soleil

| sun (masculine noun) | /sɔlɛj/

In Spain, my friends and I discussed the sights and sounds that stimulate our flashbulb memories. Coconut suntan lotion is reminiscent of childhood summers at the beach, my copy of The Catcher in the Rye damaged by saltwater and sand. The woodfire scent of my favorite perfume triggers a visceral reaction. Imagine: crisp autumn nights in Asheville. I was nineteen and drunk and happy. God, I cringe to remember.

Likewise, voyages mark certain eras in my life, as if my existence was measured in destinations like a book is divided by chapters. My week in Greece was wrought with longing. Climbing the cliffs of Santorini, I couldn’t help but sigh and count the days until I saw my boyfriend the following week in Paris, that infernal city of goodbyes. Vienna is representative of new beginnings. For once in my life, I could seize a moment. The days were cold, but our heads spun with excitement. Every sight made us shiver and cry out.

And despite its beauty, my recent trip to Spain will always be haunted with shadows. The sun was shining, but I was at the mercy of my sorrows. My eyes brimmed with tears, but I wiped them away and rolled on through the orange groves. I wanted someone to tell me, “Don’t worry. On this date, you’ll feel better. Just hold on ’til then.” But instead, I watched the dry Spanish landscape unravel before me on the train.

And then: an oasis. We touched down, hungover and miserable, in Marrakech. Red sand, purple skies, and a riad in a fetid palm grove. Our fingers grew sticky with honey and Moroccan pancakes. We slept. We stretched in the sun. We felt at home. Surrounded by such beauty, I began to heal. And on our last day there, we cried on the verandah together, wallowing in that horrid dread that always precedes goodbye. On that last day, even the sapphire skies were tinged with grey.

Each voyage marks an era, but somehow this one was different. Time stopped in Marrakech, and being away reminded me of my worth and my independence. My travels and my experiences have made me rich in a way that nothing else ever will. And what’s more, no one can take that away from me. When I look back on this long, dark winter, I’ll see a light; and the scent of cumin will take me back to Marrakech.

About Gabriella

I'm a twenty-something insomniac with a caffeine addiction and chronic wanderlust. I recently graduated with my M.A. in French, and I've spent the past two years living and working as an English teacher in France. I now work as an English professor at a university in Lille, where my students are learning to never omit the Oxford comma.
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