“Every flower stands for a person I’ve lost,” she explained, pointing to the tattooed daisies on her shoulder. We were sitting on a stained, pink couch in my brother’s living room, drinking tonic and gin. With her red hair, pierced nose, and torn up jeans, she looked like a wild child.
The night before, my brother and I had been sitting in folding chairs, eating pasta. My brother was studying at the film academy in Brussels and I was considering studying in the capital next year too, so he invited me to stay with him for a week. Actually, I pretty much invited myself. But we’re family, so it’s allowed.
“I just don’t want to leave my friends,” I said. We were talking about my plans and how I was still not sure whether to stay in Ghent or go someplace new.
“You’ll make new ones,” he answered. “It’s not that your friends are the only people you will ever get along with.”
“They are the first ones, though.”
“Look, tomorrow, I’ll invite my friends over, and you’ll see that it is possible to start a new friend group in college.”
Now we were tomorrow, and I was studying the girl’s tattoo. Next to her, sat this couple that had been together for six years. The girlfriend was flashing a cute, dimply smile, while her boyfriend was showing off the jazz guitar on his forearm. It still had the pink glow of a newly inked tattoo. Then there was the girl that took dancing lessons with my brother. Her hair was dyed black and her makeup was done in that Golden Era style.
“There is still room for more flowers,” the girl with the daisies said. “Should anyone else I know die.” I didn’t know how to react, so I smiled awkwardly.
After a drinking game, we headed out to Madame Moustache – a jazz club at walking distance. The tattooed boyfriend brought his harmonica. While he played, the girl with the black hair made up lyrics. “It’s raining. I hope we’ll get there soon. But we won’t stay long. Tomorrow we have to go to school.” When we got there, we were all soaking wet. All the girls had to wring out their hair. But then they just rushed to the dance floor.
Later that night, my brother tried to teach me salsa but failed miserably. We danced, drank beer, danced some more, and a bit later, we all went home. Exhausted, I collapsed on my brother’s couch and fell asleep.
In the morning, I woke up and realized that I was feeling too comfortable. I loved my friends. But I realized that I wanted what my brother had too. I wanted excitement and not knowing exactly what I’d be doing that night. I wanted to feel in extremes. To cry harder and laugh louder. To dance salsa and sing on the streets. And maybe Ghent wasn’t the place. Maybe I felt too rooted there to ever truly feel free. And even though I will always come back, I can’t stay. Because being home feels so good that I might never leave again. And there’s a whole world out there to see.