If someone had told me that by the age of 21, I'd be in an apartment in Vienna, drinking and talking until sunrise with people I had just met the day before, I would never have believed them. I would've said, "I can only dream of such a thing" and dream, I would.
But there I was, 21 years old, buried in a jacket and thick leggings and socks, crouched by an open window and moving onto my 7th beer, laughing at the crazy life stories being shared in my new little circle of friends. We were drinking every last drop of alcohol we could find in the house, chain-smoking cigarettes as if they didn't cost a fortune, and raiding the refrigerator for midnight snacks. The apartment was a den for us hedonistic lions.
We had only known each other for 24 hours, but we talked without inhibition. We poured out stories of love, mistakes, dreams, and fears, holding nothing against one another and raising our beers to the sky every 15 minutes, praising how lucky we were to be young and alive; drunk on life and love and the thrill of meeting people we never would have expected to encounter.
The clock moved from 12 to 2 to 4 to 6, and slowly, the sun was rising. I shivered on the windowsill and watched the town wake up and thought of how it was one of the best nights of my life. It almost didn't feel real, but a lucid dream that I didn't want to leave. It was extraordinary, but so bittersweet not only because I knew that would I never get it back, but also that I would probably never see those people again. I would never meet them for coffee and laugh over the fading memory of a perfect night, or walk by as strangers and smile politely; I would never even be given the chance to be reminded.
Inevitably, I would forget.
Forget how it felt to share painful details of my life because my company didn't know anything about me. Forget how it felt to answer a million questions about my country, feeling my heart soar with pride. Forget how it felt to shiver by the windowsill as the sun rose over baroque architecture. Forget how it felt to wake up in Vienna, to an apartment littered with evidence of well-spent youth.