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« In Which We Miss The Last Train »

Berliner Pretzel, Cornish Pasty


The train terminal at Berlin Schönefeld Airport is just across the lawn of the terminal building. Since the plane to London was set to take off in less than 25 minutes, I was walking fast across the grass, but I figured there was no point in running. I mean, we were basically there, and no bears were chasing us. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was jogging up ahead, berating me for my lack of effort; hed been stressing about the time during the entire train journey from the city. As if that would make the train move any faster, Id muttered under my breath, as I slouched back in the train seat. I was eating the soft pretzel Id bought from a little bakery stall after we missed the last train that would get us to the airport at a reasonable hour; it was still hot from the oven.

My boyfriend didnt want a pretzel. What he wanted was to sit at the edge of his seat for the half-hour train ride and urge the engine forward with Jedi powers before sprinting up to the terminal building. I caught up with him in the security line, where we scowled at each other, casting quiet blame for ending up in this predicament. It matters whose fault it was, you see, because foreign travel has cost me three relationships; four if you include the one I broke up with twice.

The first time it happened the guy wasnt even there. Id gone to Athens with a friend who was  headed there on a business trip, which meant I often ended up on the roof after dinner, drinking beer alone while she prepared for the next days meetings. The night sky was black, the Acropolis was set in lights; I was bored and half-drunk and couldnt stop thinking about some guy who wasnt my boyfriend. Fast forward a year or so, past our resulting break-up and geniously getting back together again, and we found ourselves going on three weekend trips together in a single month.

Of course we never lived to tell the tale. Dubrovnik was the straw that broke the camels back; the walled city is on the World Heritage list and it was wonderfully sunny, but what I remember best is sitting outside some Renaissance church paying mobile roaming charges to call a friend, trying to put my finger of the feeling that nagged me. My parents went to Dubrovnik too, later that year, and when they showed me their holiday photos I pretended Id never been there.

Being a catalyst for a break-up doesnt always result in negative feelings about a place though: I have pretty decent memories of Porto still. My boyfriend and I had been travelling around Portugal for two weeks by train, pulling into Porto as a couple and departing as free agents. This is a long time ago now, but I still remember a stand-off on a street corner where we wanted to go down different roads. I will refrain from making a lazy metaphor. I ended it in the airplane, up in the clouds, thinking maybe it would make me feel lighter. Somehow it worked. Something similar happened in the clouds over San Francisco, again starting in an airport, as I was headed back to London to see my boyfriend after a month apart. I was the last to board, forcing myself to keep walking down the retractable walkway while everyone else were already in their seats. Even when I think about this now, the prevailing memory is the sadness of leaving the foggy city, not the guy.

Ive been told youll know everything you need about a person by how theyd behave if you got to the airport and realised youd forgotten your passport. I think about this every time I search for my passport at the security gate, because I have a sneaking suspicion that its not the offending boyfriends that would have failed this test. The common link here is me. Im the one who looks over at them, the only familiar element in a sea of foreignness, and think, do we fit, even when theres nothing else tying us together?

Theres something menacing about finding yourself in an alien environment with someone, manoeuvering coded transport maps, arbitrary tipping rituals and hunger-induced fights in cultures that like to have dinner at 10pm. Not to mention the feeling of watching the person you love and adore lose their cool and stamp their feet like a five-year-old, because no one understands them when they read French words in a clunky English accent. If the cracks are already there, it culminates in one central, bleak observation: "We dont belong, not here, not together."

Or possibly something more unkind comes to mind, judging from how my boyfriend was looking at me and my pretzel during the Schönefeld scuffle. I ignored him, licking the salt off my fingers. We reached the gate with a cool ten minutes to spare, and opted to sit separately for the hour-long flight home. We made up once we reached London, hunched over Cornish pasties on a freezing train station, a scenario familiar to us and one in which the two of us made sense. We laugh about it now, as it ended well. But weve decided to stay put in our own city for a while, just to be safe.

Jessica Furseth is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in London. You can find her website here and her tumblr here. She twitters here.

Photographs by the author.

"Call It Fate Call It Karma" - The Strokes (mp3)

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Reader Comments (3)

What a lovely post! I love Portugal. I've been there a lot of times. I even went to live in Porto for a year. :D What other places have you visited?
March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMihaela
Thanks for the update!

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPA
Nice post Lol. Thumbs Up. I like the images in this post.

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