We’re one month in, and I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to go home. (Kidding.)(Maybe.)
Brussels has been magnificent. I truly, truly love it here — not just the buildings and cobblestones, but the entire pacing of work, play and life. It’s been incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating to not feel like I’m drowning. Time, turns out, really helps one feel not insane.
I take the metro to work every day. Walk five minutes to Porte de Namur. Hop on the 2 or 6 to Arts-Loi. Chang to the 1 line. Get off at Montgomery. Grab an espresso from my favorite metro café women. Go to work.
It’s a 25-minute process that starts before 9 a.m. And I kid you not when I say my commute is my favorite part of my day.
When I tell people I’m an introvert, they don’t believe me. It’s hard to explain, and I’m not going to try to justify what I know to be absolutely true about myself. All of the intricacies of anxiety, overcompensation and being an INFJ aside, public transit is my happy place. As a both an introvert and a writer, it is my favorite thing to simply watch people. Some may think I’m maliciously staring, but truthfully I’m just watching the way their hands drum on armrests, or the way they chew on their lips. On the metro, I can be in my own head — headphones in, journal in hand — while still taking it all in. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
I fall in love multiple times a day on the metro: the bed-tousled students, clutching notebooks and history books to their chests; mothers holding the sticky hands of toddlers with juice boxes; the old women, cackling and whispering in lightening fast French. I get to ride with all these lives, shuffled through doors, short of thank-god-the-train-hasn’t-left-yet breath. I get to stand directly next to a human who’s story I will never completely know, but who offers up just enough character quirks to let me fill in the blanks in my writer’s mind.
Most of them are in and out of my life in the span of two minutes: I get on the stop before they get off. We walk down the stairs next to each other then scatter the second our feet hit the train platform. They smile at me as their two-year-old babbles in what very well might be Greek while waving around a favorite stuffed rabbit.
The metro is usually dirty. Most stairwells are partially under construction at any given point. Some passages smell like urine and stale sweat. I never go into the station without making sure my pockets are buttoned and my bag is zipped shut. I’ve encountered some definitely leering faces, calling my bluff of being European. I witnessed a heated argument that was one nose-flare shy of a brawl today.
Despite all that, I still want to ride every line. I want to rocket across the capillaries of this city, taking in every face. I want to draw them and write them down and remember that I am so, so very small.