Nostalgia: Page 6 // Paper Houses - Niall
We gingen binnen bij Jays favoriete restaurant, dat de naam ‘Meneer Smakers’ droeg, iets wat ze me meerdere keren liet uitspreken voor we daadwerkelijk naar binnen gingen.
‘They have the most amazing burgers here,’ verklaarde Jay terwijl ze de deur voor me openhield. 'Also vegetarian ones.'
We bestelden en zochten een tafel uit. Tijdens het avondeten viel er nauwelijks een stilte. We lachten en we praatten, terwijl we herinneringen ophaalden en elkaar verhalen vertelden van de tijd dat we elkaar gemist hadden. Ik vertelde over mijn backpackavonturen en Jay vertelde me over alle mooie plekjes van Utrecht die ik nog niet gezien had: de parken, de universiteitsgebouwen, de botanische tuinen, de plekken waar iedereen zomers aan het water zat en alle lieflijke straatjes die je ook buiten het centrum tegenkwam.
Pas toen we Meneer Smakers weer verlieten, viel er een stilte tussen ons.
'What are you thinking of?' vroeg ik Jay, omdat ik wist dat ze op zulke momenten in gedachten verzonken was, zoals ik dat vroeger eigenlijk ook altijd wel aan haar kon merken, en ik diezelfde vraag al ontelbare keren aan haar gesteld had.
'What eighteen-year-old Jay would do right now,' was Jays antwoord. Interessant.
'And what would she do?'
'That's the thing: I'm not sure. My head jumps to things like pulling my clothes off and jumping into the canal, or grabbing your hands to dance with you, while I sing at the top of my lungs. But sometimes, when I ask myself that question, I just find it very hard to come up with something. Like I'm somehow detached from who I used to be.'
Achttienjarige Jay zou me zoenen. Want achttienjarige Jay was dol op me. Of in elk geval op negentien-/twintigjarige Niall.
'Eighteen-year-old Jay would just make sure we had a good time. That doesn't have to be to complicated.'
Jay glimlachte. 'That's true.' Vervolgens vervolgde ze: 'I sometimes like to think that all my younger selves still live inside me, and they sometimes come out. And sometimes they judge the things I do. Thirteen-year-old me didn't wear green, so she wouldn't like my shoes and shirt. Six-year-old me would think it's weird that I'm not married yet, since I'm a "grown up" now. Sixteen-year-old me wonders why I don't draw that much anymore, and so on. They're all still there, but sometimes they feel like completely different people as compared to me now.'
'But they're still you. I know you've changed, or at least you think you do, and you might look at things differently, but I still see a girl who is completely honest about everything, and kind, and social and who thinks deeply and likes to share her thoughts. I think you think you've become less optimistic, but you might just experience it in a different way right now. I think you're still hopeful, maybe just about different things. If you cut off your hair, you'd still be you, or if you chose to live in a cabin in a forrest and not speak to anyone anymore, you'd still be you. Everything that makes you you is still there, but maybe some things just seem to have a different shape of size right now.'
Jay glimlachte. 'Thanks. I think I needed that.' Voor ik het wist had haar hand de mijne opgezocht en hield ze hem heel even vast, om er heel even in te knijpen. 'I guess I didn't realize how much I needed to talk about these things, until I saw you again. You bring up this nostalgia, but maybe that's good. Maybe I needed this to be able to let some things go, like the fact that life didn't go how I wanted it to go, and this can help me to get where I want to be.'
'You could say that everything happens for a reason, but I doubt you would believe in that.'
Jay lachte. 'Yeah, I still don't believe in fate and that sort of stuff. I think everything I my life up to now has only proven that.'
'Maybe you only need to believe that, so the universe can get to what it has planned for you,' zei ik, waarop Jay opnieuw moest lachen. 'Well, at least you're still as stubborn about these things as you always was.'
'Hey!' Plagerig gaf ze me een zachte duw, waarop ik haar een zachte duw teruggaf. We begonnen langzaam terug te lopen langs de gracht, nu door het donker van deze novemberavond.
