We sat in silence in the back of the cab. The driver wanted to share one of his poems. Oh God, I didn’t think this ride could get any worse. The driver probably thought we were flying to a funeral. No, we were going on vacation.
Six months earlier I had broached the subject of a “big trip” to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We earn a good living, we don’t have kids tying us down, why don’t we ever go anywhere, do anything exciting? We settled on Belgium. Exotic enough to mark the occasion, but comfortable since I had lived there for a semester in college.
At first, excitement fueled marathon internet research. There was so much to do. After much mental hand-ringing, I booked an apartment and a flight and was too overwhelmed to do more.
A few weeks before our departure, I started to panic. I would never be ready in time. I asked Dave for ideas. I rejected his suggestions as not sufficiently informed by our books or my inflexible idea of what it meant to be ready.
I read the travel guides cover to cover. I spent hours searching the internet, printing custom maps, creating spreadsheets with sight-seeing and restaurant ideas (sorted by location). All while worrying about being ready.
I became fixated on the perfunctory section in the travel guide about security. Somehow “be aware of your surroundings” turned into an internet search that uncovered a murder over a MP3 player on the Brussels metro.
Dave used his iPod all the time. He was trusting and not very observant. I became convinced something bad could happen to him on this trip. Rationally I knew this was extremely unlikely, but my mind kept conjuring up terrifying scenarios, including death, anyway. No trip was worth any of these scenarios.
I started to dread my looming…vacation.
When we arrived in Brussels, I was horrified to find my French had deteriorated so badly I couldn’t communicate. I hadn’t prepared enough, I wasn’t ready. The first morning, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. Worse, I could feel my body about to reject what I’d already eaten. Even though I was exhausted, my insomnia the first night didn’t surprise me. Rick Steves had warned me about that.
Surely I would sleep the second night. I got comfortable and tried to clear my mind. After hours of lying still without sleep, I tucked deeper into the fetal position and stuck my hands under my chin. My fingers rested lightly on my neck and I felt my heart pound at double my resting heart rate. Images and thoughts raced through my mind, unintelligible but disturbing. I did not sleep for one minute.
The nausea didn’t let up. In a country we had selected in large part for the food, I ate only to avoid passing out. Walking around the city, I felt weighed down by my brand new pants dragging on the ground.
Midway through the week, we sat at the small kitchen table in the dreary apartment. I choked down tiny bites of takeout. I worried about getting sick on our trip to Bruges the next day. I felt guilty Dave wasn’t getting to eat any real food, that I was ruining this trip for him.
I wanted to tell him I’d been counting down the days until it was over and how worried I was that I couldn’t even enjoy a vacation. All I could say was “I just want to go home.” The words caught in my throat and I sobbed.
I made a deal with whoever might be listening. If I got through this vacation, I would figure out why I made everything so difficult and fix it.
This post is in response to this week’s RemembeRED writing prompt.
I decided the word limit should be 619 words. I managed to hit the mark exactly!
“How was your trip” was never such an unwelcome question. I do have some pleasant memories of the trip, like the way Dave held my hand. He was steady and comforting and wonderful.
Dave told me after the trip that all my rules (no iPod!) freaked him out so much he was afraid of the little old ladies who’d tried to strike up a conversation with us on the train to Bruges. I’m sure they planned to stab him for his iPod, then sell me into slavery.
This was really hard to share. I’m telling myself everyone has things they want (need) to change. And that being open about it can only help.