This isn’t a fun post, so feel free to skip over. No comics, no pictures, only thoughts and me trying to figure shit out.
If someone was going to make a movie about this trip, it would start today.
It would be me, sitting on the corner of a park, just off Rue de Sainte Martin.
It would be my bags sitting in front of me, getting damp in the Brussels mist and rain. My sneakers would be wet too. Probably half in a puddle.
It would be silent.
A car would drive past, loud and wet on the street, and then a Muslim woman with a plaid cart of groceries.
I would drop my head into my hands, take a deep breath, and get back up.
The music would start.
Alright by Supergrass.
The camera would follow me through the streets, as I drag my bag behind me. I’ve stacked them all on top of each other.
Halfway through the guitar riff it would cut off abruptly, and it would be silent again.
You would hear me try not to cry. (I’d succeed, but I’d still wipe my nose on my sweatshirt and not care at all.)
I would turn around, and walk back the way I came, and turn down a different street this time.
The title would show over this intersection. People would be walking, carrying plastic grocery bags and pulling kids along.
Then you’d see me again, heading the other direction.
And then the movie would start, going back to the first day when I thought I was going to the wrong airport.
Sometimes it’s easier to think about this shit like that. Like it’s a movie and not happening to me.
Ugh, Brussels. I dunno man, so far I’m not impressed, and not only because I spend the better part of 4 hours lost.
It’s dirty here — not like Edinburgh or Baltimore dirty, where it’s like a gritty stain to the buildings and the history, that’s a kind of charm to the city. No, this is like Naples dirty, by which I mean that there’s just trash everywhere.
I got in yesterday after a spontaneous decision to come here first. It sounded excellent, and there was a train right away, so I said “Sure!” and hopped on. We went through the Chunnel. It was cool in theory, mostly just dark in practise.
But, spontaneous decision, I didn’t have a hostel, and also there was no internet to try and rectify it until I was already here. By then, there were no beds for the night, so I stopped at the first skanky hotel I found outside the train station and booked one night.
Yesterday Brussels was pretty for about an hour, when the sun was out, and the air was warm, and today it’s like I turned around and found myself in a whole other city.
First thing I did stepping out of my hotel for the night, to get to my hostel for the next few nights, was get lost.
Someone stopped to help me, point me in the right direction, and offered to walk me there.
I was really grateful — I mean, why not? He was nice! He helped me get out of the rain and checked through my directions for me, and led me towards the street I needed to start on.
As we were walking, he looked me over.
“You have a really nice body,” he said.
My heart skipped a beat. This street he was walking me down was off to the side, a lot fewer people than there were on the market street we’d left.
“I don’t like that,” I said, putting as much ice and frustration into my voice as I could.
I’m six feet tall. I don’t generally do vulnerable, at least not so people can see.
But I didn’t want to look scared.
He seemed nonplussed.
“It is a compliment,” he said, in his accent. “It is a good thing.”
“I am alone and I am vulnerable,” I said, not even thinking about beating around the bush. “I don’t appreciate that.”
He moved closer.
“You are — angry?” he asked, like he couldn’t understand why.
“I am lost,” I said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my knife. “And I do not like to hear that.”
When he left, he left quickly, not making eye contact.
I smiled cheerfully, and thanked him profusely, but I didn’t let go of my knife for the rest of my walk.
This knife is special to me. My dad bought it for me on my 15th birthday, at a market somewhere in the south of France. It’s La Guiole, with an original bee, and it’s gorgeous and sleek, with a smooth, pale wooden handle, a 2 1/2 inch blade, and a leaf pattern carved into it.
It fits into the palm of my hand like it was made for me.
So thanks, dad. It feels like you’re protecting me, even when I’m halfway across the world.
But fuck you, Brussels, seriously. Way to make a first impression.
I’d say no one else stopped to help after that one guy, but that’s probably more to do with my glaring death at the world than nice people ignoring me.
It’s like I’m finally facing my own helplessness in travelling by myself. With my parents and my sister, I could sit back and we’d figure things out together. Now, I can’t read any street signs (if they even exist), and stopping random people for help was abruptly soured by this morning.
And strangely, all those years of Spanish I forgot don’t help me in Belgium.
But in another way, it’s a lot more in-your-face, holy-shit-this-is-happening here than it was in London or Edinburgh.
This is real, yo.
I’m in Europe. And I’m not sure I like it.
And, I tried to go out to a local store and buy food, and LITERALLY could not figure out how. And don’t even try to say “Just go in and buy it!” because half the food is outside, and the other half is behind the guy on the wall, and he’s big and sweaty and foreign, and all I can figure out how to purchase is Fanta.
Which is not food.