this life. Where better to be optimistic than in the City of Lights?