In the Streets of Lisbon

Photography /

In the dark, quiet bedroom, I feel the weight of the world on my chest. I am there, next to him. I watch the light from the passing cars dance across the ceiling, because I cannot bear to look anywhere else. I hear their honking and screeching as they whizz by our open window. All of a sudden, I am keenly aware of how lost the two of us, Jon and I, have become. Together, we are here, but at the same time we are not.

‘Do I stay or Do I go?’ The lyrics of that song play over and over in my head like a broken record.

I have so much love in my heart for him, but I wonder, does he still feel the same way about me? It is not so easy to tell anymore. I know he loves me, and I love him. I do not understand how we have fallen apart so fast. It feels like just yesterday, we were making each other laugh endlessly and making love like there was no tomorrow. But now, we are here, together and separate all at once.

The moon shines brightly, and I cannot stand to be locked in the madness of my head anymore, so I go for a breath of fresh air outside. I decide to have a cigarette, even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m trying to quit. The moon is watching me, and I want my moon to love me and respect me. Tonight, though, I beg my moon for forgiveness as I smoke to rid myself of the anxiety and stress that is wreaking havoc on my mind and soul.

‘Do I Stay or Do I Go?’ I am pacing now in front of our hostel in Lisbon. I gaze down the narrow, cobblestone street, and it only echoes my loneliness. The last two years of my life with Jon play like a film, vividly, over and over in my mind. I love him, deeply, I really do, but the moon is shining bright and I am distracted by what that means for the rest of our lives.

It’s the 21st of July, twenty days earlier. Jon and I are getting ready to leave for the airport. I am filled to the brim with joy. Neither of us have ever left the States. We have spent the last twenty-four years of our lives in the Midwest with the trees, the wild, and the brutal winters. It has been a great life thus far, though, but we both knew we were ready to get out and see the rest of the world. We spent what felt like ages planning our journey. I wanted to visit Ireland, Germany, and England, while Jon had his eyes set on Portugal, Amsterdam, and Denmark. We decided we would spend time in all of those places and beyond. Tomorrow, we will land in Berlin, Germany and work our way west from there.

I feel so lucky to be seeing the world with Jon. He is my world. The way he smiles with half of his mouth makes my stomach twist in circles every single time. The butterflies have not seized since we met for the first time two years ago at university in Minneapolis. I can still remember him standing across the room from me, smirking, in that little coffee shop I loved so much.

The darkness of the night pulls me back to Lisbon, it tempers my soul, and the moon makes my heart sing a sweet melody. The cool air is dancing along my skin, and the lights of a passing taxi blind me momentarily. I do not know what to feel. I am in love with the darkness of the night, only, because it helps me feel numb. It allows me to be invisible to the rest of the world. The beat beneath my heart’s melody drags along, not really wanting to go on. It hurts. My heart hurts. I hurt. I really hurt, and I cannot explain why. The moonlight takes my pain away, and I feel as though I am the only thing beneath it when I close my eyes.

Vrooooooom — another taxi whizzes by, and my eyes follow it this time as the bright lights pass me by. I begin to wonder who might be out this late. I wonder who on earth would need a ride home here or there at this hour of the night. I tell myself that there is no way to know. It could be anyone. And, I believe that, but I keep on thinking, crafting a story in my mind. It is three-thirty in the morning, and I picture an old man sitting in the back of the taxi. I picture him wearing dark-brown, leather loafers, carrying a cane, wearing a grey sweater, and dark green corduroys. I think he would be wearing a hat of sorts, something that fits his face. I close my eyes and imagine. It is three-thirty in the morning, but I still convince myself that this old man is in the back of that taxi. My heart breaks to pieces when I think about why he might be out at this hour. I think his wife could have died. I think he was visiting her on her deathbed, and she had finally let go. He is on his way home. But, what is home without her? He could not bear to drive himself. And, I begin to feel a shift inside myself. I feel something. How sad. How truly sad.

I shake my head quickly from side-to-side for a moment, bringing myself back to reality and remember that I have only imagined this. There may very well be an old man in the back of that taxi, but it could also be a female hooker. A female hooker?! There is no way for me to know. What I do know, though, is that I am here in Lisbon, with Jon, and I am outside, standing on the street while he sleeps. I cannot bear to burden him with such sorrowful thoughts and talk. I know these are things I must face on my own, but it is so hard. ‘Do I Stay or Do I go?’

