After a week of parades and visitors, big meals and wine, conversation and company, life slowly eddies back into its normal patterns. I sit, I read, I work. My head swirls with words gleaned from books, blogs, and podcasts. I go to the gym, the grocery store, and Portuguese lessons. I make lunch, Gabe makes dinner. The strongest thing I drink is my morning coffee, or perhaps my afternoon tea, depending on how British I’m feeling that day.

Slowly, silence settles in, and I welcome its return.

Gabe asked me this morning if I wanted to come in and have lunch with him at uni today, as he didn’t want me to feel isolated. I replied that after a week of company, it’ll be some time til I feel isolated again. I have refilled my socialization tanks for quite a while.

All the same, for a short time after our guests left, I felt a strange, unfamiliar sensation flitting around the edges of my day: loneliness. I’ve grown used to the ways of my solitude, but as I eased back into them on Monday morning, I found they didn’t fit me quite as well as before. Being around family, having good conversation readily available, not feeling like a fish out of water for a few short, precious days… all of this was a rare gift, one which I am learning to value quite highly.

As I stare down the barrel of March though, I know that my year of introspection and relative isolation will draw to a close sooner than I might like. Two or three months ago, the thought of leaving Lisbon at the end of July was enough to fill me with hope and mild elation. But during my workout yesterday, I thought about leaving Lisbon for the last time — actually packing up and leaving our flat, getting on the plane, bidding goodbye to these red roofs and snarling streets, not knowing when or if we’ll be back. My heart rate, already elevated from the elliptical machine, took another mighty leap.

Don’t get me wrong — I am excited to come home. But with home comes a resumption of responsibilities, both as homeowners and professionals, and also as part of a society and a community. Here I have carved a small, quiet resting space for myself amidst the din and bluster of Portuguese society, and I am content to let it go about its business as I go about mine. My only emotional responsibilities here are to myself and to my husband, which at first disoriented me, but now has become a welcome respite from the heavy weight of the past few years. I have come to value the simplicity of life here and the clarity it provides, and am loathe to give that up when I dive back into the real world.

But as usual, I get ahead of myself. Five months is still a long time to go, and I’m sure many adventures await me between now and the time we bid adios to Lisbon. Until that day, I will focus all the more on what’s around me: the solitude of my days at home, the hours of working in quiet harmony with Gabe, our weekend adventures either in Lisbon or further afield. And of course the people: the grimly fit community at the gym; the restoration artist across the street; the little old lady with the fat, sweater-wearing dachshund that I saw walking up our street this morning.

The city itself somehow manages to clamor for my attention, telling me to absorb as much of it as I possibly can. As I walked home under scudding clouds and a temporarily blue sky this morning, I passed the little yellow tram that goes up the hill near our flat. As usual, there was fresh graffiti painted on the side of it, helpfully reminding me that “This is Lisboa”:

So it is, my friend, so it is. Even that very graffiti, which I found so offensive at first, is now beautiful, simply because it is Lisbon.

As Gabe said to me yesterday, this place seems to have gotten under my skin. Funny how that happens.

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