Doppelgängers

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The streets of Budapest are beautiful.  I walk the streets everyday, plugged into my headphones, the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel or Band of Horses flowing through my ears….

Every building here has its own character… its own style.. I could wander for hours..

And then I look back down at the street level.. and I keep seeing people from the past.
Old lovers. Old friends. Recent and long ago…
And I am hit full on with flashbacks of those times long ago.
Smells… feelings… sensations… full on..
And I wonder
What am I doing here?
In Budapest?
One year ago I was working at a day care playing with kids and babies at ski resort spending days off snowboarding and nights off roading to hot springs or babysitting.
Two years ago I was working at a Chinese restaurant in Alabama with someone I thought I would spend my life with only to have him confess his love for another and the feeling of betrayal and broken trust.
Four years ago I was working at a Preschool in Hendersonville, NC.. spending weekends going out with my Asheville friends and hula hooping and glittering dogs at bars and inter tubing down rivers..
Six years ago I was still stuck in a haze bad relationship of the worst kind where even sunny days rarely brought smiles for fear of doing something wrong.
And now… I am volunteering at a hostel here in beautiful Budapest… biding my time to go back to Romania… To my job… My babies.. My friends..
But the flashbacks are so intense… I sometimes have to stop right there in the street to catch my breath.

I get transferred back to that one time we were laying in bed listening to music and singing along with the smell of French Onion soup wafting form the kitchen and laughing as we switched turns playing songs that made us happy.
I am transferred back to when all four of us were all stuck in the car at Joshua Tree National Park because it was storming outside and we passed the whiskey around and played Never Have I Ever and how soon the laughter turned to tears because the questions stirred up emotions I had never faced before and we went to the tent while the rain poured and the lightning flashed all around us and you looked in my eyes and told me I was beautiful and would always be there for me. But as time passed and I came back to visit you shattered my heart. My world. How you couldn’t look me in the eyes. Couldn’t have a conversation. And everything was a lie.
I am transferred back to the beach that one night when the moon was full and the waves were crashing down and you were sitting on the rocks watching me play in the waves like a child and the breeze blew the hair in my face and the sneaker waves drenched me from the waist down but you still welcomed me with open arms and the smell of your shampoo filled my nose and I smiled quietly to myself.
I am transferred back to when we were in the pub in Portland after watching a movie at the dollar theater and we laughed most of the way through the movie… I don’t even remember which one.. but we were in the back row sipping bear and sharing a huge plate of nachos.. and we continued on to the pub where there was a machine that you could put money in and it would spit out your spirit animal. Mine was an orca. Yours was a feral cat. The pub smelled of fresh hops and the floor was sticky and we laughed because we had just played a tape of whale calls back at your apartment full of thrift store stuff thrown together to look just perfect.
I am transferred back to when we were little and you and I were stuck in the raft in the bay. Our parents were drunk up at the cabin and happily waving to us. Our oars floated away and we looked down and to our horror the whole bottom of the bay was covered in crabs and we half laughed half cried about how we were going to get back to shore. And I slowly dipped halfway in the water and cried as I kicked as hard as I could to get us to shore because I was a year older and supposed to be responsible and I was terrified the crabs would reach up and snap my toes.
I am transferred back to when I worked at the restaurant with you in Alabama and there was a tornado siren going on. Our manager had bought us a bottle of tequila in exchange for a night off. I was at the table trying to stop my anxiety attack from coming on as I was taking this tables order and the dad grabbed my wrist and said “Listen lady, you can have your anxiety attack later. I want my Sweet and Sour chicken NOW.” and the phones were ringing and the sirens were going and out the window the trees were sideways and I ran to the kitchen and you saw me and we took the bottle of tequila and locked ourselves in the girls bathroom to take a few swigs and a few breaths before we could go back to work and face it all.
I am transferred back to when you and I stayed after school in 9th grade to work backstage at a play and we both had a crush on the older guy working with us and that time we painted the coffee table with our feet and the rush of butterflies as he grabbed my waist before I slipped off.. my feet covered in slick pink paint.. and then we went off in the corner to giggle and play Rummy until our hearts slowed their pitter patter. And we would leave him letters in the newspaper box by our house because we learned he was the newspaper boy.
