Unlike with the others I visited this year, I did not fall in love with you.
But I was not expecting that. We have had a long history, a complicated one. Our relationship has been uneasy since the moment we laid eyes on each other. Or perhaps even before. And nevertheless I have seen you the most frequently out of all, for various practical reasons beyond my control. I never cared for you.
I saw you in April before last week. This was my fourth or fifth visit after the moment of feeling the tender touch of his fingers sliding down the stubble on my chin for one more time; hearing profoundly melancholic words of departure with the voice that soothed me during the nights; seeing a grippingly bittersweet smile of encouragement and helplessness directed at me. Then he turned his back to me and walked away, disappearing to home, comfort and love you were able to offer him.
Despite the tendency of my flights flirting with you, I have been quite anxious every single time I have arrived to you. I do think I still hold some sort of a grudge against although every new visit you manage to surprise me, I forge memories with you that I genuinely will cherish in the future. But I cannot never shake off the history we share, the circumstances that angered me and brought us together. And I cannot help thinking of the possibility of meeting him, whenever I come to you. And just maybe…
I have not seen him. I have, however, caught up with old friends and during this visit made new friends who will be with me there for the rest of my life regardless how often we manage to see each other. You know the beatific sensation of having met someone, and knowing you will be friends? I felt that last week under your care, the joy of affectionate companionship.
There was eighteen of us attending the Annual Forum of FutureLab Europe-programme. In short various cultural foundations across Europe had chosen us to represent the voice of youth in European matters and offer us the platform to have it heard. What brought us together was our passion to change the world around us, our dreams and ideals to have a more sustainable, humane and equal place for all. I should had guessed I would make life-long friends, and for the week I felt as if I had gained a family.
This one girl told about her ex-boyfriend who was also in town. After all the hesitations and thinking, she agreed to meet him one evening and all of us were looking forward to meeting this man that she had talked about so much. And of course we were excited for her to make him feel a bit jealous, she was a drop-gorgeous and sweetest girl so the guy was definitely missing out. That evening she had to leave the dinner a bit earlier to meet the boy, but we agreed to join her later in the bar. Before leaving she warned us not act like a bunch of cousins when and if we meet her and the boy… As if we would ever misbehave, we had known each other just four days!
When we arrived to the bar district, it was impossible to find her. However, three of us were determined and went for a search. We even forced ourselves into the tightly packed bar that had the sleaziest salsa party just to discover she was not there. Ultimately our hunt was rewarded, this time only to discover that the guy had pretty much ditched her.
We joined the others, she shared the story and we all agreed he was a douche, we hugged and reminded her how wonderful she was and how much we loved her!
I mean, the story sounds very silly, I know, but it was a wonderful feeling of belonging. In such a short span we were so involved in each other’s life that seeing a person’s ex, a person’s whom you have known just four days, makes you feel all giggly and excited and then uniformly supporting her in the times of relationship disappointments. I cannot really explain it, I can’t, I wish I was better with words but there are some experiences that even words are incapable of painting them.
We did discuss our views to make a difference, but I will spare you from those details as you will hear of us soon enough through other (and more prominent) channels… Or that is at least our ambition ;).
So I did enjoy this visit to you, just like I have liked all other previous times and I know you try your best to make me feel as comfortable as possible, even with the gigantic burden on our relationship. But I have to be honest with you, and with the rest of the world.
I do not think I am ever able to treat you with the same kindness and love. At least not until I am over him.
I still think you are one of the ugliest cities I have ever seen. The trash bags left in the streets, the overpoweringly odour of urine and the haunting classical music blasting out at the metro stations in the late evenings. I think you rather segregate and divide than unite and bond. You are a heartbreaking city that polarises and drives apart, because you are too afraid of embracing imperfections and flaws. Secluded communities, bubbles and neighbourhoods. You are apprehensively wary of diversity.
I no longer hate you, Brussels, I think. You are what you are.
But I still do not care for you. That gagging physical sensation I experience whenever the flight attendant welcomes the passengers to Brussels airport, the remote thought of entering you and revisiting all those old memories that far outnumber the new ones.
I know you are not surprised, and I understand it hurts to hear it but it pains me equally. I do not want to write all this out, because then it becomes real. But no matter how hard I will try, we can’t hide.
But one day, Brussels, one day I will be free.
And then everything will be different.