For the night, I decide I will stay. It still hurts. It still hurts to know that I could be holding Jon back. I know he dreams of being published one day. I am a sombre weight that only brings him down. He needs to be inspired, happy, and in love with someone who can bring light and energy to his everyday. I love him so much, but I think the only choice I have is to leave. But, tonight, I stay.

Just as I turn on the damp pavement to go back inside, I hear a cab come up over the hill, screech to an awkward stop, and an odd scream amount in the air. It is a blur of my senses, an horrible sounding orchestra of sounds. I turn around and my jaw drops, and I am frozen like stone. Two doors of the cab open wide, and two odd men step out. There is a woman lying in the street. She is not moving. All of it happened so quickly. I stand there, weightless, but with the heaviest of feet. I stay planted. All I can do is watch. The men rush to her side. They say in a loud voice, “você está bem? você está bem?”

I don’t understand Portuguese, but I assume they are trying to wake her or to make sure she’s okay. But, she looks far from it. I see now that there is a large cut on her forehead and she bleeds from it heavily. She must have been hit hard. How fast was that man driving? And, I begin to feel anger, sadness, pain, and hurt, all at once. I hear my own thoughts, and I am ashamed. Why couldn’t it have been me? I am sure she had so much to live for, and I am here struggling to find a reason to live at all.

I feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and my chest begins to shake. I am going to cry. I am going to lose all control. I cannot take it anymore. How can I be so sorrowful when I am okay, alive, and fine? There is a woman, maybe dead, laying on the road in front of me, and I am wishing it was me. I want to vomit at the thought. I cannot stand it. I need to — 

“Jules, what the hell are you doing out here?”

And, I’m brought right back into the present. The cold, dark night is around me again, and the heavy weight of confusion and sorrow fills me up from the inside again. I turn towards the sound of my name, and I see Jon running to me in a panic. I say nothing, because I don’t hear his question.

“Jules, look at me! Are you okay?”

“Mmmm…mmm…” I can’t put together any words. All I can do is mumble and cry.

“Jules are you hurt? What happened?”

“I’m…I’m…I’m okay. I’m okay.” He takes his hands from my shoulders and wraps me in an embrace. All I can do is stand there with my cheek pressed against his chest. The tears are still running down my face. I manage to muster up a few more words. “Jon, I’m not hurt. I was just standing here. I’m okay, but I’m so sorry.”

“Jules, for what?!”

“I’m so so…sor…sorry…” And, I begin to ball even harder. I have lost all control. All the emotion and hurt I have been holding inside fall out onto his sweater.

“I don’t know what you mean, Jules. It’s okay. I’m here.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything…”

“Jules, come with me. Let’s go inside.” I muster up an ‘okay.’ And, I follow him inside. I look back behind me as we walk inside, and I see an ambulance has arrived. The two men, the cabbie and the young man stand to the side of the narrow, cobblestone street where I stood before. The emergency workers are giving her CPR, but it does not look good. She still seems to be limp and unresponsive. I feel my heart drop even further into my stomach. She looks so young. Too young. Could she really be dead? Please let her live, I plead to the universe, and I think to myself… Please, please, let her live.

Jon and I lie together, there in Lisbon, on the little bed in our hostel the next day. Something has changed inside of me. I read the newspaper this morning over breakfast and tea, and I read about a taxi-cab accident that nearly ended a woman’s life. She lives. And, because of her, I live. I promised the universe that if she was allowed to live, I would promise to live my life to the fullest…

I feel the warmth of Jon’s body as he begins to wrap his long, strong arms around my body as he wakes. I bury my face in his chest and breathe in the scent of him. It is comforting. I thought the best thing I could do for myself was to be alone, under the moon and the night sky in the streets of Lisbon. But, I realize, now, that I need him and he needs me. I need Jon more than anything else in the world.

And, suddenly, I feel something more, something different. It is not happiness, anxiety, sadness, sorrow, or laughter, but it is hope. Maybe we will make it together, and maybe we won’t. All I know for now is light, and I do not want to lose the light. And, I love Jon.

Later, we will together for hours, breathing in the fresh air of Lisbon, and we will admire the simple beauty of the light. For now, I let go of my sorrow and confusion. I find comfort in Jon’s embrace and the pale light as the sun begins to rise.

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