“The words of a stranger can outweigh the words of your family and loved ones combined.”
Of all the crazy stories I tell people about the summer in Europe in 2017, this is the one that goes very high up on the list, even if not to the top.
The last night in the city I overstayed
Budapest was so kind to me that I was just going to stay for 3 days and I ended up staying for a week. The Hive was the name of the hostel. Highly recommend it. Went on about three pub crawls and one junk boat party with them. All fun and couldn’t remember most of it. Yet, this was a night I couldn’t forget.
It was my last night in Budapest. I went for the junk boat party with friends from my hostel. The night was lit and everyone was wasted. Having a bus to catch in the early afternoon the next day, I wasn’t going to risk it. Staying sober while everyone’s pissy drunk was actually more satisfying than I imagined. We sung and played games. Sailing through Budapest. Everyone had a blast.
When everyone’s too drunk to realise what they were doing, I saw a girl as sober as I was. Wasn’t hard to identify a sane person on that junk. She was standing half way across the boat from me, talking to a guy that was too drunk to know what he was dong. Not a situation she wanted to be in, judging from her facial expression.
Ladies gotta help each other. I went over and joined in the conversation. Obviously the guy didn’t want me in the conversation. Even better. I just dragged her away from him and we started talking. Half of what she said was covered by the loud electronic music. I could only nod and smile and scream out my name so it’s not too awkward.
Thankfully it was towards the end of the party. The boat docked and the deafening music stopped. As we were leaving, she asked if I wanted to sit by the pier with her for a bit. Hanging out with drunk people wasn’t on my list that night so I immediately said yes.
We sat by the pier, overlooking the other side of the city. Without the ridiculous disco light, I got a better look at her. A British girl with long, straight blonde hair and fair skin. She was smiling all the time but anyone could tell she was forcing herself to smile. Something’s bothering her. Of course it wasn’t my place to ask so we just talked about the generals.
From the girl who didn’t have an opinion to the girl who didn’t want to get married
She’s from a small town in England. Being a primary school teacher in her late 20s, she’s engaged to her high school boyfriend. They were getting married that autumn. I loved a good romance. My face just lit up and started asking her all the questions about being together with someone for 13 years. The smile was hanging in there for the first 20 minutes, then it slowly dimmed away. Followed by watery eyes. I knew I had opened the gate to something atrocious.
“Can I tell you something that I never told anyone? I just want to share because it feels better to tell a stranger.” She said.
Wasn’t really a time to say no. I instantly said yes and comforted her that it’s a safe place here. It took her another minute before she took a deep breath and started talking.
“I don’t love him. But marrying him is the easiest and best choice I have.”
13 years changed everything. Becoming a teacher wasn’t even her choice. Indecisiveness led all her life decisions to be guided by him and her family. Not once did she complained as she never had a preference. Then she did.
Marrying a guy without love
Her dream was to open up a dessert place in town. Never fancied about going outside of town, home was too small of a place for anyone to survive the gossip of dumping your long-term boyfriend, if that was to happen.
He was the nicest person she’d known. Their families liked each other and all their friends mixed well together. Nothing was amiss for her to say he was the wrong guy. He sounded like the perfect guy. She just didn’t feel she loved him. Being with him was an easy choice, especially when everyone already knew everyone.
It’s exhausting to adjust to a new person. Leaving someone you’re comfortable with to get comfortable again with a new person would be so draining. Still, it wasn’t a reason to stay with someone knowing you didn’t love him.
Life full of choices
“A high-quality single life is always preferred over a low-quality marriage.”
I said it to her. If you could say to a stranger that you didn’t love your fiancé, what kind of marriage did you actually have in mind? For the first time in her life, she had a preference of what she wanted. Yet, she was going to compromise for the easiness of life. Maybe it would work for some people. It wouldn’t work for me and since she asked. I told her straight away.
Breaking up with the fiancé was necessary for me. First, you don’t keep someone around because they are nice to you. Your parents could give you the same care, just live with them forever. Unfair for the fiancé to be lied to as well when there’s no love in the relationship. Only one outcome would come from staying with someone she didn’t love, she would grow to hate the person one day just for “breathing too loud”.
Second, she told me she was the type to rebel against her parents if she loved someone they didn’t approve of. Why would you have the courage to not give a shit about others when you’re in love but not when you wanted to break-up? That sounded a lot like an excuse she gave herself because staying was the “easier option.”
Listening to my honest opinions, she seemed to feel that I was telling her what she already knew. She did already know. She just didn’t want to act on it. I couldn’t hold her hands and made her do it. So I only concluded by saying,
“No one knows if you will be happier after your breakup. You just certainly won’t be happier staying in a relationship you are already unhappy with.”
It was 4:30am. The sky was already lighting up. We had been sitting for 3 hours. The conversation was only going to repeat at this point. I gave her my phone number and we parted ways.
Over the next few days, I was busy exploring Czech Republic and Slovakia. Although I wanted to check up on her, some conversations on a night in Budapest with a stranger was best to stay there. Never to think I would hear from her. One day, I was going around Bratislava when I got a text that read,
“Hey, I broke up. Thank you so much.”
She didn’t even write her name. She didn’t have to. The rush of surprise and heartfelt warmth just ran across my body. We chatted for a bit after that and we continued on with our summer.
What happens in Budapest, stays in Budapest
I thought about messaging her from time to time, not sure why I never did. A year later I was back to Europe and decided to send her a text but I realised the updates I had on my phone erased our conversations and I lost her contact, or maybe I never saved her name to begin with.
She never messaged me again either. Maybe she lost my contact too. Or maybe it’s just not necessary.
We will always have the three hours we spent at the pier in Budapest, escaping from other drunkos, discussing about life. Wherever she is now, I hope she is happy and well.
Perhaps she got back together with him, perhaps he became a good fit for her, perhaps she found someone else, perhaps she found the joy in teaching, perhaps she quit and is now a desert shop owner…Too many questions I can’t answer. Perhaps it’s for the best. Why ruin the night we had, the summer night of 2017, when I talked someone out of her own wedding.