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The Receding Transatlantic Tide of Friendship

All those loudly whispered murmurs and rumors are true. I am absolutely the. worst. travel companion.

Ever.

At least that’s the metaphorical slap to the face you delivered as I sat on one of the two twin beds in our small London Heathrow hotel, watching as you screamed like a banshee at me with just one of the twin beds between us.

I feel the sting of it immediately. “You’re a terrible travel companion! Those other women are right! you say, your face flushed with anger. My face betrays me. Your mind registers the low blow, and you snort a half-hearted apology before continuing your tirade.

It was at this moment that our friendship officially died.

Although it had been limping along on life support with each passing day we spent in Europe.

It began with your snide remarks regarding the “proof of life” photo my brother jokingly requested via WhatsApp. And continued with the scoffs you made as I purchased an array of small touristy trinkets for my cousins at each of our cultural stops.

As if my purchase of Peppa Meets the Queen at Buckingham Palace or a tiny Van Gogh puzzle was some deep personal affront to you as a person.

Your jabs finally reach a breaking point inside a 185-square-foot British box of a hotel room, where you aggressively accuse me of being a raging bitch. All while hysterically gathering up your things and announcing that you’ll get your own room.

I’m stuck feeling adrift and thinking the silence between us was definitely better than the current Real Housewives scene unfolding before me.

Frankly, had I known that I wasn’t merely calling out the elephant in the room, but throwing a fucking grenade at it, I would have just stayed in the awkward, unpleasant silence that was growing like mold between us.

Of course, the trip wasn’t all terrible. Not entirely. It’s just that the ebbs quickly started to outweigh the flows.

At least for me.

I found London a wonderful adventure and was in love with Paris from the moment we arrived at our hotel, and I looked out at the Eiffel Tower. However, the receding transatlantic tide of this friendship had revealed a rift too deep for our shared love of mere wine, cheese, and travel to fill. Our invisible canyon-sized breach was no longer overflowing in a champagne sea of common interest. Instead, a thick, smoggy truth of profound differences consumes the space. Differences that, right now, feel so limitless that they seemed to engulf our entire train car as we returned to London. As our friendship, both quietly and dramatically, falls into the abyss. The tracks slowly hustled us toward separate yet parallel ways.

As you collect your makeup bag, purse, and other belongings, I see an opportunity to interject between your heated spouts.

My mouth opens to suggest we have an actual conversation and you are once again ranting about how you are “too emotional” to talk. The gloves come off, momentarily, as I call you an insanely judgmental bigot.

I stop myself, not wanting to mirror your hysterics that seem to be on a non-stop loop. Instead, I try admitting to several wrongdoings of my own, which have helped lead us to this spiraling display fit for the finale of any low-rent reality show that somehow managed to get a whole first season.

But copping to my own misdeeds only fueled your self-righteousness. And yet somehow, I manage to stay calm. Refusing to fire back with cheap shots of my own. Never do I begin shrieking my own distasteful tirade to match your Veruca Salt-esque tantrum that continues to unfold before me.

Wishing that you would grow tired of berating me, I know this frenzy of rage should be of no real surprise.

You spent the better part of the trip back from Paris seething in silence after disappearing for a solid 30 minutes to overact at being asked not to snatch at my belongings. It has been a week of you grabbing my drinks, my souvenirs, my outlet converter – my fucking hair – and it had all just become too much.

So, yes, I snapped and, in a harsh, blunt tone, advised you to ask before touching or taking my things. If this makes me an unreasonable bitch, I frankly don’t give a shit.

The fact is that I should have been a lot firmer when drawing a clear boundary regarding my personal space. Instead, I was left a little blindsided by the realization that Europe had left me to deal with almost an entirely different person. The friend I knew was gone. Replaced by a woman who found themselves completely incapable of not grasping at my belongings and, most importantly, touching me without my consent.

It might have only been my hair, but does that really matter? Men are being rightfully called out left and right for their disregard of consent, and you somehow think that you don’t need it.

Why? Because – as you snapped back – none of your other friends have ever required it. Who the fuck cares? I. do. And my boundaries should be respected. What I got was shamed outside Kensington Palace and forced to mediate an awkward situation in public.

Now I sit in the middle of a twin bed, as if afloat on driftwood, as you blame me for your current manic behavior and insist that we are both “too emotional” to have a simple conversation. I am dangerously drifting in the shrieking rough seas of your anger and can feel the hostility that radiates from your skin. And just like with the electromagnetic waves coming from a microwave, I know that I am standing too close.

Yet, I also don’t care.

Because the truth is, while I am not the raging bitch you are painting me out to be, as the vehement clamor of a spoiled, childish brat unfolds before me, I am a bitch.

A bitch that tossed a grenade – not at the elephant in the room – but at the whole. fucking. ship.

And even now as I sit trying to say something that will make you behave less like a child, I am not even a little sorry. I knew that this would never end with us having a discussion like rational adults.

But I did want it to end.

With each passing day abroad, I watched as your social skills seemed to diminish further and further. Until you were reduced to nothing more than one disdainful comment after another. Or as you call it “sarcasm.”

There is a calm, like the one you might find in the eye of the storm. As you stop yelling, zip up your suitcase and exit the room with your bags. I continue to sit on the bed silently. After a few minutes, I go to the door and check that it is locked. Once back to the comforting softness of my mattress, I lay down and pulled the covers up. Letting the anxiety and tension melt from my body, I breathed out a sigh of relief.

Comforted in the knowledge that I am not taking any extra baggage back with me from Europe.

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by Stephanie Hammond

Stephanie Hammond is a West Virginia transplant who has made Chicago her home and playground. She is active on Instagram as @dancingliterati, where she loves to post pictures of her most recent champagne cocktail and remark on pop culture.


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