The Day I Fell in Love With a Flat Earther
“Tell me something I don’t know,” she said.
We were drinking champagne from the bottle, wearing only bathrobes in the suite of a 19th-century estate turned hotel two hours south of London.
As the alcohol and dopamine coursed through my system, I managed to dig up a fact I’d heard in a science podcast months earlier: “There’s an island in the Pacific which is so far from land, the closest humans are often astronauts.” Having been able to articulate such a random yet detailed piece of information under the circumstances, I was quite chuffed with myself.
Genevieve, on the other hand, looked like her world had just imploded.
“Babe… there’s something I have to tell you,” she murmured, eyes staring at the ground. “I think the Earth’s flat.”
All the endorphins that were making me feel so good were quickly arrested and replaced with something much more complicated.
We’d met a week earlier on the Isle of Wight, both attending an STCW (Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) course, ahead of the upcoming European summer. She’d walked in late the first day, interrupting the health and safety briefing. There was an unquestionable mysteriousness about her, an attraction I couldn’t quite understand.
A twist of fate saw us paired up for the firefighting component of the course. The adrenalin we shared pulling lifeless dummies from a burning shipping container carried over into the night and, by the next morning, we were inseparable.
As the week progressed so did our infatuation with each other. There was already talk of spending Christmas in Australia together… it was April. I’d been travelling for around a year at this point, so spending more than a week in one place had become an unfamiliar concept, but suddenly all my future travels plans had been bought into question at the behest of this frighteningly comforting girl.
I had fallen in love before, but this was different. Never had It come on so strongly, and never had it happened within three days.
As the course drew to a close, everyone prepared to head to the Mediterranean in search of adventure and employment. Yet I had found myself in a quandary. Did I stay in England with Genevieve and live happily ever after, or did I sail off into the sunset and risk never seeing her again? It felt like I was living out a sea shanty.
I chose to push my flight back a few days, and see how things transpired between us back on the mainland. After a romantic ramble through the English countryside, it appeared my fate had been sealed. I was getting ready to call the captain of the boat I was working on and tell him to find another deckhand… until the physics of Planet Earth came into question.
That night, I spent hours trying to convince Gen that the Earth was a sphere, that it revolved around the Sun, and of all the other basic principles of gravity that you learn in year 5. I drew a detailed sketch of the phases of the moon and how it controlled the tide. I even began dropping random objects from heights to add a practical element to my argument.
Genevieve was from a yachting background. She had done multiple Atlantic crossings, she’d travelled extensively in both hemispheres, and yet, she still believed Earth was flat. In fact, she didn’t just think the Earth was flat: she also subscribed to the idea that there were people out there controlling this “narrative”, making sure the general population didn’t figure out the true shape of our planet.
Our argument led us down a rabbit hole of YouTube conspiracy theories (never a good idea), and we eventually agreed to disagree and went to sleep. When we woke up the next day, it was like nothing had happened. We both hoped that if we ignored it, then everything would go back to normal.
It seemed the world (whatever shape it was) had separate plans in store for Genevieve and me; she got a high-paying job in London and I went to sea. We’ve ended up in different parts of the world on different paths, both happy enough. But every now and then, I catch myself staring out to the horizon, studying the curvature of the earth, wondering what sacrifices people have made for love. What people have chosen to believe or not believe. The lengths couples have gone to set their political, philosophical and religious beliefs aside in order to be together.
Perhaps that’s what true love is, happily forsaking your institutions and values to be with that one person. Because for a moment there, I was thinking about abandoning my entire sense of reason all for a girl.
Cover by Paz Arando