4,207 Miles Apart
Tessa Brengelman / Woodford County
Versailles’s soul is yellow, like faded lace curtains and artificial light. It was once a quaint town that is now fenced in its past. No one new comes here; even the horses are bred from the same families. You get lost once and you discover pockets of history that no one wants to remember. The paltry cluster of tombstones bearing the names of those who died before they got the chance to leave.
Here, time is strained as the struggle between past and future unfolds. The townspeople are young--festering in an age that doesn’t fit them, like a shrunken sweater that they used to wear all the time. Dead dreams stick to their souls in a grungy manner, creating listless and splenetic generations.
Waddling in the muss of chagrin stagnation, everyone wears a glass jaw. Caustic words emerge from their mouths; a cesspool of human creation. Versailles manages to be a menagerie of people wanting to leave, but who always gets frozen feet when they approach the county line.
But there are some who do manage to cross that line. Those who are brave enough to leave the unknown, to leave their friends and family behind, to take control of their life. I was one of these outliers.
I have never drove past the “Leaving Woodford County” sign so fast on my way to the airport. My feet never stopped; they had a mind of their own. They carried me through airport security, past passport check, and boarded me on my escape flight.
My feet carried me across an ocean to a new continent, a new time zone, a new language. They followed me as I gracefully descended the steps onto the tarmac, the lightness in my feet fueled by excitement.
I arrived in Brussels at night, the last train of the day slowing pulling into the desolate station. It was a Tuesday night, nothing special. But the magic of the city captivated me as I entered the maze of cobblestone alleyways, dragging my small luggage behind me in the dark.
Night had settled in, but the people were out and about. There were groups clinging onto the sides of old buildings, cigarettes dangling from their lips. There were well dressed couples walking hand in hand going out to dinner. Christmas lights glowed in the mist, calling out to me to never stop wandering. Street art covered every surface available and it was just as beautiful in the dark. Trains rumbled on back into the countryside, trams screeched on the freshly rained on street, and different languages filled the air, whispering in the wind going straight to my heart.
Daylight was even more magical. The sunrise illuminated the gilded leaf on the Parisian architecture, the smell of freshly baked pastries dancing softly into the open window of my hotel room. The chill was still there and flakes of snow began to land softly on the balcony. Life was still.
It wasn’t still like Versailles was. Versailles was stuck in the past, not the moment. Brussels was busy, something always grabbing your attention. It contained so many lives, each one vastly different. From tourists from nearby Paris, to Moroccan immigrants, to European diplomats, Brussels was never cookie cutter. But as I stared at the window, I felt a stillness inside of me for I felt at peace for the first time in years.
When I arrived back in Versailles, everyone was shocked that I really was going to college in Belgium. They told me I was a little crazy, that I was bold, that my parents must be brave to send me so far away. But the decision had never made more sense to me. To what was a headache to nearly everyone else was an adventure to me.
The warm blush that captured my face everytime I thought about finally being able to live over there made it hard not to smile in my sleep. The rush I felt when I contacted the Belgium embassy to obtain my student visa, the tears gushing down my face as I read my acceptance letter, getting to finally use my Pinterest ‘Apartment Design’ board to use, everything was falling so perfectly into place.
As I think back on my spare, but spectacular, days in Brussels, my nose can still smell the puffs of smoke on the street, the greasy fries, and the decadent waffles. I can still feel the snowflakes on my eyelashes as I enjoyed my first snow of the year. I can still hear my nervous voice as I attempted to speak French, and I still remember the kind man who told me my French wasn’t bad.
I found myself bringing my fingers up to my face as I wiped the tears that I knew were coming. I missed Brussels so much and I didn’t want to have to wait until August to go back. I told myself that I would have three years to fall even more in love with the city, but alas, I would have to endure my last few months in Versailles first. But I new that if I could do it once with such ease, that it wouldn’t be a problem the second time around, for I was one of the few able to escape.