Long distance relationship
"Like the colours in autumn so bright, just before they lose it all"
I’m writing these lines on a train from Providence to New Haven; the tracks are lined with red and golden trees and I’ve seen more pumpkins in the past two weeks than I ever thought imaginable. Spending this season in New England has allowed me to live in what I can only describe as an episode of Gilmore Girls. This cliché picture wouldn’t be complete however without the soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s Red, and so I play her newly released rerecord on my Spotify and let it take me back to a parallel autumn, nine years ago, when I’d first heard the original version.
My sad girl autumn story started in the spring of 2012 and high school was almost over. I’d waited what felt like an eternity for that summer to come, so I could turn 18 and finally leave home, be free and start my own life. I clearly hadn’t planned to fall in love with a boy who was about to spend the next four years across the ocean. How could I have known that what started out as a drunken kiss at a friend’s birthday party, would turn into a six year-long long distance relationship? And so it went from butterflies in the stomach as we were sitting in that movie theatre wondering when he would grab my hand, to happy dancing in my bathroom as I received that “will you go to the prom with me?” text message, to tear filled eyes as he told me he loved me for the very first time on that bus, and suddenly I wanted the summer to never come for I knew that our rollercoaster ride would inevitably crash into the fatal goodbye. Time flew too fast, and that long-awaited 18th birthday turned out to be our last day together. We parted, not knowing when we would see each other again, if ever, but I would later find out this would not even be our hardest goodbye.
It took three patient months on different time zones, getting on a plane to a new continent and living out the film of our reunion to really knock me down. We had two weeks of autumn together filled with Georgetown cupcakes, walks around the Washington monuments, runs along the Potomac river, “If you’re a bird I’m a bird” and we held each other close during Hurricane Sandy. When our time was up once again, he dropped me at Dulles airport (which would over the years become my official crying spot) and on November 11th 2012, what landed in grey Paris was nothing but a ghost suffering from the withdrawal of those past two weeks. We weren’t broken up, but I was heart broken.
I waited that winter out, listening to Red on my iPod every morning to find the strength to get out of bed and go to class, during which I would stare at the digital note on my laptop screen that counted down the days until we would be together again. This ebb and flow was the hardest, and the patronisers placed their bets on how long it would take us to give up. We knew we would eventually prove them wrong: on November 11th 2019, he asked me to marry him, and two years on we’re off the grid, travelling the world together.
The photos from those two weeks in 2012 show a couple of innocent kids sitting on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, and I can’t help but smile, not just at how far we’ve come, but also at how much we’ve both grown. Nine years later, I can say that was the best part: the growing together, even if apart. And so I now listen to Red (Taylor’s version) as it was intended, looking back on the journey and feeling fully outgrown.
And I know it’s long gone, but that magic’s still here.
I’ve written about what it means for Taylor Swift to rerecord her back catalogue over on my friend Chiara’s newsletter. Here’s a little excerpt:
Revisiting [these old songs] today with the hindsight of the last 13 (coincidence?) years is a chance to celebrate growth, and be reminded of who we once were, and who we’ve become since, thus fulfilling the ‘Wish you could go back / And tell yourself what you know now’ from ‘Fifteen.’
Image credit: All Too Well: The Short Film, Taylor Swift