Study abroad, that old chestnut

I never sat on the toilets in Europe.

No, seriously, I didn’t. I would just hover over the seat when I was using the bathroom. Sometimes my pee would drip down my leg and onto the floor, especially if I was on the train, and when this happened I’d just wipe up the pee and go back to my seat.

This was a weird thing that I did. It wasn’t because I was scared of foreign germs; I was actually trying to keep my new tattoo on my upper right thigh clean. It would touch the toilet seat when I sat down, which made me wonder if that was bad for the new ink on my raw skin. As far as I know, there isn’t any research out there that says you shouldn’t let a month-old tattoo touch a toilet seat, but I felt like not letting it touch a public toilet seat couldn’t hurt.

I did a lot of weird things when I was abroad. Most of them were byproducts of having lived alone for the three months leading up to my trip. Some of them were byproducts of just being a fucking freak at the time.

Study abroad feels so far away. A lot of people say that to me, but really wistfully. I get it. I made some amazing memories over there and would absolutely do it over again. Sometimes, though, I would lie in my dorm bed feeling like I was at the bottom of the ocean, struggling to breathe with the weight of a foreign continent pressing my rib cage flat. I was in a very dark place — a beautiful place, for sure, but a very intense and emotional place.

These days I have a lightness that I truly didn’t know back then, and I’m generally happy to be where I am now. I look at that tattoo and feel grateful that it never got infected, and that it never fell off my leg in a giant, mottled chunk of flesh (ew). My time in France was poetic, and sensitive, and saturated in a dreamy wistfulness. Besides the parts where I pissed all over myself.

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