Love/Hate

I’m in a love/hate relationship with the city I live in. Brussels is gorgeous, but she has her ugly ways. On the surface she seems grey, but when you dig deeper, you find her beauty. Before you know it, you fall in love and you stay. This is how I feel, and I know many people share this affair.

A friend told me she had a foreign visitor in Brussels a week ago. By showing him around her city, she saw the beautiful things you easily overlook or take for granted. “Brussels was having a couple of really good days,” she explained. That’s exactly what she is like, our hometown: with days like moods, the good and the bad.

On Saturday the city was showing me her temper: agitated, hungover, cranky. Cop cars racing around, people fighting and swearing, traffic nearly running me over, dirty old men yelling their dirty old things. I was over it. What am I even doing here? I needed to swim in a bottomless cup of coffee for a while. In Dutch, we call it a ‘bakje troost’ for a reason, which means as much as a cup of comfort.

I hid inside my bubble for a while and wrote it off, which always makes me feel better. My mood changed and so did the city. Friends called to meet up, the air smelled like a fresh Saturday night. An impulsive Thai dinner party under colourful flags followed by a magical sunset, concerts, late night talks under the slice of moon.

I was ready to ride my bike home when a friend suggested we should just quickly check out this bar on our way. African rhythms were playing, bodies shaking like never before. All I needed was to dance to fall in love with Brussels again. It’s in the random things. Unplanned nights turning out to be exactly what you longed for. Bumping into people you haven’t seen in ages, dancing your way into the next day.

Bike rides home when the sun comes up, birds cheering, falling asleep smiling, thinking: Brussels, you’re being so good to me.

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