So I haven't quite finished the story about how me and the lover boy ended up getting together.
Cast your mind back... this is how we officially 'met'... But not when we fell in love.
There's a few different versions of the story I'm about to tell, depending on who we're talking to... But there always are, aren't there? No matter which story you're telling, it changes from person to person.
So, let's call this Em's-blog-version, knowing I don't know my readers well enough maybe to go into the particularly juicy details.
Not that there are that many. But anyway. Dig up, Em.
Our last story left off with Nic jetsetting to Europe to study. We heard from each other, usually on birthdays, though we were both notoriously bad at remembering when each others' birthday was (mine should have been easy - 3 days after his Mum's. Just sayin'.) He sent me a Welsh dictionary one year, cos he was studying in Wales. He accuses me often of not sending anything at all. Meh.
So I did my Undergrad in Arts, and finished that by the end of 2007. I knew I wanted to do my teaching degree, but not right away. I was sick of school, sick of studying, and I knew that if I didn't travel before I did my teaching degree, then it wouldn't ever happen because I'd end up in a real job and I wouldn't be able to be carefree like that any more.
Warsaw- Not quite Krakow. This was their national library, I think, and there were 5 or 7 of these colored pegasus outside, all different colors.
So I got a job at a call-centre and worked for a year and a half, saving up money. In Feb of 2009, I wandered into the travel agent and asked them about the cost of flights to Krakow. Bit random, but I wanted to go to Auchwitz, then a whole lot of other places. I'll add in at this point that for the 5 years since leaving highschool at this point, I'd thought often of Nic and wondered what could have been, and if I'd let something worthwhile get away, but since it hadn't been anything, I couldn't dwell on it. I went home that afternoon with a tentatively booked ticket, the salesperson using the old "I can only hold this price/seats till Wednesday!!!" trick, to panic me into wanting to buy the tickets. I'm older and wiser now and know I could have kicked his arse in the price of the tickets by doing it myself online, but since it was the first time just going on a trip, by myself, to another country- to Poland, I think it was probably safer that I did it through an agent. I went home, as I said, to my now-ex boyfriend who I was living with at the time, and told him I was probably going to Europe in October, and he could come, if he wanted, but knew he wouldn't want to. Surprise, surprise, he didn't want to. On Wednesday I bought the tickets.
I think I emailed Nic a few times between Feb and October, more or less demanding he meet up with me while I was finally on the same continent as him again, wanting secretly to see if that question-mark I'd bee carrying since '04 meant anything. Whether he still felt anything. Our Skype conversation a couple of months before I left was just so easy. You know sometimes you have friends and you drift apart and when you try and talk to them again, it's all stilted and awkward, like:
"So.... um... what's news with you?"
"So.... um... what's news with you?"
"Not much.... you?
"Yeah... same, same...."
"... Well, gotta go doing some ironing! Let's catch up soon, hey!?"
"Yeah! Great talking with you!"
And so on.
Well, it was nothing like that. We talked as if we'd never been apart. We fell easily back into one anothers' company. He said he didn't know if he'd be in Europe when I was there- he might be in Sudan. I think I threatened to hunt him down if he wasn't there.
Anyway, a week before I was due to leave, he emailed me saying he'd be in Paris when I was there and we could get lunch. Lunch wasn't enough. I managed to wrangle two days out of him instead. HA.
At home, my relationship began to disintegrate as I was with a boyfriend who worked 5pm-midnight, and I worked 10am-6.30, effectively meaning we never saw each other. I remember sitting in a food-court quietly crying as we both came to the realization that we were, as he put it, "in trouble". I was so alone in this relationship, that I was no longer in it. I had checked out 6 months ago, sick of trying to carry it and make it better, when he refused to try and change his hours, and finding a different job was too hard. Before I left, he told me to go do whatever I want, if it would make me happy.
So, off I flew.
In the Czech Republic, I hired a car out of Prague and got terribly, horrifically lost (thanks for nothing, GPS) trying to get to one of the main tourist towns down south. I checked into a scummy hostel (I wanted a family-run B&B but was so tired that I went to the information place and stayed at the first place they mentioned), my first time sharing a room, and this was an attic with about 8 other people- mostly Australians (ugh). Exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed, I tried to call my ex back home, but he didn't answer. I called Nic. We talked for 20 minutes, me on my mobile, on international roaming. I think the call cost me about $200, but as always, he made me feel better, got me to laugh, and sent me on my way. My ex called back, we talked for about 8 minutes ($80!), but I was fine by that point. I thought something was amiss, at this point.
A hazy day over Prague Castle, before I went driving and had my meltdown.
After traveling through Slovenia (beautiful, amazing country), I wasn't looking forward to going home. I was looking forward to France.. I was looking forward to seeing Nic. I didn't want to go home to my boyfriend there. And it wasn't because travel was exciting (which it was), it was because the thing back home was mundane, and the relationship was over, even though I hadn't realized it, not even by this point. You're meant to miss the person you love, wish they were with you... I just wanted to see Nic.
So I got to France, and hurrah! I could read menus again, and order train tickets, and buy bread and raspberry tarts. And because I did these things in French, the French people were unbelievably polite and tolerant of me. A friend from work had coincidentally bought tickets to Europe for the same time period as me- we'd met up once in Prague for an evening, and had decided to rent an apartment together for our time in Paris. So we were in our apartment after a long day of traipsing about the streets and taking silly photos, and I waited for Nic.
