How She Brought Me Here
The last few months in New York weren’t pretty. The city began suffocating like a snake and there was no escaping it. Every stranger on the street, every horn blaring at 1am, every unkind remark…if before I could stomach it, those last few months it became too big of a burden to carry. How did I find myself here? How did I become encrusted by this hard shell and unsmiling face? Walk straight, march, one two – one two, never look in the eyes, dodge the mobs, curse at cars trying to run you over. Beeline, don’t stroll. Beeline.
In her death Lapa gave me the biggest gift of all: perspective. Coming back to our Brooklyn apartment at 11pm after we buried her in my favorite hoodie became just that: coming back to an apartment. It was all there: the walls, the floors, the furniture. Just as we had left it: clothes on the floor, unmade bed, dishes in the sink. It was all there, but that moment when the key turned and the door opened and I walked in, it was no longer a home. Suddenly all these things were just things. Nothing more.
In her old (and young) age, Lapa mostly slept all day on her favorite pink pillow at the foot of our bed, only occasionally getting up to make her customary lap around the living room, through (yes, through) the water bowl, and back to sleep. The black nails on her little feet would scurry across the wooden floors and I would smile as soon as I’d hear them. Tap tap tap tap. She was tiny, but she filled every room with a fierce fire that couldn’t be escaped or ignored.
And so, in her comfort changing form, Lapa gave me the biggest gift of all: freedom. She made me ask myself: what is keeping you here? Do you really want to stay? And the answer was no. Not anymore.
During our last two weeks in Annecy we spent countless hours trying to determine where to go next. Before we left New York we’d only planned as far as April 31st, and while the world being your oyster is all fine and dandy, it can also be more frightening than hell-bats attacking you in the night. Brussels? Berlin? Poland? Barcelona? Italy? Switzerland? Nothing felt quite right.
With only six days until we’d have to sleep on a bench in front of Lake Annecy because we just couldn’t decide where to go, I turned to David and said: “How about Lisbon?”
To which David replied: “Are you serious? I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
The funny thing is that neither of us never, ever in our lives even considered or thought about going to Lisbon. Not once did it cross our minds when we daydreamed of frolicking around the world. But in that very moment, it came to us at exactly the same time. Lisbon felt right. More right than Genève, or Berne, or Lausanne, so tickets were bought, an apartment was found, and we were ready to go. Little did we know this wasn’t any apartment, but a special one, on a narrow cobble-stone street called Calçada de Estrela.
Here let me backtrack, for but a moment, to the days after Lapa’s metamorphosis from this life, and how desperately I prayed and asked her to give me a sign, any sign, that she was still with me. Alas, no matter how much I begged, the pain was too great and I was too close to see, and she only came to me in dreams. In those dreams she played with other dogs in the snow (neither of which she would have ever done in life). She was happy, and well, but this wasn’t enough. I wanted a sign. And I wanted it while I was awake.
And so, you can imagine my astonishment when of all places, in all the world, with no forethought and completely by chance, I found myself in an apartment smack in the middle of Lisboa’s Lapa Quarter. Yes, you read that right, Lapa Quarter. As in, every other street here is called Rua Lapa. And on every corner there is Lapa Pharmacia, Lapa Hotel, Lapa Restaurant, and my personal favorite: Lapa Palace.
Here I am. An ocean away from a city that wouldn’t give me peace. 11 days in one of the most magical places I’ve ever been and I got what I asked for, smiling at me from every street sign every time I go outside.