'I think I needed this as well,' sprak ik toen. 'You know, a part of me always wondered... What would have happened if we had never broken up? But seeing you again made me realize that maybe it's better this way. Just because our lifestyles are so different and because we would live so far apart. Not to say that I don't think you're still absolutely great and I find you very attractive, because I do, but however much it hurt back then, maybe it was still the right thing.' Ik zuchtte terwijl ik mezelf van mijn eigen woorden probeerde te overtuigen. Natuurlijk wist ik dat ze klopten, maar er was ook iets anders. Nu ik Jay weer zag, wist ik ook dat de chemie die er vanaf dag één tussen ons was geweest er nog steeds op de een of andere manier was. Het was nog steeds even makkelijk en fijn om met haar te praten, ondanks het feit dat we elkaar tweeënhalf jaar niet hadden gezien en het niet bepaald op een goede manier was afgelopen tussen ons.
'I wholehartedly agree,' stemde Jay in, 'also with the "still finding you absolutely attractive" thing.' We lachten allebei.
'I always thought: if we'd loved each other so much, how could it have gone wrong? But maybe it was just the right feelings, but not the right place or time.'
Jay glimlachte. 'I always like to think that, even though I don't believe in alternate universes, there would be some sort of alternate universe in which we did end up together. Like, if we didn't get into that fight, or if we found each other again after a few years but in this case, it was the right place, and time, or if we had made up right away and tried to work on our relationship or if you had picked up the phone when I called you a few months later. I like that thought, somehow.' Maar Jays laatste woorden waren al zowat aan me voorbij gegaan door wat ze daarvoor had gezegd en ik was bevroren in mijn voetstappen.
'What did you just say?' stootte ik halfverbijsterd uit. 'About calling me?'
'Right. I forgot you didn't know about that.' Jay beet op haar lip, alsof ze opeens niet meer wist wat ze moest zeggen, terwijl door mijn hoofd opeens alleen maar vragen spookten. Hoe? Wat? Wanneer? En vooral: hoe kon het dat ik een telefoontje van Jay gemist had? 'It was in June that year, 2014, right after I had gotten back to the Netherlands from Paris. I'd seen an interview of you in which you said you were single, so I knew that for you it was definitely over, but in an impulsive moment I thought that maybe I could still make it up, because I still loved you. So I tried to call you with one of my friends' phones, but you didn't pick up. And then I didn't try again, because I just felt like I messed up and it was probably better this way, like you said.'
Ik wist ergens wel dat ze gelijk had, maar ik was ook gewoonweg verbijsterd. 'Jay, if I had known, really, if I knew on any level that you had called me, that you had wanted to make things right, that you still wanted to be with me, I would have tried to make things right. Why didn't you call again? I would have called you, if I just knew. I would have tried to mend things.'
'But would you? Niall, it was months later. What if you had gotten mad at me for calling you out of the blue? I didn't know if you wanted to speak to me. And again, I probably thought it was for the better.'
'For the better? Do you remember how much it fucking hurt, not speaking to you again? Or was that just me? All this time, waiting for even a sign of you, waiting for you to call me, just so I'd know... that you still wanted to be with me.' Ik beet op mijn lip omdat ik nu half boos en half emotioneel begon te worden. Waar ik bang voor was dat vandaag zou gebeuren, was ook daadwerkelijk gebeurd: ik had de pijn van tweeënhalf jaar geleden weer opgedoken. 'If I'd even just had felt like you still loved me, I would have taken you back, worked on us.'
'How could you even think I didn't love you anymore, back then? Niall, of course I loved you, but sometimes just love is not enough.'
