The darkness had settled among the alleys and corridors of Kaiserslautern as I parked my car at my usual spot in the now abandoned grocery store parking lot. I left the engine running as I continued to listen to the final verses of Lloraras. I could identify with the song. I would no longer be doing the crying, he would. Or would he? I found myself fighting the tears, not because I missed him, but because I was ashamed to have been one of those women that stay in a horrid, toxic relationship because they thought they were worth no better. I had come to believe that I was worthless, scum, nothing. His words had been seeded into my mind, and it was only through my friends, outings to the local Irish pub, and my move that slowly started to make me see otherwise. With the trumpets fading in the background I turned the car off and gathered my phone and purse in the darkness. I could already see my breath, despite it being mid May. After seven years of living in Germany I still had to brace myself with strength with each winter. This winter seemed to linger ever so tepidly into spring and had stayed back to remind me of its tenacity.

My heels clapped as I walked across the street to my friend Patricia’s house. We would have the regular drink before drinks. I could hear her and Anna’s laughter echo through the white tiled stairwell of her building. An uncontrollable smile appeared on my face as I went up the three flights of stairs. They were probably already drinking Patricia’s beloved Tequila, and Anna was most likely recounting one of the thousand spanish sayings she found appropriate for the moment. My doubts sat still at her door as I entered her warm apartment. Their vibrant life filled energy, embraced me alongside their open arms. I enjoyed their stories, their dirty side comments, and I awaited patiently for our nightly adventure. It was never a bore with them. We always met interesting people, heard stories, and had a laugh. Tonight would be no different.

As Anna smoked her home rolled cigarettes and spoke without taking breaths, we walked through the downtown. The night was lively for the sleepy Kaiserslautern. College students and American patrons ran through the streets singing, laughing, or waddling to the next establishment where they would probably continue to get their drink on. We entered into the Irish pub where there was live music and just enough space to walk and sandwich yourself between other night owls. By chance we found an empty spot to lean against and place our bags. I observed the crowd before me, still a bit uncomfortable with my need to pretend to be comfortable. Despite wearing a dress, heels and makeup I could hear his voice within me shouting at me in his usual mocking voice “You really think anyone would want you? You are so ugly.” I shook my head as if trying to erase those words from my memory and ordered a Cola beer. If I couldn’t erase them, I would wash them away, or at least for tonight.

Among the sea of alcohol tainted eyes I kept catching wandering glimpses of a young stranger. He would smile, make flirty gestures and finally after finishing his beer walked over. My arms remained crossed in front of me as I smiled nervously. I could tell he had already been drinking quite a bit as he smelled of beer and sweat. But despite my abhorrence of the smell he whispered in my ear. “You are beautiful, you know that? I think, no, I know I am the luckiest guy in the bar.” I laughed, “Why?” “Well because I am sitting next to you.” I was slowly becoming intoxicated by his words. He was saying things I had only faint memories of, back when I was in high school, or in art school. And he continued to whisper with such ease. The beautiful nonsense was endless and heavy. Despite not being attracted to him at all. I began to see him in a different light. I knew he was drunk, and looking for fun, but I needed to hear this. My arms slowly began to loosen up and fell to my side as I leaned in close to his mouth as if to catch all the words coming from his drunken state. All I could do was stare into those half sunken eyes that stared back at me as if hoping that something would happen. Nothing would, except the mere thought of a fleeting daydream.

I only craved words, nothing more. I could not bring myself to kiss someone without there being at least a slight sense of chemistry. "Just have fun mujer!" they would always say. "You are a free woman now. Enjoy life. Live life. Stop thinking so much." And slowly, my sense of Roman Catholic-dom began to slip. Why did I have this sense of purity? Where did it come from? I who wanted to live in Paris writing stories and creating art for art sake, had forgotten my true desire to be spontaneous, passionate, and free.

With each day at 6 am, I would stare out my living room window and watch as the clouds would break away and slowly allow the sun in. Every morning, with my coffee in hand, I had a sense of liberation. Unknowingly, as I stared, I was finding myself, just like the sun would find its way through the gray thick clouds that covered Germany. I was questioning my habits, my beliefs, my desires, my future; because I alone could finally make my decisions. I now longer needed the permission of my mother, my grandfather, or my ex husband. I alone decided, and that realization came with fear. Oh so much fear. Would I make the right decisions? Did I even know who I was? Was the real me gone forever?

It all seemed so bleak, so daunting to even attempt to peer at these questions, that loomed over me like mountains; mountains without a peak. Would I even truly. Know myself? Had too much time been wasted? I had left my desires, dreams, hopes, thoughts to rot in a box, because they did not conform, they were too loud, to boisterous, too bohemian for someone so prestigious. And by leaving them behind, they had lost their luster. They no longer shone in the darkness.

It would only be later, that a man in a hat would help me find my way back to myself.