It’s bittersweet to be back home after 6 months. It was spring when I left and before that I had a happy life with a good boyfriend and my dream job. Or so I thought.
I am a Tourist Guide in Portugal, we show tourists the best the country has to offer. I like to think of myself as an ambassador, making others fall in love with my country. A country I love so much. But it’s not that perfect because it requires me to be away quite often and usually for no less than a week at a time. It has been like that since I finished college but it never affected our relationship. Well... until 6 months ago.
I was actually just confirming that my packing was done and I hadn’t forgotten anything I needed when my boyfriend of 5 years - John - just came to the bedroom and broke up with me; he said and I quote “I can’t do this anymore.” This was the moment the rug was pulled from underneath my feet, 6 months ago.
You can bet your ass I was surprised. Better yet, I was livid. I know my job isn’t the easiest one to endure but he never showed signs of being affected by it before. It was random; out of the blue...
He was fed up with the lifestyle even though he always assured me he was fine with it. Was it the lifestyle or wasn’t I enough? That is one of the questions that lingered in the back of my mind since we broke up, more prominent than it has ever been before, even since my dad left.
Maybe I wasn’t enough to make dad stay, maybe I wasn’t good enough to have more friends or make the ones I had stay and maybe I wasn’t enough to make the love of my life stay.
Is that it? I hope not.
I had no reaction. What could I say? So, I just decided to leave but while I was rushing up to close my bag and leave that house he was repeating some lame-ass excuses. I can’t even remember them anymore.
I stayed out of town for the entire of these 6 months. I’d visit my mom and my grandparents roughly on a few days off, but always staying at a hotel. These past 6 months, though were enough just put my shit together; by myself. I didn’t have many friends to rely on anyways and the small number of friends I had; John had been able to push them away enough. Even though I was very much alone, it didn’t really bother me.
Solitude was my help in this period of time, and I’ve improved a lot. Granted I had tourists to make me company daily, but those would change every week. When you start to bond with the people in the groups it’s already time for them to leave.
It can be odd how can I connect so easily with the tourists on my work and have such a difficult time to connect in my personal life but I understand why now. There’s a barrier between professional connecting and personal connecting. And I know I excel at my job.
I consider myself a socially awkward person, sometimes even an outcast. Growing up was kind of lonely, at home at least. It was always hard to connect with other people, so my social spectrum was always very limited. For everyone I was always too honest, too blunt, too tomboy and especially too smart for my own damn good.
Maybe being raised by a single mother who couldn’t count on the child’s father for shit helped to form my super weird and strong personality. She was always there to assure me there was nothing wrong with me when people would try to make me feel less than I deserved. Looks like being a strong and independent woman is not appreciated by many.
There are only 3 people I’ve connected on a deeper level in all of my life until I was twenty. My childhood friends: Sol, Shane and Wayne. And still, I can’t brag that I meet them on a daily basis or that I talk to them often, because it’s not true. I am fortunate though to say that every time we meet or talk it’s like time did not go by.
Eventually, I met someone else: John. The first person I deeply connected enough to start a serious relationship. He was my first, for many occasions and I even moved in with him. I had found love, something I thought was never meant for me. I guess, it isn’t after all...
But enough with the lame thoughts...
Now I am back home unpacking my things and putting everything back in its rightful place - in my old room at momma’s house that is. After 6 months of time for myself - well as much as my job would allow me to - I feel better and ready to start over.
What I miss the most are my friends. Sol is my only female friend, well... She’s my best friend, period. The only girl I could relate because our personalities are so much alike. Both blunt (even though she says I’m so much worse) and kind of antisocial, just like me. I used to hang out with Shane and Wayne a lot too, but work got in the way and even though he never admitted, John would always sulk and stay in a bad mood so we ended up just lost touch. Unfortunately, the connection I had with them was strong and losing it is what I regret the most.
Calling Sol is my decision since I feel like going for a light drink tonight at a calm bar and she’s the perfect company for that. She’s very similar to me, strong headed, selective with the people she hangs out with and doesn’t smile just to be seen as nice. No, she won’t care and if she doesn’t like someone, she won’t hide it at all.
“I’m back bitch!!” I shriek into the phone as soon Sol answers my call. “Low season has started; a.k.a winter is coming so I’ll stay home until New Year at least, do you want to go for a drink tonight after dinner?”
“Yes, can Hugh come or do you want one-on-one time?” She asks. Hugh is her boyfriend and they’ve been together for almost as much as John and I are - I mean... were!
“Fine by me, I’ll see you both at 9 p.m. at the marina and we will choose which café-bar once we arrive. I still have to unpack!”
