“The Way We Were…”

Written by on February 14, 2012 in Learning to Breathe - 2 Comments

14th February, 2012

Ah Valentine’s Day: the perfect day to reminisce about loves of years past, to dream of loves of years future, and to spend some romantic time with that special someone in your life (or not).

So here I am on this very special romantic day a single woman still (which I think, considering what I’m like, is a real testament to my willpower). At the moment, I’m sitting quietly and alone writing with my laptop in check in a cafe in Brussels. That’s right: Brussels. What am I doing here, you ask? Shouldn’t I be in my usual current corner of the world in London tucked away with the rest of the single ex-pats that have decided to make London our home and who can’t be asked to face yet another Valentine’s Day?

Perhaps I would be still, except, as it happens, Valentine’s Day is a day when people like to go away to romantic destinations. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you? As it also happens, those bright corporate builders of fortune out there have learned that it’s probably a good idea to pander to the many besotted lovers who yearn to “show their Valentine a good time” (in the right kind of way of course) on this very commercial, yet still very celebrated “romantic” day. One of these lovely corporate success stories, the Eurostar, luckily played to the lovers in the perfect way. Figuring, probably quite rightly, that couples will anyway try to take a trip somewhere to celebrate Valentine’s Day week, they decided to draw them to the train as their chosen means of transport. And where best to go on a “romantic getaway for two” but to Paris (and perhaps Brussels by extension). So Eurostar offered their wonderful Valentine’s Day sale — the main reason why I’m sitting now in a cafe in Brussels to write rather than in a cafe in London. Deciding that I could take advantage of “loving couple rates” even though I’m single, I searched for the cheapest deals and found myself escaping the confines of drooling London for the even more drooling Brussels (well, at least I didn’t go to Paris!).

There were also two other happy coincidences that led me here: 1) Valentine’s Day just happened to fall smack into half term this year and my kids just happened to be away with their dad, likely having a fantastic time learning to ski on some famous mountain in the Alps. And 2) I have a friend in Brussels who’s been inviting me to come and visit her there ever since she’s had her second child (which is why I’m now writing in a cafe by her house rather than in her house). Anyone who’s ever stayed in a house filled with young kids will know exactly what I’m talking about. Of course I’m a mom myself, so I’m almost immune and quite accustomed to the rampage of kids and the inability of parents to hold a complete conversation without interruption. Hey, I freely admit I’m one of these parents too when my kids are around, but it’s just not that conducive to writing.

So here I am in romantic Brussels watching all the romantic couples walking hand in hand and cheek to cheek into and out of the cafe I sit in alone, holding hands and whispering excitedly to one another. I could be feeling bitter; I could be feeling lonely; and I could be wishing that I too was here with that special someone instead of on my own. But instead I’ve decided to put this romantic energy surrounding me to good use and to remember “the way we were” — or, rather,  I’ve decided to ponder about my recent past failed romances in a dramatic effort to hold out on dating for as long as I can (more power to me!).

Because otherwise, if I had to watch another romantically-inclined couple from somewhere else in the world celebrating their deep devotion — or rather deep current lust — for each other in such an explicit way (which certainly wouldn’t bother me if I was in that way myself), I would be focused on one question only:  just how much longer should I bother to hold out before going back to dating myself and finally ridding myself of this futile resistance which we all know will eventually come to the same end it always does with me.

So, in the spirit of the day, and in my efforts at staying single for just a little bit longer, I am dedicating this short section to thanking my two most recent leading men, who now no longer play the role of my leading men as, at this point, my act is a cameo…

To my ex-husband:

Thank you for the great times we had together when we had them. It is true that they didn’t really last all that long, and that now most of the memories are of us arguing or driving each other to tears. But I just want you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened between us or for how we ended (though you probably still blame me). I choose to look at the situation as at two good people who just weren’t able to bring the good out of each other. Or, rather, we somehow managed to usually bring the worst out of each other. But it wasn’t always that way. And I will take this Valentine’s Day opportunity to show you gratitude for the beautiful moments that we did have so many of.

Thank you for the wonderful lifestyle you made it possible for us to live together for the time that we did. I still remember adoringly the wonderful restaurants, brilliant hotels, and incredible trips. There was our amazing honeymoon in a top resort in Hawaii, and that incredible anniversary trip to Japan where I ate the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life (and ate it at least twice a day for almost a week — yum!). I appreciate greatly too your excellent taste for the finer things (so much beyond my own need at that time and always such a marvelous surprise): still now the most beautiful things I own are the ones that you gave me. I like the way you enjoyed dressing me up (like Barbie) and would take me out shopping fitting clothes on me and choosing your favorites. You taught me to see what was the most flattering on me and I still retain all those valuable lessons.

But most of all, I must thank you for the most precious gift of all: the gift of your wonderful genetics — or, rather, for the very important part you played in helping to create, with me, our two little daughters. Of course I don’t speak very impartially, but at least I know that you will likely agree with me that they are two of the most beautiful, most clever, and most sweet little girls out there. And thank you for continuing to help them to grow up to someday be clever, kind, wonderful, yet still modest little women.

To my ex-lover:

You came into my life at a very crucial time, when I was having a hard time finding anything to look forward to. You were my friend and my confidant first of all, and I still consider you someone I enjoy so much talking to. Despite the fact that we decided to call it a day after over a year and a half together, and decided not to pursue a future together, I still recall with great fondness the wonderful times we had. You took me to some of my favorite hotels still, showed me parts of the UK and the world I hadn’t even noticed before, and introduced me to one of my favorite activities: cycling.

But, most of all, you helped awaken in me my own passion — almost a hunger even. We were so hungry for each other and to explore one another in the beginning that we even didn’t obey some common rules of convention that we should have. I have to say that I never before, and never again, lost my mind so greatly to passion as to even ignore my own common sense. So I should thank you for this too, as I suppose I was much in need of a good dose of losing my mind to lust. You are still, undoubtedly, the best lover I ever had. And I must say that it is quite flattering to hear you call me “the best you’ve ever had” too. You helped me open myself as a woman, even to discover that I was a woman still. I had lost that part of me and the power that came with the way I once was. With children always in tow in those days, I’d forgotten what it felt like to be noticed and appreciated by a man. It certainly had been too long. So I can forgive us both the mistakes we made in formality because of the deep need we both had to make them. Thank you, dear former lover. I am so happy that, despite us parting, we can still remain friends to each other.

And now with this I should conclude today’s journal entry. Except there is one other little juicy tidbit to add. In this time of typing so intently my gratitude and memories to my former men, I somehow failed to notice a rather attractive brown-haired man with his laptop also in tow and his black-rimmed glasses covering those green-grey eyes poring intently in my direction. He’s walking over now. He just asked me if the seat across from me is free in his sexy Belgian French. Apparently this cafe has become quite the hotspot for lovingly-inclined couples everywhere and we must be the last two singles in the place. There is another table two tables down from me that is completely free. I wrestle with myself for a moment trying to decide whether to tell him this and keep my single table singularly for me.

But, what can I do? He is after all so cute in that somewhat cool geeky sort of way with those hip big glasses on (even if he’s probably even younger than I look). And he is looking at me in that way, which, even in my strongest moments is pretty difficult to resist, and it’s Valentine’s Day so I am definitely generally weaker now than usual.

Before I can stop myself, I splurt out, a little too flirtingly for my single determination, “mais oui. Bien sur.”

I am so weak!

Alas, but it is Valentine’s Day after all…

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2 Comments on "“The Way We Were…”"

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