London, England, 2006
When I arrived in Europe as a young woman I was already enthralled with life and adventure. I didn’t know much about love and heartache. I let myself be taken away in a whirlwind. Head spinning, ideas changing, my eyes bigger than my brain and ready to absorb all the images I was seeing before I could process the information.
This image begins in a dark Parisian club.
“I don’t know,” I said to Christina, pausing at the door. “I told you I don’t have much money to spend on drinks here.”
“Look, I told you. You are young and beautiful, men will buy the drinks for you,” she insisted. Grabbing me by the arm we walked through the door and down some dangerously steep stairs into a basement, which opened to a dark club. Disco lights led the way and the music enveloped us in the space.
We went straight to the dance floor.
“Ok, you just stay here with me, right? Soon enough the guys will come and you won’t have to spend a single euro.”
He was dancing just a few paces from me. His large lips spread out over white teeth, breaking into a smile that traveled up to his dark eyes. I smiled back and became absorbed in that first fleeting moment when interest peaks. He moved away from the girl he was dancing with and came closer to me.
“Do you speak English?” he asked with a twang of an accent.
“Yes, I am American. Where are you from?”
“South Africa, but I live in England. I am on holiday with my sister. That’s her there,” I smiled at the girl he had been dancing near.
We lost ourselves in the music that night. It was nearly 3 a.m. when Christina and I found a taxi home. I left him with a phone number and a tentative date for the next day.
When you are young and poor there is no better place than the streets of the city for a date. No need to pay for a museum when you can be absorbed in the architecture of the buildings. Street graffiti is as beautiful and intriguing as fine art in a gallery. Why go to a movie or theater when the drama of life plays out in public?
We walked, kissed and conspired. Two young souls greedy to stake a claim on love amid the grime of Paris.
“Meet me again in London?” he asked. We were standing together at the Gare du Nord waiting for his train to board.
Two months later I was on a train crossing the English Channel. I noticed something was cleaner on this side of the tunnel as we walked the streets. Away from the grime of Paris I was forced to look at other grim realities. Crossing the Kensington Gardens as the afternoon sun filtered through the trees; the light changed from bright to somber.
Infatuation looks like new love, but it quickly turns sour when it isn’t true. Four days together was enough to know that this was just a fleeting encounter. We were fighting by the time he dropped me off at King’s Cross Station. I never saw him again once I boarded my train.
When I left London I still didn’t know much about love and heartache. I let myself be taken away again in the whirlwind of adventure. Head spinning, ideas changing, my eyes bigger than my brain and ready to absorb all the images I was seeing before I could hardly process the information.