Chapter 1: Part One: Jane, April 30
Jane: The packing is done.
I check if I’ve missed anything important. Passport, flight ticket, cell phone and charger, credit card, cash, travel insurance, adequate underwear, etc. Everything is in place. I close the backpack that will keep me company during my trip. I don’t know how long I’ll be traveling. It could be a week, a month or even longer. What I do know is that my mother will arrive at my apartment in a few minutes to drive me to the airport and that I’ll be on a flight to New York City in just five hours.
I look around my room. I’ve lived in this little studio for five years since leaving my parents’ home. I’ve put a lot of effort into making this space as comfortable as possible. From bigger furniture to smaller kitchen gadgets, I’ve selected each piece with great care. This flat has been my little fortress—a comfortable place of refuge. Being in this apartment is like being with a friend whom I’ve grown to know inside and out. Though I know the apartment will wait for me until I return, looking just as it does today, I also know that I’ll miss this place.
As I allow my eyes to tenderly rest on each object in the room, the one poster on the wall catches my attention. It’s from a famous cologne campaign from last year.
Last year I was staying in a care home that specializes in treating young people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maintaining peace and a calm, controlled environment were the biggest priorities there, and I was bored sometimes—actually quite often—in the stillness of that place. When I complained about how monotonous it could be to my younger sister Sandie, she brought me a perfume campaign ad poster from the cosmetics store where she worked and put it on the wall in my room, right next to my bed. Sandie rotated the poster ninety degrees so that I could see the model’s face when I was lying down. There was a beautiful man looking down at me from the poster.
“Seriously, Jane, can anyone on earth be hotter than this guy? I would kill to be his girlfriend. His name is Andreas. Even his name is romantic. Just look at this face every day and every night. Your brain will release extra endorphins, and I promise you, you’ll get better in no time.”
We laughed together at her silly gushing. I appreciated that my sister was trying to cheer me up. Like Sandie, other family members—my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, as well as my friends, were all worried about me and tried to do what they could to help. They came to visit me at the care home whenever they could and brought flowers, presents, and letters to show me how much they cared. I knew I was fortunate to have them, but I also knew that no matter how much they wanted to, they couldn’t fix my brokenness.
In the poster, the model lying down in bed appeared to be looking straight at me, as if he had something important to say, but couldn’t and wouldn’t. The aesthetic of the photograph was alluring, and there was an obvious sex appeal, and yet it somehow fell short of being suggestive. His piercing stare and mysterious smile made me curious about him and his story. I had never seen another person with that kind of androgynous beauty and who still oozed such captivating masculinity.
I didn’t bother searching for him on the Internet because who he was in reality didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that he was there in my small quiet room, looking at me, giving me permission for my mind to drift far from reality—if only for a while. I would imagine his life as a famous model. A life quite different from mine. It would be full of adventures, spotlight, travel, extravagant parties, beautiful women, and all the other shiny things in life. When nobody was around I would talk to him secretly about my fears and hopelessness. And when I later left the care home, I took the poster with me and hung it on the wall in my apartment.
I hear a car horn outside the window. I get up from the bed and look out. It’s mom. I wave at her and close the window. I put on my backpack and face the poster on the wall. I hope something inside me will be different when I see this face again. I’m neither scared nor excited about this journey. The only thing I want is to move on. I’m doubtful if it’s even possible to do so; anger, fear, and depression have been my constant companions since that day. Thanks to my time in the care home I don’t panic in public anymore, but is that really what makes a life? I’m simply empty since Matt died. Since then, happiness for me has become a distant memory. Yet, I still don’t want to give up. And for now, this trip appears to be the only option I have.