I couldn’t compose a dream surreal as that night. We drank wine out of plastic cups, street performers played Jason Mraz. It was midsummer and we were on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Reality was beyond my imagination. But when raindrops fell too frequently to overlook we ran back to our hotel.
That night we spent cross-legged on a hotel bed, spilling our hearts. I traveled to Italy expecting to fall in love; but with a city, not a boy. Yet there I was, confessing the existence of emotions I had tried to pretend didn’t exist.
I wasn’t on my honeymoon. I don’t have a rich boyfriend who takes me on extravagant vacations. I wasn’t conveniently in Europe at the same time of my dream boy (it has happened.) His name was Antonio. I’m aware I’ve used that same code name in my blog in the past. Same guy, re-read it later, not now.
Cosmopolitan dating advice: ask cute guys to take pictures of you and your friends to start a conversation.
February 2012 I asked Antonio to take a photo of my friend Katie and myself. He agreed, as long as I would take one with him after. I was at Splash, which was a day club (rip.) He was an international baller; exactly the kind of guy who would frequent such a place. Most meetings such as ours would be followed by a bottle of Moët and end in a walk of shame back from a swanky ass apartment.
What should have been a one-night affair turned into dinner the following weekend. He took me to an Italian restaurant. He was raised in Venezuela, but both of his parents were Italian. English was his third language, but while a barrier was certainly present, chemistry existed regardless of if either of us could understand it.
As things tend to go Freshman year of college; whatever we had didn’t last very long. A month later we hooked up after going to a nightclub, but it was painfully passionless. After that few words were exchanged outside of “Happy Birthday!’ wall posts on Facebook.
And then I ran into him at another day party, three years later. We were both refreshingly over the scene, but it appeared as though we weren’t over each other. For the next couple months, we spoke daily.
What happened next couldn’t have been predicted by anyone with a life that doesn’t resemble Paris Hilton’s. It started as a generic “hey whats up” conversation. He mentioned he was in Rome, and I pretended that I hadn’t seen his Instagram. “I have always wanted to go to Rome,” I said to him, and he enthusiastically told me that someday he would take me. I offered up the very moment. He could have taken my aggressive advance as a joke, but instead he asked for my passport information. Breathless, I fell to the floor in disbelief.
I went to work that night and told them I wouldn’t be showing up for the rest of my shifts that week. Twenty-three hours later I was on a flight to Italy. Before I left I made sure to call the bank to let them I’d be out of the country, and Disney to pitch my life as an animated movie.
In the past, I’ve chased love stories that turned into nightmares (Oregon.) I was confident this trip wouldn’t end in a Missing Persons ad. Still, I played games on my phone during the flight to distract me from the possibility of the latter.
What makes a story a love story? We don’t see what happens after the credits roll.
Antonio wanted to show me the world and cared enough to make it happen. It’s incredible knowing that men like him exist, but disheartening knowing how few there are.
The next few days felt like a dream. We searched for restaurants with menus written strictly in Italian (to detour tourists.) We drank jugs of wine during the day, over both light and complex conversation. Antonio and I explored the city of Napoli, where we ate “world famous pizza” and took touristy photos. I never thought I’d be the kissing-selfie type, but there I was puckering and posing.
The way he spoke to me led me to believe he thought be were brought together by fate. Where there was silence, there was no discomfort. He would occasionally ask if I understood what he said, and I would explain my ADHD. His English was nearly perfect, his insecurity was adorable. Is that wrong to say? I rested my head on his shoulder while on the ferry to the Isle of Capri.
If my heart could paint a picture, it would look something like Capri.
Have you ever felt something that language can’t articulate? The sensation of experiencing a dream come true.
He laid in the sand while I stood in the ocean and took in the view of the Mediterranean. As my story awaited to be written I knew I had become more emotionally invested in it than I intended. Wanderlust peaks when you find yourself running out of time. I couldn’t imagine a life more perfect than mine.
What makes a story a love story? Love and a story. What if something happens after ever-after?
We went out with a friend of mine when we got back to Rome. He took us to a nightclub that resembled a circus. Joe’s friends ranged from age 15 to 30, every one of them adored Antonio.
The best love comes with the freedom to be yourself. Beware, because those who give you an unforgettable emotional high will almost always break your heart. The credits roll before the wine is poured and the characters are left to put themselves back together.
We made a point to visit all the important tourist destinations. We fought crippling hangovers to do the cliche activities that fill bucket lists. We ate prosciutto and mozzarella for every meal and held hands walking through the streets. Eyes that once served as mirror images of his vision welled with tears as I wrote this damn post.
And so we leave off where we started, sitting on the steps, or rather on a hotel bed. The next morning as my car drove away from the hotel my heart ached for the guy I was leaving behind. I went to Italy determined to have a great story for this blog, I came back with more baggage than I planned.
We go through life with a number of lovers we are forced to abandon. I have spent months attempting to compose a story that I hated the ending to. It’s a lot easier to repress memories than it is to put yourself in the dark place you need to in order to write about them.
He lived in Texas, I couldn’t commit to a different time zone. I should be thankful for being shown how deeply it is possible to care for someone. Yet I feel sick thinking of the possible love I walked away from. My life was fast paced at the time; if following my heart wasn’t convenient I had to take an alternate route instead.
He’s left with photos (that I still want, e-mail them to me Antonio) and I’m left with memories of a love that was deep but weak, a heart that yearned but refused to fight, and a lover who felt but did not act. I’m thankful for the guy who encouraged me to speak from the heart– so here we go: Despite time and circumstance my image of you hasn’t been tainted. You did not possess the courage I hoped you would, you let me down when you failed to keep your promises. The pleasure was worth the pain and momentary happiness was worth months of confusion.
I’m supposed to be angry that you found someone new and so soon, and to be clear I am. Perhaps we were at different places and pace isn’t your strong point. For the sake of my sanity, I don’t waste my days narrating the story of us in my head….but for the love of God stop requesting to be my friend on Snapchat.