It has been exactly eight months since I lived here. I return to my old apartment for the first time in two years. The starting place of us. The ending of us. It’s the first night and I can’t sleep. I toss and turn and wake up at 4:46 a.m. to wander the streets.
We used to wander these streets together early in the mornings, unwilling to fall asleep. Time was so limited and we’d make excuses to find every spare sidewalk space to stop. I turn the corner to a set of stairs, stepping down each one by one, noting how they have crumbled over time. The streets hold our story, each corner a memory of a conversation, each brick building wall once a resting spot for our heads. The walls and steps now lay bare, the ivy dead, and small trickles of graffiti beginning to fill in what was once beautifully living.
I remember roaming these streets breathless, full of life, anxiously waiting to see you again. This city was my home. I never wanted to settle until I met you. You let me believe that stability was good and letting go of self-reservations was worthwhile. I’m loathing turning any corner, knowing there are spirits dangling our memories above my head. I overhear faint laughter against the walls, sad sobs echoing in the park, pitter-patter of footsteps running up stairs, all like ghosts of our past. Every memory catapults inside my stomach like an unexpected plot twist during a film.
The sun begins to peek above the trees, eyes squinting to adjust to the daylight. Each step is a flashback to a time in my life that felt pure, in love, and whimsical. It was a dream I never wanted to end. But as I walk, our story unfolds before me, the streets spelling out what love in this city is like — astonishing, yet broken. I wonder how I missed clues to our end all along.
I sat atop the ruins, overlooking the tourists I used to adore. I love that about this city — tourists are here regardless of the time of year. It’s a city of ancient dreams that never died, still buried within the cracks of buildings leftover from years of wars and battles, unmaintained by a corrupt government. It bleeds romance and mystifies centuries of change. I slip my notebook out of my pocket and write, “This is a new beginning.” It’s painful to scribble that after once assuming this was a permanent home. It was just a necessary stopping point in time. It was years I needed to fall in love, to find true friendship, to find complete happiness, to find myself.
As I pack my things, say goodbye to my old housemates and friends and you, our ending comes to a close. And strangely, it exhibits a proper ending, as if this was what would have happened all along, regardless of anything that could have changed our paths over the past few years.
I fly off to the city of lights. We always joked about how much I hated the people in that city. I’ve started to love the things we used to hate.
One month later, I have fallen in love with the city of love. I’m in love with its people, its culture, the freshness of an old city that isn’t littered with the thoughts of us. Isn’t it funny how life can throw you unexpected surprises when you least expect them or want them? I’m certain this is where I was destined to develop into my adult self, learning to love life with grains of salt, to love friends and family deeply, to live fully. When I looked back on the eternal city, it reminds me of being young and in my early twenties — the phase I needed to push through — but this city is where I was designated to flourish.
And while I hate starting over, this feels like a new beginning. A new me. The path here was breathtaking, turbulent, and heartbreaking. I’m convinced you must shatter your world entirely and slowly assemble the pieces in the way they were intended to be constructed.
This new construction of me is tainted, fragile, unpredictable. But this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and where I’m supposed to be is always better than where I thought I should have been.