I am still at my mother’s for now but I want to start to look for a place in a few days. Even though I am away for a big part of the year if I find something close enough, I can have my mom or Sol to tend to it and check on it sometimes while I am away. After everything is taken care of, I go and help my mom with dinner. It’s been us and my grandparents since I was three years old and I wouldn’t have it other way since my father doesn’t seem to be able to get his shit together.
I can smell what grandma is doing for dinner and I’m already salivating!
“Mãe, what’s dinner?” I yell from my room.
“Your avó and I are doing Bacalhau com Natas!!” She yells back from the kitchen and I chuckle.
My favourite dish, creamy codfish, it’s cooked in the hoven. Come on I know it’s a very strange dish but I am Portuguese, what can I say? Codfish is kind of a compulsory kind of food for us. Don’t talk shit until you taste it, that’s my motto. Traveling has made me taste some crazy shit and there are dishes that 5 years ago would cause me to vomit just to listen talk about it that now I actually enjoy...
After dinner, I showered and dressed in fitted black tight jeans and matched it with a black tight tank top and a loose sweatshirt just in case I feel chilly tonight. Even though we are still having beach temperature in mid-October it gets chilly at night so I prefer to be prepared.
At 9 p.m. I meet Sol and Hugh at the marina by the river. Since it’s been almost 6 months it’s like I can picture all of the differences between the last time I’ve seen them and now. It’s funny how they are that type of couple that completely fits together: there’s not much height contrast between the two since her head reaches his nose and their physics are very similar: they’re both tall, fit with light skin and brown hair. Before Sol’s hair was shorter with a cut just below her ear and now it’s already touching her shoulders while Hugh went the opposite way, he had his hair longer and now has cut it really short.
“Heyyy, Mel!” She waves from a far.
She’s the first one to notice me and give me a smile, showing me her bright set of teeth. She has an amazing smile even though only those close to her are lucky to see it. Her hazel eyes are shinning as she comes closer to hug me and even though we’re not the sentimental type we both know we needed it; maybe I needed it more than her but oh well. It was due 6 months ago had I not left for work.
Our hug is interrupted by dark brown eyes in a square face covered in a little bit of stubble.
Damn, Hugh finally looks like a man with a little bit of facial hair!!
I hug him too before we head to the café-bar for some drinks, my head is squashed in his chest since I am really short - exactly 4ft 11 in - I know, I know. So, we sit down and choose some Sangria and some snacks to entertain us while we talk. We have a lot to catch up.
“So, you and John are done for good?” Sol asks me, I knew she had to touch the subject.
“Yes, we’re done, for 6 months now.” I answer looking at my sangria. “He couldn’t take the distance anymore. He said that the winters were amazing with me always there with him and that as soon as he got used to having me around it was time for me to hop on the road. He proposed for me to quit and just stay since I didn’t need to work because of his income.”
Sol snorted and I know why. We both know how much my work means to me.
“Exactly my reaction.” And we both laughed.
The fact that he was always bitching about the distance made me want to go and stay away even more. I consider myself a lone soul or “lone wolf” as it is said sometimes. Staying in the same place for long or not have something to occupy my mind with makes my skin itch and not having a strong enough reason to settle down doesn’t help. I loved him; I still do a lot. He was the first man I trust in my life in such an intimate way but even that wasn’t enough for him.
“I’m sorry, love.” She finally says with a serious expression.
“It’s okay, it’s been a while now.” I looked at her and gave her a sheepish smile. “It has gotten better.”
“Man, how do you satisfy your needs now?” Hugh comments and Sol elbows him in the gut.
I chuckle and raise my hands waving them in front of him before completing my answer with words.
“Well, they’re pretty skilled you know, not as big as a dick but they’re good enough for now!” I tease. His jaw slacks open and Sol and I end up laughing at his reaction to how crude I am...
“Don’t push her, you know how inconvenient and unfiltered she is.” And all three of us started laughing. I know he was trying to lighten the mood.
“And you guys? Still planning on moving in together?” They both nodded and we spent a couple more hours talking about their plans. Sol was hesitant at first because of my breakup but I insisted. She shouldn’t hide her happiness just because of me even though it was very considerate of her.
They’re together for almost as long as I was with John, well until 6 months ago. He was my first and only until now, we dated for 5 years but he couldn’t handle the change in the dynamics when I left college and started working. If that’s all it was, I mean... I was out for so many weeks at the time, seeing him like for a night a month sometimes that I don’t know really what happened in my absence. However, I just prefer to believe he couldn’t handle it.
At midnight I decide to call it a night, I worked for 15 days straight without a day off and I know I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open for much longer. When I go inside the bar to pay for the drinks, I see a familiar red head in a small group of friends. He slightly turns his head and I recognize him instantly; my heart warms up at the sight of him because I haven’t seen him in a long while!
“You fucker, what are you doing here?” I scream at the guy and he suddenly turns his head to face me at the sound of my voice, with a wide smile on his face.