Never Fall in Love with a Person More Than a Place
We spent our last night in a hotel room opposite Kings Cross listening to Banks and doing crosswords and having crazy fucking good sex and then you left and now I miss you.
I scrawled this on the wall of the scabby ass hostel bathrooms, where it went to rest with the rest of the multilingual bullshit that we were all too shit-scared to let slip from our tongues. All independence sacrificed and surrendered. All the friends I had made on my travels either gone, or his.
I had dropped out of my political science degree in search of something passionate and meaningful. Like most antipodeans, I was unswayably certain I would find that nugget of raw truth in Europe. With determination and naivety, I wanted to fall in love with the streets of Paris, the canals of Venice and the weed in Amsterdam. I wanted an innocent taste of the intrepid life, to feel what it meant to be there and be alive.
I was an adolescent douchebag.
On the third deck of a ferry somewhere between England and France, never having crossed paths before, we ate hot chips off the same tray as strangers. His Australian accent mocking my New Zealand tongue, he told me tales of his surf trips to Indonesia and South America, and his plans to stay with an Irish passport in his pocket. His dirty blonde hair fell out the back of his beanie, and his tanned face so fittingly wrinkled when he flowed with laughter. He listened intently to my stories of no importance about my hometown and high school; in that moment, I was important.
Each boarding alone and with no one to depend upon, we departed together.
It began with semi-sober 4am kisses under quiet hostel bed sheets. His hands resting at the top of my thighs created comfort on the long bus rides. His rough thumbs stroked my ears as I dreamed of faraway places, face pressed against the window. He breathed rambunctiousness like the beaches we visited, where the waves passionately caressed the rocks they were founded upon. He was unlike any 30-year-old I had ever met.
By the time we got to the South of France we were fucking. Staying inside all day so we could make out while our roommates were throwing coins over their right shoulders for love and luck at the Trevi Fountain. It was high-school love in an adult place.
My hands savoured the scar across his chest as I lay on top of him, tracing his fading green tattoos. I could taste coffee on his tongue, feeding my morning appetite as the daylight sun streamed through the worn drapes, his rough breath closer in my ear. The scent of cigarettes and alcohol was buried in our hair from the night before.
His plan was to find work in Marseille, and mine was to work in London. After seven one-more nights, he booked a 5am RyanAir flight from Luton and left me while I was sleeping.
I spent the better part of a month alone, between beds and couches of distant relatives, and hostels in the weird ends of London. It was rhythmic and meaningless. I wasn’t feeling there and I wasn’t feeling alive.
Him: “Donk… (So).”
Him: “Je suis fatigue (I am tired).”
Him: “Bonne nuit (Goodnight).”
Him: “A beintot (See you soon).”
Him: “Bisou bisou (Kiss kiss).”
Him: “Je veux manger la chatte (???????)”
Me: “No parlez Francias (I don’t speak French).”
He flew me out to Paris so I could meet him at Disneyland. An ironic 20th birthday celebration; being with him felt like home. We spent a week in the heartbeat of the city, eating fresh baguettes by the riverside and drinking cheap wine in our hotel room. You know the baguettes, tough on the crusts but light at the core? It’s how I felt with him.
The rugged peaks of the Swiss Alps were lifeless, but there was fresh air in the school-boy joy he found from touching snow for the first time. I was so young, more youthful than the towns we traversed, yet I no longer began to explore the planet in all its beauty.
I was exploring him. He was exploring whatever the hell it took to make him feel real again. A destructive fuck.
We fought outside the pokies in Monte Carlo. We screamed every fucking shitting word imagineable. He siphoned all his money away on a lousy ass hand of blackjack, so a French diplomat close to his death bed bought me a mojito.
While his tongue was exploring the mouth of another girl in a shitty night club, I used what was left of his holiday pay to taxi back to the dump of a hostel we were staying in.
“You know, because.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Come with me?”
Had he have formed those simple words, put meaning to his actions, asked me to join him, I would have got on that train too. But the question never left his lips.
Reality sunk in. He was still capable of finding love for the cities, the streets, the mountains and the ocean. He wasn’t in love with me like I was with him. He could still fall in love with a place more than a person, the way I was meant to be passionately seeing the world.
I hated him for it.
It ended in London. Going everywhere and nowhere, he was determined not to stay. He booked his ticket and we cried.
He left anyway.
Cover by Jez Timms