I miss you.

It’s just something I say. Lately it’s been true every time, but I’m used to missing people. I’m used to being far away from the ones I love. Nearly all of my family lives in Brazil, and I only see them once a year, if that.

I’m also used to getting what I want. I don’t often want unreasonable things. I used to – I used to want to go on adventures and fight dragons and ride a horse and never do my homework. But I’ve learned, and I don’t often truly, desperately want impossible things anymore. I want cookies, I want good teachers, I want to learn languages, I want to read good books. I want things I can fetch for myself, or things that I can reasonably expect to get.

But I want my friends back. I want to see them, to hear them, to feel them sitting next to me. I want to hold them tight and feel their arms around me. I want to laugh with them. I want to know they’re there. I want to spend all night talking with them. I want them back.

My brain is nice to me. It blocks out painful memories, or at least it blocks out memories of pain. I don’t remember crying much when I moved to Denmark, although my mother tells me that I did. I don’t remember much from the months before we moved – I don’t even remember movies I watched then, which is a bit scary in a way. I don’t particularly remember most of these past two months. It helps that I didn’t do much – just sat around on my computer, read books, wrote stories, watched movies. I didn’t do anything. I even remember wondering how much of it I would forget.

I don’t remember how unhappy I was. In a few weeks I probably won’t remember today, either. I won’t remember that I’m crying right now.

I annoy myself. I’m so self-indulgent. I’m so used to getting what I want that when I don’t, I just sort of mope about, giving people pitiful, begging looks. (Usually this is when I want someone to make me food because navigating the fridge seems impossibly hard.) I know that I’m being ridiculous, so I rarely break down and ask for anything, and my family is not prone to giving me things just because I give them puppy eyes. So I’ve learned to get things for myself or go without. (Again, usually food.) And yet, because what I truly want is always something I can easily get, I still haven’t learned to just grow up and deal with it.

They’re so far away, and I don’t know what to do.

I knew it would be like this. I knew I’d be miserable. I’ve moved before, and these are the most amazing friends. I expected this. I even packed my biggest stuffed animal in my hand luggage for the express purpose of hugging him whenever I needed to cry.

The problem with forgetting my misery like this is that I don’t learn to cope very well. Every new misery feels almost as fresh as the last. And I haven’t been properly miserable in weeks, so my mind has presumably deemed it safe to throw out all the memories that could help me get some perspective right now.

I’m going to have to go through a year of this. Maybe a little less. Presumably I’ll get better at it. People do, I’m told. There’s no reason why I should be any different. I have been getting better at it.

It’s odd. A few days ago I was unhappy that I couldn’t make myself miss them enough to curl up into a little ball and sob for longing. I’m so good at pushing my feelings back, at distracting myself, at not missing people that I can’t cry for any extended period of time. My mind wanders over to other things and won’t let me.

They were all unhappy yesterday, for one reason or another. Or maybe it wasn’t all of them, but it felt like it. Mostly they just had bad days at work, or ran into unpleasant people. Maybe this is what’s making me feel this way. I want to be there and cheer them up. I do the best I can from over here, and sometimes I succeed, but I want to hug them and laugh with them and talk about random things until they’re smiling again. If I’m being honest with myself, there’s no reason I’d have been able to do it in Denmark, either; it’s not like I would necessarily have seen them just then. Maybe this was just a reminder of how far away I am. Maybe that’s why it hurts.

Every language has certain words that are untranslatable, and of which native speakers are often very proud. In Danish it’s hyggelig, which has many meanings, but mostly means a warm, happy feeling of being surrounded by good things, of being content. In Portuguese it’s saudade, which means that special longing for something that you no longer have. The sorrow of being parted from someone you love.

It’s a good word. It doesn’t have to be tragic. It doesn’t have to be permanent. It doesn’t even have to be serious.

It just hurts, that’s all.



A year ago I was in the school play. It was a musical – a translated and abridged version of Across the Universe – and the cast consisted mostly of third-year students who already knew each other and were confident enough in their friendships to be loud and expansive. I had fun watching them, and I was pleased to find that they were all welcoming and friendly (not to mention entertaining). Shy and reserved as I am around strangers, it took me forever to even start talking to them, but I really enjoyed their company.

We performed four consecutive nights, the last one being a Thursday. Friday morning everyone arrived at school at ten to clean up, after which most of us adjourned to McDonald’s. I don’t even like McDonald’s, but there’s one just down the street from the school which, by virtue of being open 24/7, is the standard Place to Go after school parties and what-have-you. We hung out there for a while, and then the people I was sitting with all sort of agreed that it was time to go. I got up to go as well, in a go-with-the-flow sort of way, and left. I considered joining the other table-full of people, but then I had made it out the door and it was a bit late now, wasn’t it? I shrugged with mild regret and went home.

I arrived to find that my sister had a friend over. I quite like this friend, but I didn’t feel like joining them (or intruding), so I went off to the living room and worked on a puzzle which we’d had sitting on the table for the previous week or so. I sat there, putting the pieces together, feeling sad and confused.


Why? I wondered. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that I was lonely. This surprised me. I realized that I didn’t remember ever having been lonely before – ever missing the actual presence of specific other people before. When I was younger, whenever I was sad I would pull out a book and immerse myself. This would distract me and comfort me, and when I was finished with the book I would either have gotten over it or regained my composure enough to deal with the issue, whatever it was.

This time, though, a book wasn’t good enough. I wanted people – these specific people, too, because joining my sister and her friend wouldn’t have cut it. I didn’t know what to do – it was too late to go back, and – well, I’d never had this problem before. I didn’t know how to cope.

It was surprising. I am tempted to say shocking. I was, in any case, left in a state of some disbelief and wonderment at the fact that I had, to the best of my knowledge, never felt true loneliness before.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. I think my main point is that I’m not used to the presence or absence of other people having any effect on my happiness, or at least not an effect I can’t brush aside, change or ignore. More broadly speaking, I’m not used to other people having the ability to determine my happiness. It leaves me a bit frightened, which I have mostly gotten over by now because I trust the people who currently have power over my happiness; but it also leaves me a bit lost, because I don’t know what to do when I start missing these people. I don’t know how to cope.

Something just occurred to me. When I moved to Denmark, I left behind everything I knew. The pain and confusion was immense. I yearned for what I no longer had. I threw myself into any book, tv show or anime I could find because I couldn’t bear to be out of them, to be in the real world, in a rented apartment filled with nothing. That was loneliness – I just never called it by that name. I used stronger words, like longing, homesickness, sorrow, desolation. And the whole “a book wouldn’t help” business didn’t apply because I knew that it wasn’t going to fix the situation but also that nothing would; so the best thing to do would be anything that would numb the pain. Stories are my escape from reality whenever I need them to be, and I flung myself into stories.

The pain was something within myself, which there was no (viable) cure for; stories gave me distance from myself. This loneliness that I feel nowadays is different: there is a viable cure, and it is simply to be around my friends. To be amidst and among them, to be surrounded by them. That’s really all it takes, and this time we actually are in the same city (not to mention on the same continent). This isn’t a pain that I expected, one where I knew that the only option was to just learn to deal with it. The cure for this pain is not so impossible to reach, so I am always tempted to go after it even when it’s impractical and/or selfish. (Not to mention it still blindsides me like a ton of bricks every time, so I’m left confused and uncertain on top of being lonely.) Stories may still give me distance from myself, but when I come back I find myself in the same mess as before.