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coming home to Portugal

Tonight I arrived in Portugal without my family being here to meet me for the first time in my entire life. Memories of you hit me so hard as I stumble out of Rossio Metro that I have to sit down on a nearby step and swallow a few times to quell the rising hysteria in my gut. I couldn't tell you how many times I've been here but I know that this country will be forever imprinted on my consciousness. It took as little as a prego no pao sandwich whipped out of a pleather handbag on the metro, accompanied by a can of Sumol to set me off. A feeling I haven't experienced since the early days, doing things we used to do, alone for the first time. Like in those days, tonight I ached for you. Deep down in the depths of my gut, there is only you, the ones who know me inside out. Those who made me. Walking towards Chiado, I stop outside a fabric shop and stand in the doorway, sniffing the air. Damp mixed with wool, mixed with cleaning products, mixed with safe familiarity, you are everywhere. Fuck, why have I come here, it's torture. But I remember what it was like when I first went back to New York, the pain of it, and I know now that the only way out is through. Around every corner I'm smacked in the face again by your presence. The last time we were here together, sitting on our tiny terrace, high above everything, talking, laughing, sharing, crying- with YOU - the last time I dared to really feel. What a luxury that was knowing I could go through any number of emotions and you would always be there to swiftly handle the fallout of my emotional fragility with your warm embrace. But let's think of NOW, and of the future and all you've left as your legacy. The great irony is this: I wouldn't be anything like the strong woman I am today had I not lost you. I would have continued to lean on you at every twist and turn and you would have continued to prop me up and keep me safe. I think of us posing by the wall of our tiny apartment, so so drunk, telling each other how much we loved each other, then Sonia, characteristically breaking the weight of emotion with some witty line that instantly has us in stitches. Sometimes I want to call you up and ask you if we can meet just so I can show you the woman I've become in your absence. But I suppose you somehow know who I am, you made sure I had the tools to be ok alone and modelling myself on you is what has kept me alive.

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