2004. Edinburgh, Scotland.
My plane touched down at dusk on a cool November evening and I spilled from the taxi in search of the correct ancient looking dorm building at the entirely ancient University of Edinburgh campus. Nervous and excited to see my dear cousin I was wandering pretty aimless when, without warning, BOOM! Fireworks exploded all around, the city screamed with joy and I was, without exaggeration, completely dumbfounded, terrified and awestruck.
I knew what Guy Fawkes day was and what it was about and why existed and that it was a huge deal in Scotland. I also knew pretty theoretically when it was but it hadn't quite registered that I would be landing in Scotland on Guy Fawkes day just in time for the party.
As I found the door and buzzed a chant rang through my head, "remember, remember..." and i felt like an idiot for not remembering...
I got up to the fifth floor, out of breath and exhausted when my cousin and her two best friends in Scotland stripped me of my suitcase, primped me up just a bit and dragged me back to the misty streets and into pub after pub after pub. The whole night is a blur. I remember meeting some cool people and a few nights later we ended up at a rugby match I couldn't follow followed by the ER when a rugby match companion tried to open a beer bottle with his teeth and the neck shattered in his mouth. I remember a small car, a lot of blood, some screaming and a lot of laughing.
But the real memories of the trip were a haze. I was a newly minted 23, finished my degree, aimless and totally and entirely heartbroken. Edinburgh was the first stop on a pretty whirlwind adventure of numbing pain with a plethora of stupid. I was well-behaved in university; i partied with friends and drank but I didn't have a lot of anonymous sex (read ANY) or do drugs much at all (mushrooms made me puke when I was 19 and I've never done them since...). I was a drama nerd and at the end of the day I was pretty uncool drama nerd. I don't care, this isn't about whining about how uncool I was at 23. (If you wanna talk about how uncool I was ask me to tell you I auditioned for Chris Craddock, Ron Jenkins and Brad Moss when I was a 21 year old insufferable cunt).
But I was heartbroken and I wanted to be anyone but who I was and the Edinburgh spring rain was certainly inspiring all kinds un-Michelle behaviour.
-I got wasted and went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art and fell asleep on the toilet there. For like, 30 min.
-I passed out on the train on the way back to Edinburgh from Glasgow.
-I went to Anne Frank house totally off my ass stoned with a French-Canadian named Phillip who mailed hash to his brother pressed between two post cards and a Kiwi named Ebony who clearly had psychic parents; her hair was the most perfect shade of ebony I had ever seen.
-I did nothing of historical value in Boston besides drink with 2 hilarious girls from Dublin. We went bowling somewhere besides Fenway Park.
-Had a lovely, hot makeout in Paris with an Irishman named Owen from Gallway before I passed out on him.
-Drank my way through NYC and Chicago before ending my trip in Washington DC 2 weeks later and having ill-advised sex with a 19 year old former hustler from New Orleans. He lived in the hostel I was staying at in Virginia and we hooked up in my twin bed while a woman from a Scandinavian country who spent her days in the hostel baking bread, slept above us. I flew home a couple days later with a hangover, a new pen pal and my very first pregnancy scare.
I don't highlight these stories to make myself seem cool or to paint a sad trip in a better light. Mostly I spent 3 weeks in Europe and the Eastern United States crying as I checked out moments of great historical significance.
Today is the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes day, and I was suddenly bombarded by the memory of landing in Edinburgh on Guy Fawkes Day. Today is the 8th anniversary of the first day that I started to heal from the worst heartbreak of my life. If I was guessing I would say it took... 4 years, maybe longer. And maybe I will never be totally over it, maybe I never really want to be.
Regardless of time, I suspect that as the years pass I will continue to pass the 5th of November with a delicate and aching fondness. Life isn't suppose to be easy but every once in a while our heartache should end in fireworks!