A friend has the following quote in the write something box on her Facebook page, “It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die.” It’s one of those quotes that I wish were mine. I felt a pang of jealously when I first read it, like I wanted to own it. I want to be the one who dies in love.
About a year ago, I decided to wish love on everyone. When I was living in New York, I doubt I would have come up with that wish, for during my youth and young adulthood, there were winners and there were losers. I did everything I could to try and stay on the winner side, letting fear of failure chew my sense of peace into little bits. This pretty much involved every aspect of life that could be lived or measured. But now, I’ve reasoned if everyone gets love, that would include me.
One would probably guess my first entry here regarding love, relationships, sex, boys, men, etc would focus on a lustful, wistful or otherwise romantic encounter with an Italian. And, yes, if you are wondering, there are many stories that fill that space in all their naked, bruised and drunken abandon. You can include some French and Portuguese in there, too. But right now my head and heart is spending time with an American man I met while traveling.
I went to Portugal a bit reluctantly, on the advice of my psychic. I speak with a woman for guidance about every six months, and have done so for the past four years or so. It’s a little known fact that I rarely share with friends. But about a year ago, I had been on the phone with her and while talking on and on about another man, she had interrupted me to speak a destination, a word that couldn’t wait for me to pause. “Portugal. There I had to say it.” She had mentioned Portugal before, and I had pushed it aside. For some reason, the thought of going there left me with a strange feeling, like I had eaten spoiled food. But a few weeks ago, while on the Iberian peninsula (a place I feel a strong mystical connection with) for a festival, I decided to extend my trip to, yes, that place.
First stop was Porto, a city I was happily surprised by. When I stepped off the plane, I felt warm and happy. I hopped on the train to head into the city center, where I wandered and enjoyed the streets, a collage of colorful tiles and painted wrought iron. The city (and the rest of the country, seemingly) was filled with short, dark and handsome locals. Men that carried a familiar machismo, but offered friendly smiles filled with a welcoming warmth. I found a small, but substantial contemporary art scene, something that I have wanted to find in Florence, without success. Maybe that is what is there for me.
I traveled onto Coimbra, a small university town located a short distance from what is supposed to be the most remarkable Roman ruins of the country. I never made it to the ruins, but I met a few interesting people, including Dani, a Spanish researcher and writer from the Canary Islands who now emails me poetry. Maybe this is the connection I was looking for.
From there, I hopped the bus to a small beach and surfing town and planned to stay two nights. I can’t remember the name. As the bus pulled into an industrial town, I thought to myself, what is this dump? As in, is this a garbage or chemical disposal area? I walked from the bus station to the hostel and was stuck with a sudden urge that I was in the wrong place, that I needed to be in Lisbon. One of the things I like about getting older, is that I trust my instincts and I do what I want if it seems somewhat reasonable. Yes, somewhat is good enough. So, instead of staying the night as planned, I put my pack on, and turned back around to return to the bus station to continue onto Lisbon. It was a moment when I took full advantage of traveling alone. Instant decision making, no debate.
I arrived in Lisbon without a reservation, but ended up with a private room in a very social and friendly hostel for just one night. With the hostel full the following night, I checked my book for another spot and moved a few blocks. There, at the new location, on my first evening, I met an American man. We’ll call him T. His eyes, a clear, light, fantastic blue, bearded, his hair showing a little gray in curls of brown-ish red. He told me he walked long distances, climbed mountains and wrote haiku and I was instantly hooked. In retrospect, I imagine he uses that bit of info to loosen the panties of girls around the world, but I don’t care. I hope he beds one hundred women with it. In fact, may he bed a woman for every haiku he writes. Let every syllable be an embrace and every line a kiss.
Later that night, after a romantic dinner where we shared our travel stories and our common search for a home outside our place of birth, outside our native land, him slightly drunk, me sober, he groped my ass in a dark alley and I struggled to keep my head on straight and just have a good time. We are traveling, and this is what people do when they travel, right? After running my heart wild with European boys (I started the habit back when I was living in Brooklyn, trying to imagine a life outside the city, letting foreign accents soften my frustration with the life I had created for myself), being in the arms of a man with a bit of a Texas twang transported my head to the place I had failed to find the satisfaction I had searched so hard for. America.