I have a Dutch friend named Simon who barely speaks any English. We’d talk a lot in spite of the tremendous effort it took to understand each other. Once, he told me about his girlfriend back in the Netherlands who, according to him, never liked listening to his stories about his life abroad. I told him about my similar experience with my boyfriend then. What bonded Simon and I was the fact that we were both lost in a cold, strange country, both yearning for people too far away to feel our touch and the intensity of our longing. We soon got better at talking, no longer needing too many hand gestures to get a point across.
He told me his girlfriend went on a date with her ex boyfriend. I told him that my boyfriend finally dumped me. We each took a shot of vodka mixed with orange juice and shared a silence that was comfortable, but frigid. As we stared out of the balcony, overlooking the windows of the apartments in the other building, he gave me a heavy pat on the shoulder. I looked at him and he smiled. I tried to smile too, but my emotions got the best of me. Tears formed and I held them back as much as I could. He gave me a big, fat hug and for a minute, I felt the kind of warmth I’d been missing all this time.
I knew he thought of her as he held me the same way I struggled to erase a boy from my head, the one who used only the best words to get in and out of my heart.