'How is it not enough? Jay, what you and I had never felt like just love to me, it felt like magic. I'd never been so in love before and I've never been so in love again. I know things feel bigger when you're a teenager, but it's what I worry about too. What if I'll never find this again?' Ik haalde diep adem en gooide er toen uit wat ik al de hele tijd had willen zeggen: 'You know, all these years, I had been wondering why we broke up in the first place, cause it just never made sense to me. How could something that was so right just suddenly go so wrong? I always kept wondering, and that's why I didn't reach out before, that's why I didn't try to call you when you didn't try to call me, that's why I always kept myself from doing that and why I didn't come to look for you when I went to Amsterdam that same year we broke up: I was afraid of the truth. I was afraid that, you had your reasons, of not wanting to be with me anymore, and I didn't want to know them, because maybe those reasons would hurt me even more than just not speaking to you anymore. But here you are now, and you're not giving me any reasons. You're just saying generic things like "love isn't enough" and "it was just not the right place and time", like you're not realizing that because of this wondering, because we never really got closure, I just feel like I've never really been able to fully let you go, and maybe that just hurt more in the long run. I've just always kept thinking whether our love was really that good, and if that spark would still be there if we met today, and why we really broke up and if I'd ever find a love like that again. Somehow, every fucking song I write ends up being about you, Jay, because I've just never been able to get you out of my head!' Ik had nauwelijks gemerkt dat ik langzaamaan harder was gaan praten, totdat ik uiteindelijk bijna schreeuwde. Jay staarde me verbijsterd aan en ik had het gevoel dat ze ook elk moment in soortgelijk geschreeuw kon uitbarsten, maar in plaats daarvan klonk haar stem bijna gebroken toen ze antwoordde. 'Do you want to know why we broke up Niall?' Ze haalde diep adem. 'Do you want to know why? It was because of everything I was afraid of ever since I met you. I don't know if you realized, but our relationship felt like a time bomb to me. Maybe it was a side effect of being hurt before, or maybe I thought eighteen was to young to find your happily ever after, or maybe I just knew that it wouldn't work out because we were in a long distance relationship and everything seemed complicated, but I just felt, no, I knew that it was going to end, I just didn't know when. So when we had that fight and you told me to call you back when I had figured it out, I partly didn't call back because I hadn't figured anything out, since I still don't have, two and a half years later, and partly because I thought: if it was going to end, it might as well end there and then. I just thought that it might be easier to say nothing than to actually say goodbye, because I couldn't bare to do that. And also, after all my other heartbreaks, I just didn't want you to be the one that hurt my like that. I'd rather just hurt myself before you did.' Ik had niet gerealiseerd dat ze huilde - het was immers ook donker - voordat ze haar handen naar haar wangen bracht om de tranen weg te wrijven en ik merkte dat haar ademhaling schokkerig was. 'I'm sorry I hurt you, Niall,' zei ze toen langzaam. 'I never wanted that. Just know that it wasn't all my fault, that it takes two people to break up a relationship. You could have called me too, you know, and then I mean before a month ago. But if I'd choose to blame one of us, I'd pick me too.'
Ik voelde zelf ook een brok in mijn keel. Misschien dat dat door Jays tranen kwam, of door de emotie die haar statement bij me opwekte of de woede die momenten eerder nog eigenlijk wel gevoeld had of alles bij elkaar, maar ik moest vechten om niet te huilen.
'I'm sorry too,' zei ik, al wist ik niet precies waarvoor, terwijl ik voelde hoe er tranen op mijn wangen terecht waren gekomen.
En toen deed ik wat ik op dat moment zeker niet van mezelf verwacht had: ik zoende Jay. Ik legde mijn handen op haar middel en trok haar naar me toe en sloot mijn ogen en zocht haar lippen. Ik wilde haar dichtbij me, ik wilde weer voelen zoals ik me vroeger gevoeld had, ik wilde zien of ons vuur er nog was, of wij nog bestonden, of er nog vonken zouden overspringen en ik wist niet zeker of ik vonken voelde, maar er was toch zeker wel iets. Voor ik het wist, had Jay ook haar armen om mij heen gewikkeld, en hielden we elkaar vast, als de stukjes van twee gebroken mensen die voor de rest van de wereld deden alsof ze vrolijk waren, die we waren.