I am transferred back to when we were at that STS9 show and we were tripping and we lost each other… but it was New Years.. and I was dancing and I barely noticed you were gone.. flowing with the music.. moving with the lights.. and BOOM the confetti came from the sky and everyone was cheering with happy because it was finally the new year… and across the room I saw you and we ran to each other and held each other tight because we felt so close. so together. friends forever. and now you are married and living in your same small town with your husband and two kids.
I am transferred back to the time you picked me up from work late one night and we had to drive all the way to your place but the smell of the chicken wings we were bringing home for dinner was so overwhelming we stopped the car on the side of the road and climbed through the bushes in the moonlight and savagely ate all of them and laughed at how silly we looked with hot sauce all over our moths and hands.
I am transferred back to when I met you at your cabin in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina and your friends were over and we decided that instead of sleeping in the house we would sleep in the woods a bit away from the house… a little clearing… we set up my hammock over the soft grass and off to the side the river had pooled up and we climbed up the side of the cliff and jumped in with the fireflies dancing all around and we built the fire and threw in some corn and ate corn and whiskey and we talked for hours of the moon and the spirits in the woods and the magic of the night.
I am transferred back to when we climbed for nearly 5 hours up the mountains and finally reached the little cabin overlooking the alps. No electricity so you built the fire and we had fondue and wine and watched the sunset over the mountains and we laid out on the grassy knoll by the cabin and passed the whiskey bottle back and forth and watched the stars and you taught me Swiss German and told stories of all your adventures and my heart danced with joy at all the ideas you gave me for future endeavors and the air was so clear and pure.
I am transferred back to our motorcycle rides in the moonlight. Pretending we were riding through Arkham. The warm Alabama air felt amazing as I held you close so I wouldn’t fall and we took those turns like pros. I let go and held my arms out… feeling so free.. wishing I could feel that way forever..
I am transferred back to that time when we were young and a bunch of us were over at our friends house. It was “perfect”… 3 girls, 3 boys. The mom let us drink. I was too scared. Too goody goody, so I had root beer. You gave up a night of booze to drink root beer with me so I wouldn’t feel left out.
I am transferred back to the night we were laying in bed and you got a phone call at 3 am. You excused yourself from the bed and walked outside to take it, explaining you had a bad dream about someone and you needed to talk to her. I waited patiently and listened to music. A half hour later I wandered outside to look for you and as soon as you saw me you quickly said goodbye and gave me a weak smile. We went back inside and as we were laying together you kept getting texts. You had that smile on your face. And I knew everything I thought we had was broken. Over. Gone. And I laid with you as you cried over her. Over your past with her. You chose her over me. You told me even if she came to town and we were together you would still sleep with her. You told me you always had loved her. I wondered if you ever actually loved me or if you always wished I was her. And I moved far away.
I am transferred to that time I was turning over rocks at the Oregon coast to look for crabs and my headphones were blasting the Cure in my ears and I felt a tap on my shoulder and there you were, smiling and asking what I was doing… which lead to the fact that all the campsites were full and I let you set up your tent next to mine… and then the next night I found the perfect campsite.. but there were signs that bears were all over the area… but I was determined to stay there… so I called you, even though you were on a mission to bike down the Oregon coast and begged you to come camp at this beautiful campsite with me. And we melted chocolate on bananas for dinner and passed the whiskey and warmed by the fire and I had the idea to leave some food in the hole in the tree for the bear to come. You never said anything against the idea. I made you sleep in my tent. In your own sleeping bag… just in case the bear did come.. and in the middle of the night we were woken up with heavy, gangly steps and snorts and snarls and the knocking over of pots and pans and the bulky shadow of the bear outside our tent. I started hyperventilating with both excitement and fear. You gently edged closer and put your hand over my lips and softly whispered in my ear, ” don’t worry.. about a thing.. cuz every little thing is gonna be alright…” and the bear lumbered around and nearly sat on our tent… then shuffled back off into the night and we laid there silent and still for nearly ten minutes until we burst into relieved maniacal laughter and cautiously crawled out of the tent to see the damage…
I am transferred one of those first times we were all together for summer camp. Someone brought out a guitar and all the girls gathered around one of the guys and I was playing cards at another table. He paused for a second during his strumming. I suggested he play “Aeroplane Over the Sea” and he did. And I got so filled with emotions from his soft voice. The lyrics. The guitar. I had to walk outside. You followed me and we sat out on the benches and we both cried and talked for the rest of the night.
