Since this is a bit of a book… I thought it’d be best to break this story up into two pieces.
So, as I was saying in part I of this story… the moment had finally come when those automatic doors at Eleftherios airport opened, revealing me standing with a 60 lbs backpack on my back, facing Mahi, the girl I spent an afternoon with on a beach back in Sri Lanka, and her best friend, the guy who volunteered to be my travel guide in Athens. The cute, Greek one I told you about.
For those who’ve had the experience of meeting someone you’ve had a bit of a cyber crush on, it is kind of mind blowing seeing them right in front of you; as a standing, breathing, talking human being.
After hugging Mahi and turning to Alex for the first time, I tried to smooth over the holy shit, holy shit expression on my face with a comfortable, familiar introduction, “Alex! So nice to finally meet you. I feel like we already know each other”; as he kissed both my cheeks and offered to grab my backpack for me.
Little did both of us know how much of a mistake that was… as we stepped onto the moving walk way. Mahi and I facing Alex, as he faced us, going backward with my monster bag, towards the edge. It crossed my mind to maybe mention he should probably turn around so he wouldn’t fall flat on his ass. But I thought… he’s smart. He’ll turn around. And since I didn’t want to make a stupid, obvious comment, I didn’t say anything.
Remember when I mentioned how heavy my backpack was?
Yeah. Enough to sink a cruise ship. And apparently, Alex, as his heels made an abrupt clash with the edge of the moving walk way. Mahi and I just stood there, paralyzed in disbelief, as his flailing arms reached out for our help in slow motion. Receiving no assistance whatsoever, his feet began to lose their friction, as well as their gravity, as he began to fly backward thanks to the momentum of my backpack; skidding heels over head towards the exit doors.
And I realized. I really like this guy…
Because as traumatically embarrassed as he was (so he told me later), he laughed harder than all of us. I thought, whoever is this entertained by a such an epic fail is someone I would get along quite well with. And I told him so, as I helped him up off his back… “We’re going to have a lot of fun together.”
And we did.
There was of course, the hype of seeing the most ancient site I’ve ever seen at Acropolis, (which as a history junkie, was pretty exciting), strolling through Plaka together, feeling what it feels like (to be Greek) and NEVER rush a coffee, a meal, a conversation, a walk… nothing. Eating food so incredible it made me want us to stop talking because it was interrupting my this is what feta actually tastes like??? epiphany. And dancing on top of tables at five a.m because I was having too much fun to sleep after the five shots of raki we were forced to accept.
It was truly the greatest few days of my life. But it was more than that. I often say my time with him in Greece healed me in ways I still am trying to understand. I had, more so than I did even within my own country, a sense of home. Something that a restless person like myself doesn’t feel. Some questions and uncertainties I had about my life that I came to Europe looking for answers to, aren’t all necessarily answered. But here, with Alex, I began to feel like… so what? Siga, siga (slowly, slowly). I had this time today, with him; and with everything else, I felt oddly calm.
Honestly, it threw me off a bit. In all my other prior relationships there was so much WORK. To make him laugh, to have the perfect date, to feel comfortable with each other, to finally get to the point where I could fart in front of him for fuck sake, and our relationship not be over. And with others, to overcome the fact that the love they felt for me was simply unrequited in return. And though at the time we weren’t in an official relationship, with Alex, there was none of this work.
I remember sitting in the office chair watching him in the kitchen, half talking to himself/half to me, “No one could want to take care of you more than I do… nobody.” But he told me later, that I should have no pressure to feel like we were a relationship. I was traveling, experiencing life; but we both understood that in reality, we lived in two different parts of the world. And if I ever decided to come back to visit, he would always be there.
He told me later, that after the first day I left, he sat at the bar of his pool hall shooting back handfuls of whiskey shots, before a friend of his had to drive him home. And later, broke down in his kitchen sobbing uncontrollably; because he thought at the time, that the first girl he felt was the love of his life, he would never see again.
But, that assumption was wrong.
Later on in my Euro trip, in Sweden, I had some free time and booked a trip back for three days. And then, as soon as I was back home, I started working two jobs to save up money to come again for two months. Once I was home again from that, we started planning his visit to America. And in between all of this, we Skyped as much as realistically possible with a eight hour time difference.
It was starting to sink in for both of us, that despite my stubborn efforts to NOT let it… that this was a relationship we would forever wonder… what could’ve happened? if I decided to leave him to a memory. It made the pit of my stomach churn in warning that I was considering the greatest regret of my life. I didn’t understand what I was feeling. It actually caused me quite a lot of anxiety.
My intellect was screaming, what the hell are you doing?? You’re supposed to be moving to L.A to pursue that dream of being an actress! You dropped out of college for that. What are you going to do when you come back home?? Delay it again? For a guy? And being that when I make up my mind to do something… like, move to L.A. It takes an act of God to convince me otherwise. So between the back and forth to Greece, this was an incredible struggle for me. I was so torn.
The day that changed… was the day my car broke down after I got back from Athens for two months. I got the call we all hate, that the diagnosis was quite an expensive one to fix; and after taking a look at what was left in my savings account, I saw that it would definitely cause some damage. Then it dawned on me… if I ever wanted to finish school (at some point I did want to eventually go back), I would have to do it soon if I had any hopes to pay back tuition loans. My parents agreed to pay only my first two years of school– so I was doing the rest financially on my own. That’s when the next thought conveniently dawned on me… well, you know who has cheap tuition fees? Greece.
But that was insane… I had to have a sit-down conversation with my best friend to talk some sense into me. She has always been the logical one between the two of us. I remember nervously holding my soy chai latte at Starbucks telling her everything I was thinking. Her response surprised me. “Rach… L.A will always be there. You don’t have to go there to be an actress. And one, your money won’t always be there to be able to finish school; and two, you will never forgive yourself for not seeing what could happen with Alex. I think you should go. It’s not like you’re just going for him either. You’re finishing your degree. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.” After getting the same response shockingly from both my parents and a mentor of mine… I decided to make the jump and apply for an American university in Athens.
And I got accepted! How did I tell Alex? Well… I didn’t. I have an obsession with surprises, so I waited five torturous months before his visit to Texas to tell him. It’s hard to put into words how perfect his reaction was… so here’s the link to the When in Athens Facebook page to see the video I took of him opening my creatively wrapped acceptance letter (I’m having trouble with uploading videos directly).