First day in Paris, all by myself. Jeez, and I've put on about 10kg since this photo was taken. Blarg. Nic was arriving two days later, and I was pretty excited at this point.
He arrived, having hauled his bags through le Metro, and now up the four flights of stairs to the attic/shoebox apartment. There was tension in the air already. It makes me smile to think about it actually, like we knew a secret or were in on a game nobody else knew about . We went for a walk in the evening, making overtly dirty jokes, falling into an easy and comfortable rhythm. We bought crepes to warm up our hands, and I swooned over his French (and still do). We sat by the river Seine, though it took us a long time to find the 'perfect' spot. I wanted somewhere mind-blowingly romantic; Eiffel tower glittering in the background, maybe some music coming from some bar in some pokey street, the river sliding along below our feet as we hung our legs over the edge. The last part, we found, but the rest didn't happen. The place was quiet, though, and out of the way.
He had questions for me, about my past, not about him, but about something completely unexpected. He thought I had questions for him, and of course it wasn't so much a question as a statement, about that question-mark, about my feelings, about never having had the chance to know how I felt about him. We fell into silence for a little while, contemplating these things, and then we talked. We talked for hours about everything, all of the feeling stuff, and all of the other stuff. His hand resting on my leg, my head on his shoulder. Then (as always), I got chilly.
We decided to head home. Waiting in the metro for the next train (2 minutes away...) I made an Amelie-inspired decision. If the next train came, and neither of us made a move to leave, I would kiss him. The first train arrived.... then left.
I leaned over and kissed the side of his mouth.
Which developed into a full on pash-session. So this was our first kiss- dirty Paris Metro, station Reamur-Sebastapol, just after midnight, stone sober, and melting into each others' company in a way that we never had.
We returned to the apartment soon after- the girls were still awake, so we all settled down to sleep- three of us girls on the double bed, and Nic on the floor.
The next day we went to one of my favorite places in Paris - Montemarte, and there wandered the hilly streets, hand in hand and glowing like newlyweds. We had two French men comment on what a beautiful couple we were, and it felt like that- that we were this blissed out, happy couple. And with each other, we were (and still are) completely ourselves. Maybe that was connected with the knowledge that if it all went south, if it didn't work, or even if it did, we didn't necessarily have to see each other again after that day. If we gave all of ourselves away, didn't hide the quirks and the silliness, it didn't matter. We love the quirks and silliness about one another.
Nic left that afternoon, back home for the UK, but from his visit I felt elated, I felt absolutely joyous, and tremendously confused. It was one of the most incredible 24 hours in my life. It was finding the other half of myself, which is so corny, but it was like that.
It was my brain exploding with now what? And what the hell does this mean?
So we emailed. We emailed while I explored France on my last week in Europe. We tried to sort out what it was that we had done, and where we were going next. Nic had a ticket booked to Australia, he was meant to be coming for a month with his (now ex, also) girlfriend to drive up the east coast. I remember standing on a bridge over the Seine, cars and people passing by, and him telling me he was thinking of extending that trip, indefinitely, or at least for a year. You know, to see Australia and see if he could get a job there... Nothing to do with me. I bought that BS, though I should have known better, but of course my internal monologue was having panic attacks- here was a man I'd spent 24 hours with, fallen in love with (somehow) during that time, and who was planning on relocating his entire life to be in my country. How could I handle that?! So he needed to tell me those things, then I could say that it was a good idea, while my heart secretly exploded.
There was a month between me arriving home, and him flying here. So we emailed like mad things. I returned to work and did my job absent mindedly, while writing and answering questions on the 20-page long google doc that we'd reverted to using in lieu of emails. We found out as many stupid, unimportant details through those emails as we did important ones. Most of them served to solidify the fact that we had nearly everything in common, from the types of foods we liked, to the aspirations and dreams we had. We didn't ask whether we were clean or messy to live with, which seems stupid now since the plan was for him to fly down and move in with me, my Mum and my brother, but we're remarkably similar in how we live as well. Lucky us.
We used terms to disguise the fact that we loved one another, like saying "I heart you", or "I freud you"- coined for a freudian slip Nic made while talking to me very soon after Paris, where he nearly said "I love you" instead of what he had meant to say. So we tacked these little sayings to the end of every gchat session, because we weren't allowed to say the real thing until we were together.
So he flew down to Melbourne, feverish, sick and exhausted, and I picked him up from the train-station after work and took him home. We had built up so many expectations around those weeks of emails, the long google docs we'd created, the memories we had of Paris, to base how we would be once we were in the 'real world' (stupid us)... and we nearly let it get the better of us. But over a meal of waffles and chocolates out in Melbourne, we talked it through and realized we were pushing so hard for what we thought would be our perfection and our happiness, that we were forgetting that really, we were just getting to know one another again, and we were in this crazy, ridiculous situation that we always made better (and when people find out we've only been together for a year and a half, and we're already engaged, I still do this) by saying we've known each other since we were 16, that we couldn't expect it to be perfect straight away... And ok, not every couple is perfect, and we're certainly not, either... but we knew that easiness with one another, that ability to be completely ourselves would get us through... and of course, it has.
And that's (more or less) it. He may never have pictured he would live in Australia, but here he is with me, living in our little cocoon of happiness with Mallei and Mia, and I can't picture being without him. Without our adventures, and his constant, unwavering support, his faces, his silliness, his belief in and of me...
We make an awesome team, if I do say so myself.