I am sitting by the window of a hotel room in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I can see the red-brick roof of a building across the way, the sun slowly sinking in the luminescent gray sky behind. It smells of firewood, and I can hear a police siren sounding softly in the distance. Matt, who is the same but maybe a little bit different, is lying on the bed nearby. I can see his hand twitch as he falls asleep. We're both tired after a day walking among the markets and museums of this colorful city, which is filled with ornate Hapsburg-style buildings and a language both unintelligible and striking.
Matt was waiting for me in the Warsaw airport when I stepped off the plane on an afternoon almost two weeks ago. I dropped my bag and he hugged me. I could smell his shampoo and, almost immediately, it felt as though we had never been apart.
Since then, Matt and I have done a lot. We explored the old town squares of Warsaw and Krakow, L'viv and Cherniv'tsi and Cluj. We've eaten many bowls of borscht and plates of mititei. We've drunk countless mugs of tangy dark beer and glasses of surprisingly smooth vodka. We stood by the train tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, surrounded by crumbling buildings, imposing fences, and a crushing sense of the past. We took a sleeper train to L'viv, Ukraine, where we encountered a mask-wearing population terrified of swine flu and stayed in a hotel with a grand but decaying marble staircase. We took a rickety bus filled with smugglers over the border to Romania and found a bucolic countryside--its medieval monasteries painted in deep blues and reds, its Jewish cemeteries crumbling and covered in moss. We drove a car down winding roads through Transylvania, passing countless mud-caked dogs and weather-beaten farmers guiding horses decorated with red tassels. Tonight we'll see an opera, and tomorrow we will take the train to Budapest. Early next week Matt and I will fly our separate ways. I'll return to New York and Matt to Afghanistan, each with countless stories of this trip, which has been a constant adventure. We will be writing more, soon.
As I sit here watching the quickly darkening sky, I'm happy not to think of that next step. I'm not sure what I expected of this time here in Eastern Europe. I'm not sure what I expected of Matt's leave. But thus far it has been a bright and exciting couple of weeks, ones that have reminded me what it feels like to be close, to be together, to laugh in tandem and sleep at the same time. I miss him again already.