I am in the plane right now on my way back to Helsinki and although it has been just a couple of minutes since I departed from your arms, I just had to write you right now.
I survived; the feeling of being in front of an audience and discussing integration of migrants in the European Union while strangers carefully listen to the words my mouth forms was terrifying. I was the last panelist so as speaker after another finished their presentation, I experienced the uncomfortable sensation of panic in my heart and all I wanted at that moment was to run out of the conference room and escape the entire situation. I looked at the exit door and toyed with the idea of how the moderator would explain the situation to the audience and people watching the discussion online. More irrational thoughts poured into my dwelling mind as my turn came closer. I could hear my lungs grasping for outdoor air. My hands began to tremble nervously.
But I indeed survived. It was the first time I had spoken in front of an audience and while people noticed that my voice cracked in the beginning and I mumbled, they also commented that towards the end they I had gained more self-confidence and no longer stumbled on words. Not too sure if I look forward to do it again anytime soon, but I was certain I would be unable to deliver what was expected from me. I am glad that sometimes I am wrong.
Nevertheless I did not want to write you about the panel that brought me to you. Rather I want to tell you that I have been on the verge of crying the entire time I was with you and frankly speaking I do not know what makes me so emotional anymore. When the airplane took off I teared up, almost. That is why I started to tell you about the panel first so the tears might find better activities than misting my eyes. Not too sure if succeeded in my mission.
You had invited the same people from my last visit to you and I was over the moon to see all those faces after such a long time. It felt as if we had never been apart and I enjoyed so much hearing again the voices, the laughters and the conversations about our lives that have brought me so happiness in September. Unlike previously when we spent one intense week together, this time we only had two days with each other and admittedly it all feels a bit surreal, confusing and hallow. We had just greeted each other and then suddenly were saying goodbye, being conscious of that we probably will never again meet each other in the same context or at least altogether.
My dear friend Helsinki complains that I tend to get too melodramatic when it comes endings and maybe she is right. But I cannot help myself of flirting with the past, which keeps hurting me as she continues to remind of all the wonderful things that happened but never can be experienced again. And I know I should just be friends with the past, I am well aware that the present is much more suitable companion and even the future is a better lover than the past, but nostalgia nurtures my collarbones and shows me the wonders of romanticising the past.
So yes partly what makes me so sentimental right now is my friends and saying goodbye. We went out a club where all the people were dancing on the tables and chairs; we had a lovely picnic with hummus and baguette in the Royal Park under the cloudless and vividly blue sky; I took them to my favourite bar in the world that they all loved and with whom I fell in love even deeper; last night we went to a neighbourhood café where the owner welcomed us with the warmest wishes I had ever experienced (we loved him so much that just had to have a photo with him). The last few days were remarkable, my Brussels.
Our relationship has not been the easiest and I think this weekend it became even more complex…
I might be falling for you.
And I think the emerging feeling of loving you is what hurting me the most.
I have hated you for so long. I met you the first time five years ago when he moved in with you and since then I have been resentful of you, what you represent and how much you mean to him. Actually I might have started to despise you even before I saw you, perhaps from the very first moment he imagined a future together for us three. I did not want to have anything to do with you and more importantly I did not wish him to enjoy your comfort.
During this visit I have realised that rather than venomously hating you I might have been just so insecurely jealous of you, Brussels. I do not believe I have ever felt that way with a city so I had not recognised it before. Envy has a tight grip on what I experience with other human beings, I have known that sometime now but I had thought that my bond with cities was the strongest of its kind. It seems like it was not as sheltered and pure as I had imagined.
Whenever someone asks me about you, I have been straightforward with my feelings and loudly asserted that you might be even worse than Kigali whom I had to endeavour when I had malaria. You two have been the only cities in the world that I had ever found repugnant. Perhaps I have not fallen in love with every single city that I have shared a night with, but you two were certainly the only ones that I would recommend all others to dodge with all possible means.
Even this time I told one girl that I detested you. She was an Italian girl that had moved in with you for studies a couple of years ago and enjoyed her time under your roof so obviously she wondered what caused my abhorrence towards you. But unlike other times when I listed your dirty habits of leaving trash bags outside in the streets, the classical music playing in the metro stations during late evenings, the evident segregation of people, the grinning hypocrisy in the EU-bubble among other annoying attires of yours, all I could say that he is one of people in your shelter. She understood, but said it was time to create new memories then and took us to the bar where people went wild on the tables. It indeed is rather unforgettable place, my Brussels.
I know you well, perhaps better than most other cities that I openly love and desire. This weekend people asked me to be their guide and take them to different places, I no longer require maps to find the place I am supposed to be and rest assured I know where you can get the absolutely best waffles in the town. You are no foreigner to me.
Did I tell you that when I was younger I wanted to be an astronaut? Before cities I was in love with stars or well I do not think it was that kind of love that I write about because I was too young. I used to memorise constellations and dreamed of traveling to the space to meet what I had admired from such great distance. I know now that it will never happen, but I am content with the boundaries universe has set. At least I have you, Brussels.
You give me solacement and it is a bittersweet feeling. I am not too sure how you are capable of comforting me after all the lashing words I used to describe you. I guess that is in your nature to care of everyone that shares your sky despite what the hatred they hold for you. Or maybe you just saw through me.
You are beautiful.
I am sorry for letting jealous to control my vision.
Wandering the mesmerisingly beautiful Place des Palais with the Palais de Bruxelles overlooking the stunning kingdom of trees in the sea of blue and sunbeam was an overwhelmingly halcyon reminder of what a wonderful world is. I cannot tell you how exquisite universe felt that very moment; I had walked this street of yours hundred of times before but this was the first time envy did not companion me. Finally I experienced for what you are.
But I was not completely free.
I might have not been any longer jealous, but I was afraid. I kept seeing his face on every fifth stranger that walked by me. My heart stung. The discomfort of encountering him grew greater and my clavicles cried cracks. What you offered was utterly ravishing, but the simple thought caused a panic race in my blood vessels and I had to stop re-exploring you. So I left to the hotel a few hours earlier than I needed to and now I am here in the plane, writing you with great pain that I do not think we can repair the relationship we have established, not at least until I have fixed myself and I have been under construction for several years now… the project just keeps getting postponed.
I know I will probably see you again very soon, Brussels and I sincerely wished I could say I am looking forward to the visit. My favourite bar in the entire universe loves you so much and every single time I visit it I have the greatest time. I have no fear there, because us three were never together in the bar, probably because you wanted me to discover it later so I would have my own safe haven under your care. There are stores that I love more than anything else and you know me well enough to understand what a statement that is (yes I still hate shopping from the bottom of my heart). You are one of the kindest souls and indeed for a moment with you I experienced that moment when one realises how beautiful the word is.
But you still remind me of him, of us three, of what I had and no longer have. Walking your streets I can sense his touch around me. Painfully vivid images of us holding hands swim into my mind. Smooth voice of his nimbles my ears when the wind commutes to work. Being with you it all becomes too real, it puts him in my mind overly graphically and my lungs are more timid than they were during the panel discussion. His warning has put me further on the edge despite how hard I try to convince myself that I deserve the love you give to me.
So it is hard and I would rather not see you, my Brussels, not at least soon. I am glad I finally saw the resplendence that resides in you and I am sorry for all the things I did and said in the past. I know better now, which means I have grown at least a hint in the last couple of months.
The advancement gives me hope that maybe one day I am able to accept the love you keep giving me.