The machine pulsed and beeped. To stop it, I quickly grabbed and shoved £100 into my wallet. I starkly glanced back twice over both shoulders. I should have felt relieved to see no one there with a knife or anything. But I was too paranoid to relax. My Heart tried to reason with me. She begged for me to stop freaking out.
“You’re in an airport! The only one who’s gonna hurt you is you.” she cried. “And please calm down, you figured out how to get this far.”
“Okay, whatever, you’re right,” I muttered. When it came to listening to my Heart I was a total beginner. Still, she didn’t seem to have much mercy
It took a series of deep breaths for me to calm down. Once I did, I threw my backpack over my shoulders and headed for the exit. I approached the sliding glass doors. Through them, I saw what seemed like hundreds of thousands of cars. Some skated past while others were stacked alongside the curb. Hundreds of people crowded the walkways and street hugging, crying, laughing, shaking hands, struggling to carry luggage.
“Don’t even think about feeling lonely, honey.”
The cool air whisked me away in a black cab. Before I could even pinch myself I was halfway to my Airbnb. The rolling hills of the English countryside had hypnotized me. Or maybe it was the lilt in the driver’s voice. Apparently, at some point already I had told him I was headed to London the next morning and that I was traveling all across Europe. His enthusiasm and the lush landscape helped me forget how weird it felt to be driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
He gracefully sang “cheers,” as I fumbled my way out of the car. I shut the door, turned, and looked up at the little townhome in awe. Its brick exterior was clothed in a blanket of moss-like green. The garden was neatly groomed. It was the kind of place that made you wish your life was a Hallmark movie. This would be the part where I returned home from college – excuse me, “uni” – for the summer. I would reconnect with Neighbor-boy who had glown-up over the school year. He would come outside to help me with my bags, we’d catch up, and the day would end in that garden looking up at the clouds.
Cheesy, I know.
But this wasn’t a movie and charming Neighbor-boy didn’t exist. I was standing in the driveway like an idiot daydreaming. I had forgotten how much my back hurt until I took my backpack off and carried it with both hands in front of me. I double checked the address on my phone. Yep, this was it.
“I told you so,” my Heart teased
I was half-surprised she didn’t criticize the daydreaming but I wasn’t gonna complain.
“Hey, don’t be petty. I said you were right. ” I grumbled.
Inside, I made my way up the stairs and into my room. With a flip of a switch, I was in heaven. Finally a bed.
The queen-sized miracle embraced me with open arms as I collapsed. I was in disbelief. Somehow 30-something hours had passed. I had come all the way from the dust and cacti of Arizona to the breeze and countryside of Southern England. Needless to say, I was ready for a good night’s sleep to get me through the next six weeks.
I laid there until I mustered up the energy to crawl under the covers and turn off the lamp. Even though it was almost 8 o’clock in the evening the sun still crept in through the window. I wished I had more energy to appreciate its beauty. Of course, my Heart did…
I pleaded with her to shut up and let me sleep. Of course, she wouldn’t. Instead, she decided to run me through the things that brought me here.
“Hey, remember that terrible day in March after English? You threw yourself onto the sidewalk and wept? I do. You said you were never going to make new friends. I knew you weren’t listening to me but I wasn’t going to stop telling to you otherwise.
“Remember when you started listening to me? I do. I was shocked. I thought you’d never get the courage. After you did you got this idea to marry yourself. I thought you were half crazy but I went with it. You made all of your friends join you at the park for your self-marriage ceremony. You even recruited one of them to marry herself alongside you! At sunset, you stood firm in your new desert oasis where you recited your vows. You told us all of your promise to always love yourself first. You declared you are Vail Varone. You assured the entire world that you were going to start listening to me. For the first time in a while, you were so full of light. But as soon as the weekend faded and Monday took over, that newlywed was nowhere to be found.
“Remember the day you booked your flight? I do. It almost seemed like you had forgotten about your vows. You spent the entire day feeling sorry for yourself because of some trivial thing until suddenly you said what I had been trying to tell you this whole time! ‘Why wait until after graduation to backpack Europe when I have enough savings to go this summer?’ Duh!”
I could tell she had more to say to me but I was done with her grand monologue. “Hey sorry, it took me a while. Please shut up. Why can’t you just be thankful I’m listening to you now? I’m so exhausted and scared. I don’t even know if I want this anymore! I’m all alone and I have no clue what I’m…” My tears interrupted me.
I was so frustrated with her – or myself? I couldn’t tell us apart anymore. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. “How could I have been so stupid and believed you? I’m not strong enough to travel all by myself!”
There was a long silence. Even the sun and birds outside could feel the tension.
“Of course you are. Listen to me, I promise it’s going to be okay. You’re doing a brave thing. I am so honored to give you life. I knew you could do this all along. You just weren’t ready until now and that’s fine. I’m not actually bitter, okay?” She paused, “You know I’m only giving you a hard time.”
“Fine, continue.” I wasn’t fully convinced.
“I will, thank you. Now, do you remember the first day of your solo honeymoon?”
I blinked open my swollen eyes, “My what?”
“Do you remember the first day of your solo honeymoon?”
“I do. It was today.”
I contemplated what this meant. “Awh, that’s cute this is my, solo honeymoon.”
“Um, cute? This is serious business, sweetie.”
We laughed together. We finally agreed on something.
“You’re right, Heart, this is some serious business.”
“You know I always have your best interest, right?”
I smiled as I rolled onto my side. I was facing the window now. I admired the sun that was beginning to set. The Earth below me was ready to whirl me off into day two.
“Watch out, Europe, Vail’s on her solo honeymoon. You know why? Because she listened to her Heart.”