I am transferred back to the day I first met you and we hiked all throughout the desert and were so tired. You ate a burger. I was having a bad body image day and had an orange. You didn’t say anything. You accepted it. There was a meteor shower that night. We laid on the benches in the middle of the desert in Oregon. You brought out some Crunch and Munch… knowing it was one of my favorites in the world. We both dug in and told stories and laughed at pointed out different shooting stars. And then there was that one. The biggest, longest, slowest shooting star I had ever seen. And you saw it too. And we decided it was a sign that we would be friends forever. And we still talk. Now and then. But you are living your life with your man and your friends over in Oregon.I am transferred back to when you first messaged me. I was pretty much done with meeting people in Bucharest. I was ready to be done with the hostel and move on. But you were patient. You assured me. I met you. You tried to take me a cafe on a rooftop. They were all closed. You looked anxious. Nervous. We went to a different place. I got some random thing on the menu and you got the most delicious apple strudel pie thing and I ended up eating most of it. It started off slow… our talking… but there was something about you I couldn’t quite put my finger on that I needed. That intrigued me. You pursued. I got scared. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love. I didn’t want it. But slowly… ever so slowly I let it happen.. and before I knew it… everything fell into place just as it was meant to be…. and just when things were at their best I had to leave the country due to the visa and I thought I would lose you forever. I cried. You took me to your friends early on. I was surprised. I was happy. You let me stay at your place. I felt at home. I fed your cat. We gorged on Haribo and drank coffee to stay up all night. You were patient when I was hesitant. We bought christmas lights to sparkle up the apartment. You didn’t mind when I put up artwork around your place. You were gentle. You were just what I needed. You gave me hope. You broke down my wall. We went to Bran. You woke up before I did to help me get to work on time. You took me to your Christmas party. You promised you would wait for me… for the longest 3 months of my life.
I am transferred back to that night on prom when I got all dressed up. I spent a lot of money on the dress. I put on the make up. My mom gave me her pearls. and I waited. And I assured my parents you would show. But time went on. My parents eyes felt sorrow and fear. It was a half hour into the prom night and I asked my dad to drop me off anyway. You never showed. I danced with my dad for the father daughter dance and he looked so sad. I could barely look him in the eyes, but I tried to cheer him up saying that it was okay… I wanted to come anyway because there was free jelly beans. And there was. And I ate nearly the whole bowl, I went to the bowl handful after handful then retreat back to the corner, looking for you. One guy did come up to me to invite me to dance. I could see the pity and disgust in his eyes. My dad bought flowers and they were waiting for me on my bed when I got home. He said every girl deserves flowers on her prom night. I talked to you the next day. You laughed. “Did you really think I was serious?”
I am transferred back to that day at the treatment center when I met a new girl. I gave her a hug and all I could feel was bone. A hollow skeleton. And I saw her face. It looked like a skull. Sunken and hollow. It shook me up and I talked to my therapist and she tried to convince me that I, too, looked that way and I got so upset. Because what I saw in the mirror was a blob, disfigured monster.
I am transferred back to when I gave you the book I created for you. I had all your friends write memories and happy things for you. I collected them all and added pictures your friends sent. I laminated the pages. I created a book. I created a Facebook group. I gave it to you your last Christmas. As soon as you unwrapped it you threw it across the room in anger and said that I was just a stupid Ethiopian looking unlovable THING. You died a month later. I still see you here or there.

And everyone else in my life.

Everyone. Everything.

The good. The bad. I do not necessarily regret any of it. I thank those people that made my life hard. I have had my share of struggles. Of near deaths. Of being so depressed my options and future seemed slim to none. Of being so happy that my heart was flying… only to discover that I was being deceived.

Yes, I remember it all. I remember how you made me feel that day. Whether it good or bad. The feelings of uncertainty or love or hope or brokenness or fear or rejected…

But then I remember. I am here. Life has brought me here. I am here for a reason. I am waiting to get back to Romania. To my life there. To my babies. My co-workers. To my friends. To my love.  To new hope. To getting back to trusting people. To accepting love and people into my life again. To throwing myself into the Romanian lifestyle.  To a year of exploring Europe during the weeks off. To pursuing life and love and what comes next.
And I can’t help but smile and turn the music to my favorite channel…. the rockin’ 80’s and sing “I CAN SEEE CLEARLLLY NOW THE RAIN IS GONE!” and get out of bed and take back to the streets.

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