When I first decided to travel to all of the cities that Jeff saw during his European adventure last year, I was pretty excited that Prague was on the list.
I have tried for more than a week to write about Vienna. But I can’t. Because the story isn’t about Vienna. As much as I loved the city, it was a backdrop for me. A place that Jeff loved, and the place where I chose to spend what would have been our one-year anniversary.
This story begins like so many others: With a kiss.
Salzburg is one of those cities that utterly befuddles Google Maps, sending unprepared wanderers – like me – into helpless follow-the-blue-dot circles. More than once I took a narrow lane or a steep staircase thinking this can’t be right, only to have the little passageway empty into a sprawling square or a surprise beer garden.
This is why I decided early on to ditch the maps and get impossibly and delightfully lost in Salzburg. That and the fact that the massive fortress at the top of the hill – visible from nearly everywhere in the city – pretty much guarantees that, as long as you know where you live in relation to the fortress, you won’t be lost forever.
Some time ago, Jeff’s dad and step-mom decided to do a once-in-a-lifetime trip with their sons. When they asked Jeff and his brother, Greg, where they would like to go, I am told that Jeff was immediate with his response: Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
So, a little over one year ago, they walked mile after mile through those three cities, with Jeff often insisting on long walks rather than trains or cabs. (Greg long ago nicknamed Jeff “the Yeti” for his long strides and love of fast-paced walking.)
There is a part of me that knew that my fiancé was dying. But I resisted that knowledge and convinced myself that he was too strong, too young, too upbeat to die, even as his shockingly aggressive cancer ravaged his body. Jeff’s ordeal with cancer was not a battle. It was an onslaught and it came out of nowhere.
While some part of me knew it would happen, watching Jeff take his last breath – not even four months after his diagnoses – broke more than just my heart. It also broke my tether to the life I was leading.
When I booked a one-way ticket to Europe, I thought I would write and write and write. And, while I have written, it is not, as expected, a slew of blog posts that I’m putting on paper. Instead, it is the book that I have talked about writing for years that is suddenly pouring out of me. In the meantime, this blog is getting a bit dusty.
The fact is, fiction is easier for me than the real stuff right now. So, instead of staring at an empty page, I’m going to skip the beginning of this story and the reason that I am here in Europe. That will come later.
For now…I’ll write about the joy of connecting with one of my best friends in one of the greatest cities in the world: London.