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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 28
Tour de Life: Five and Two
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Tour de Life: Five and Two

by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

'All is good? Phillip asks at 9 a.m. in his Flemish accent. It's usually just the way he starts morning conversation. He doesn't want an honest response - he wants a funny response, a story, maybe a conversation about a TV show I have discovered from the Flemish television offering. It's a loaded question for me these days, because I haven't got much time for empty, polite banter.

Sure, everything is fine. It's all fine if you count I am living in the middle of fifty quickly-packed boxes all stacked in the middle of a room so I can repaint it and hand it back to its owner when I figure out where I am going next. I have no idea where I will live when I move to the city; I'm still looking and far too picky. I want an American oven. I want light. I want hot water you don't have to wait years to get when you go to take a shower. I want proximity to work, gym, dry cleaners, grocer and train so I can get rid of my car.

When I ended my eight-year relationship at 34 years old and decided to start over on my own, I didn't expect to do it in Belgium. I thought that if playing house ever failed in Europe, I would be on the first plane back to Seattle, but I wasn't. After three years here, I've got a job I like, friends, activities, and I learned a language. I am not ready to give that up.

'How are you feeling?' Laurent asks at 10 a.m. in his Walloon accent and I just smile. I know the drill - that he will tell me all about his latest aches or pains, his visits to the doctor. I have my health, I can't complain, I just listen.

Sure I'm feeling great, if you count that I'm not sleeping much and I have spent every night for two weeks separating the garage into piles of 'recycling' and 'dump run.' I have bawled like a baby going through photos and mementos - of that crappy shirt I wore on that cruise around Spain or those socks with the holes he mended while I was in the hospital - each item giving me a little electric shock of memory and plunging me back into the deep end. I am emotionally tired, but this is the price, this is the cost, this is what I knew I would have to pay.

'How you end something says a lot about you,' my dad told me before I made this decision. 'Sometimes the cost of peace is high.'

So when I sat down to tell Julien it was over, I said I would take care of everything; he could just take what he wanted and go. I would clear out the years built up in the apartment, throw away everything, deal with all the administration and even give him some money for the stuff that we bought together. All he had to worry about was his next step. And so that was that.

'Plans this weekend?' Niels asks in his heavy Dutch accent, and I smile and say that, of course, I do, although that's where I stop. Five days a week you do this dance, this polite conversation dance with complete strangers at work, because that's what grown ups do, that's how you behave professionally.

And then Saturday morning comes and I call my best friends - Sean, Chris, Izzy, Jamie, Jeffrey - and they know exactly where I left off and how to spend the next hour or so picking me up and pushing me along one more step. Then I spend two days of the most honest part of my week, packing and bagging and crying and painting, cleaning up the mess and one weekend closer to my own next step. By Sunday night, I fall on my bed and put in ear plugs so I can't even hear the silence.

'Great weekend?' Kip asks me in his Turkish accent at 8:30 Monday morning and I smile and ask him about his. He wants to work in Poland a bit, maybe meet a nice Polish girl.

When you move in together with someone, all you are thinking is rainbows and sunrises, maybe picturing coffee on the terrace over a home-cooked breakfast and coming home to see a smiling face. You don't think of how that might end, you never imagine how, maybe you actually believe it never will.

One day when all this is over and I am in my new place starting my new chapter, I might look back and wonder at the strength of these months, of the reservoir of energy I found to make it. When it is over, I will be harder and stronger - hopefully not cynical - but wise enough to remember that there is a price to pay to end it and keep the peace.

'All is good?' Phillip asks at 9 a.m. and I smile, part of the price to start again.

'The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.' - Hemingway

Beau Burriola is a 34-year-old writer looking for the next step. beaubrent@gmail.com.

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