“Romance” isn’t about the boy or the girl or relationships. It’s a moment. Where you open up and you fall in love with Life all over again. Here are five of mine.
Summer, Oxford, England
I was finishing up a writing course when I met The Lawyer. He had pretty blue eyes and a broken heart, and he told me he hated women.
One night, drunk and engorged on Cheesy Chips, (a local “Hangover Feed” of baked beans, hot chips and melted cheese served up in styrofoam boxes that, quite frankly, I could have eaten at any time of day) we walked the streets.
In the castle grounds, we passed a security guard. She eyed us until Blue Eyes shouted out her name and waved. She tipped her flashlight, smiled and made off in the opposite direction. Blue Eyes grabbed my hand, and told me to duck and move. We scaled a fence on the side of a hill, past a sign warding off trespassers, and climbed up and around a curving path to the top.
“This”, he gestured proudly, “is the highest point of the city.”
The famous Oxford Mound. A mound. In the flattest city I’ve ever lived. But in the pause between my dreams and my future, under the giant shadows of my literary heroes, I remember sitting on top of the world.
Summer, New York, U.S.A
I told my mother I needed to go to New York to find myself. But instead I got drunk a lot. On one such occasion, I wound up in bed with a supermodel. He was as All-American as they come. He made me kale chips and hash browns. He wore crystal bracelets and spoke of 911 conspiracy theories. He was the human personification of Almond Milk, but more pertinently, he taught me that good-looking people can be really nice too.
As I drifted off to sleep, I remember vague thoughts that my periods were due soon. I woke up to a bedroom massacre. Bright, red streaks now marred the formerly white, showroom-friendly covers. I prayed the three tiers of mattress would swallow me up and Houdini me back to my Lower East Side perch, trading this all for a bad hangover, but alas, no such sorcery took place. Instead, he gathered up the blankets, beamed and said, “That’s the price of making love!”
It’s still one of the most romantic things anyone has ever said to me.
Spring, Todra Gorge, Morocco
In Morocco, in the desert oasis of the Todra Gorge, a gentle soul came to our room and introduced himself as our hotel guide. He was the spitting image of a high school boyfriend who was killed in a motor accident earlier that year in Malawi. My ex and I were born one year and one day apart. Leos. On my last night, the Guide and I lay on an abandoned mattress on the roof of the Kasbah, counting shooting stars. The night out there is deep and quiet, and by the time sun came up the next morning, I started to feel myself again.
Winter, Sydney, Australia
When I’m in water, I have an anti-power. I can’t hear a damn thing, save the echo of bass registers. In water, I read lips. One night, in the dark, I stood in the shower with a boy until the water ran cold. He told me Things He Had Never Told Anyone Else. He talked and talked and talked, and I drained the ocean watching his lips move. When we stepped out of the tub, I half-joked that I felt like I’d been ejected from the womb.
He broke my heart later by the Things He Refused To Tell Me, the most unromantic of fuck-ups. But for a moment in time, our eyes met, and turned bloodshot, carving out a space that was never meant for us.
Autumn, Sydney, Australia
Aged fourteen, I found this rhyming note in my locker, printed in black capital letters.
“HAPPY VALENTINE’S HERE IS YOUR ROSE *cartoon rose pictured inset*
OF MY LOVE FOR YOU I’M SURE EVERYONE KNOWS
THOUGH I THINK YOU LOVE ME NOT YOU HAVE BEAUTIFUL HAIR
ENCHANTING EYES, A FACE SO FAIR
SO TAKE HALF THIS CENT *adjacent, a coin tacked on with sticky tape*
ASK THE OTHER FROM ME
FOR TOGETHER WE CAN BE,
SO PEACEFUL, SO FREE
I knew who had given it to me, but I pretended not to. And so it went unacknowledged. To this day though, I still have the card, and I know, if I looked hard, I’d find the silver coin too.
Young love, old love, in between love; my one and constant and clichéd love affair has always been the stories. Happily Ever After.