July 2001. Paris.
The train rushed out of Paris at a speed that made the lights of the suburbs blur, or at least that’s how I remember it to be. We stood by an open window with the wind on our faces and the thrill of being there rushed into my heart at a similar speed, making the fear and the worry and the loneliness that had been residing there blur as well. I was on a train leaving Paris at midnight. That fact alone was enough to send goosebumps down my arms.
You could, somewhat arbitrarily but no less truthfully for that, say that this was the moment I was born into my new life — tired, heartbroken, and excited. For years, this had been the kind of thing I didn’t even dream of but longed for occasionally; the kind of thing that I considered out of the reach of my young-university-student-in-northern-Greece self; the kind of thing other people did, people I sort of hoped to grow into one day. And suddenly there I was, in France, on the train, moving oh so fast into the night, my old life in tatters all around me, my new one as yet unknown to me.
A few weeks before that I had sat in a patch of struggling grass in my northern-Greek-hometown with my young-university-student friend and asked him to come on a trip to Europe with me. “But wouldn’t you rather we went to a Greek island?” he replied, which I very much wouldn’t. That day I walked home in the heat feeling forlorn in every sense of the word –sad and lonely and abandoned– because for once I had the money to go on my dream holiday, and, as usual, I had no one to go with.
Twelve years later –a few weeks ago, in fact– he reminded me of this moment and all I could do was laugh and thank him sincerely from the bottom of my heart, because without his refusal to come with me I would never have been desperate enough to make plans with an almost-stranger on the internet, an almost-stranger with a story that was different-but-similar to mine, an almost-stranger that apparently shared enough of my dreams and my craziness to be found next to me in the dark corridor, as the train rushed out of Paris at a speed that made the lights of the suburbs blur, as we stood there with the wind on our faces and years of yet-undreamed-of adventures ahead of us, as my world began to grow.