Rory, the titantic
This story of travel and breakup comes from a young writer named Nolan Turner. Enjoy.
Going to Europe was supposed to change everything—make it all okay. We fought all the time. Most of it was my fault. But we were young and stupid and I convinced her that maybe if we got away and broadened our horizons everything would somehow work out. That somehow the beauty of a sticky night in the Montmartre could hide the fact that we just didn’t work. Back then I was under the influence of Jean Genet, and thought that somehow Paris healed all wounds.
Rory was two years older than me when we met. She had messy brown hair and Jawbreaker lyrics tattooed across her stomach and I’ll be damned if I didn’t love her. We moved in together just before my twenty-first birthday. She was finishing her Bachelor’s in Psychology at a local, prestigious University; I was trapped in the utterly depressing quicksand that is Community College. She would jokingly tell me that she only stuck around because the sex was good, and I believed her.
I told myself, and her, that we were okay because we only fought about the little things—the stupid shit. But all of the stupid shit builds up and cakes around the interior of a relationship that eventually it becomes worse than any one large thing, in that you just can’t stand to be around each other anymore. So we decided to go to Paris. All around Europe, actually; starting in Barcelona and working our way North. We took out student loans and booked flights and planned a trip around what bands we could see in what cities: Silver Jews in Dublin, Broken Social Scene in Paris, etc. We promised each other that if we got back to the States and still fought, we would break up. No tears, no fighting…just a break-up.
We made it as far North as Toulouse.
The smell of lamb and tahini from the kabob stands along the street drifted up into the window of the cheap hotel room we were staying in. Even in my underwear, I was sweating as bad as the wallpaper. I had no idea France would be so hot. I was in bed, taking small sips from a bottle of cheap gin, when Rory walked in.
“Oh God,” she said, “it reeks in here.”
I motioned towards the television, “Hey baby, wanna watch Titanic in French?”
“Well then,” I burped, “wanna fuck?”
“God, no—listen,” she set her messenger bag down onto the ground. “It’s some big holiday and all the trains are booked until Monday. Are you drunk?”
“Yeah, well, it’s 1am back in San Diego.”
“I fucking hate you, Nolan.”
The trip wasn’t off to a great start. It rained every single day we were in Barcelona, and Rory hated the rain. The subsequent trips along the Eurrail through Spain and France had brought up such feelings of hatred between us that we decided to implement a “safe word,” to be used only when one of us was so annoyed by the other that throwing them from the moving train seemed like a great fucking idea. The safe word was, “Oklahoma.”
Let this story go no further without my being completely, brutally honest—I am, and always will be, a self-destructive prick. When Rory would get to that moment, with that special little glint in her eye which suggested she wanted to bury me alive, I would push her further. I don’t know why, and I truly wish I didn’t. I am a “button pusher.” I live for that movie moment in which a man and a woman can become so enraged with each other that it actually becomes funny. I guess it doesn’t work like that.
“Rory, mellow out. Come watch Titanic with me.”
She sighed, “It’s in French. You don’t even know what’s going on. Have you ever even see this movie?”
“No, I haven’t,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure the ship is sinking.”
“I need you to be serious for one fucking minute,” she said, “can you do that?”
I muted the TV, “totally.”
“We don’t have the money to stay here three more nights, plus we have to be in Paris by Tuesday afternoon.”
I turned over on my side. “Fuck Paris.”
“What do you mean, ‘fuck Paris’?”
“I mean we’re on fucking vacation. Things change. Shit happens. Who cares?”
“I care. I fucking care because we’re on a tight budget and we can’t aff—“ I, for whatever reason, un-muted the TV.
“I swear to god,” she said, “I am going to walk out of this hotel and leave you in the middle of Toulouse, alone.
“Nolan; I’m officially leaving you. I will leave the key to our locker at the train station with someone who works there so you can get your bags, but after that you can fucking die for all I care.”
I watched her leave without knowing what to say. She walked back in and my heart jumped a little.
“And listen, if you think this is going to be one of those things where I can look back on our time together fondly and wish you the best—you’re fucking wrong. You’re a miserable sack of shit and I don’t care what happens to you. You can go to Paris alone and soak up all the lonely, macho alcoholic writer bullshit you want, but none of it will make you a decent human being.”
I haven’t seen Rory since then. By the time I got home from Europe, she had already been to the apartment and cleaned it out. She even took my cat, Quentin. The whole thing hurt real bad because I had never been left like that—especially not in a foreign country. The weight of not knowing a single person in on a continent weighed on me so bad I could barely get out of bed. I missed Rory and the way she always tried to psychoanalyze me and how she never took off her skirt when we had sex. I never said nice things to her. The most I ever did was see her, think she looked beautiful, and tell myself, “you need to tell Rory she looks beautiful.” But I couldn’t.
You never get over being left like that, but I’m trying real hard.
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