I went to Albania to try and get back with an ex-girlfriend, though that is only half the story. The trip had been planned in advance; Anna, a Swedish girl I had been seeing for about eighteen months, gave me as a birthday present a plane ticket to Tirana to accompany her on a visit to her parents — her father was then working there for the EU. That was six weeks before we were due to go but the day after the birthday the relationship came to what seemed to me to be an abrupt end. It was a banal incident of lateness brought on by boozing with friends during a week I was staying with her in Paris that ended it all. I was late replying to her text message, I was late going to meet her after she finished work, then I misread a text message and inferred I would be better off going home and meeting her back at her apartment. It was the weekend of a World Cup qualifying match between France and Ireland, which I thought might serve as mitigating circumstances but Anna had had enough, enough of being used as a hotel, as she said, and it was over between us. I didn’t like the recrimination too much but I had no grounds for protest, really; I was in the wrong. I was living in Dublin at the time, so, after a week occupying the couches of Parisian friends and futile attempts to get her to change her mind, I returned home a single man, consoled only by an excellent scoreless draw at the Stade de France, already forgetting that Albania had been ever so briefly dangled in front of me.

After almost a month of no contact from Anna — I had by now assumed that it was a relationship from which no sign of life was likely to be recovered —  she got in touch. In a voice that was half-contrite, half-reproving she asked if I still wanted to go to Albania. My flight from Dublin to Paris had already been booked so I arranged for a few days off work, and made no preparation to speak of for the journey.

Originally published by Berfrois.

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