July 31 - Rotterdam, Holland
“Go like you’re going to Ella’s house,” Amber whispered as the second floor floorboards creaked. “Then keep going straight.”
It was 5am and we had just gotten home and it was time for me to bicycle in the rain to Central Station where the 5:25am shuttle would take me to the airport.
I unlocked her bike and started peddling. I had my big 35-pound pack on back and my smaller 15-pound pack in front. The small bag kept falling onto my peddling legs so I stopped in the drizzle and tightened the straps. Then I peddled over the bridge and past the Roti restaurant, past Ella’s street and towards Central Station. The rain fell more heavily.
Three hours before, when I said goodbye to Ella, we were still a group of four and it was okay to see her walk up the stairs, look back and wave, and disappear.
On our way to late night snacks I peddled next to Hilde, who told me how her mother would hold her by the back as she rode her bike. This was an excuse for Hilde to hold me by the back, which she was doing as I rode into a new, dark blue car, crashed to the ground and laughed.
We had some 4am Dutch treats and rode towards home. Then Hilde stopped. Home for me was left, home for her was right. It was okay to say goodbye and pretend we knew we’d see each other in New York in a year.
Amber and I headed towards home and the rain came hard. We got back to her place and I swapped out my smoky, soaked sweater for my polo. We kissed on the cheek and pretended we’d see each other soon. I walked briskly down the stairs and got the feeling in my stomach and my shoulders that you get, always, in that instant you become totally alone again.
It was probably a duller feeling than when Sabrina or Christian or Elise left, but it was recognizably similar. The feeling in your gut when you’ve left your best friend and will never see them again and don’t know any other soul in sight: that’s the feeling you can’t describe even to yourself except when you’re feeling it.