Untrue Romance

Untrue Romantic

Untrue Romantic

It’s brunch at the Royal Albert Hall. We’re in Verdi’s kitchen, a well-lit, high-ceilinged yet cozy café, where a jazz quartet plays in the corner of the room. Like many, we are sipping coffee and becoming mesmerized into mellow by the music. Rain is falling; the mood is warm and pleasant, as if cuddling inside of a half-cooked pizza bagel.

I look around the room, mostly couples, some families. One guy in the corner is trying to talk over the music and I schedule a late afternoon rant against him. The others are holding hands, looking into each others’ eyes and getting carried away by the quartet’s blend of Brazilian jazz and Czech classical music.

The room is oozing romance.

There is nothing about this that isn’t romantic: cozy environment, Black-tied wait staff, rain, music, the Royal Albert Hall. It is the perfect atmosphere for romance to bloom. And I would gladly let it bloom were it not for my companion. My sister.

I remember I wanted to tell her something. I lean in. “I have stool softeners if you get backed up.”

Yes. Romance blooms.

This is not a complaint. I am after all traveling with my sister and we are having a blast, so it’s not as though I would exchange my companion for anyone else. In the first place, romantic partners lead to more issues while traveling than do sisters. And traveling with my sister is to travel with one of my oldest friends.

So it’s all good.

It’s just that it’s hard not to notice that I am in the middle of a clearly romantic situation with someone I am obviously not romantic with. And as I sit and try to avoid noticing the googly eyes couples are giving each other, I think back with self-reflection aided by two bloody Marys and warm salmon.

I am very good at being in romantic travel situations with people I am not romantic with. I am very good at untrue romance.

The evidence.

Last July we were running through thunderstorms along the streets of Addis Ababa. Third World. Loud. Excitingly gritty. It was our last day in Ethiopia. We ran from café to café and hid out under their sidewalk eaves as we sipped coffee, dried off, and watched the rain. I think I’ve seen Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams do this in a movie.

Romance Quotient: 7/10

Companion: Mark

Two years ago in July was in a country bed and breakfast in Ireland. We were awakened every morning by the painfully bright sunrise, the soft, cool wet air of an Irish country farm, and the light tapping knock of the owner telling us a full Irish breakfast was awaiting us in the garden. Then we sat out there looking at cottages and fields that had not changed much in the last three hundred years.

Romance Quotient: 6.5/10

Companion: Jake

Three years ago we were in a tent off a low river in southern South Dakota. We had just driven in under a red sunset that I imagine cowboys have seen for three-hundred years as they come in from their day of work and that the native Americans saw each night before those cowboys killed them all. Our tent was small and we are driven inside of it because of the mosquitoes.

Romance Quotient: 9/10

Companion: Collin

And this is just my last three trips. I have spent a night in the honeymoon suite of a Český Krumlov hotel with my brother (RQ: 8.2/10). The walls were decorated with African Love Gods and vaginas represented in various artistic styles. We played a word game and took turns waking each other up because of our counterpointed snoring.

There was a late supper in Lucerne beneath the Swiss Alps with my dad (RQ: 8.6/10). Everyone around us – literally everyone – was holding hands and cooing at each other. My dad introduced himself to the nearest couple and I saved their romantic day by pulling him back. I couldn’t let romance be ruined by my dad’s predilection for opening conversations with holocaust statistics.

Believe me, I am not complaining. While I think it’s funny that I end up in these situations, I wouldn’t change one of those people or one of those situations. They all took place on wonderful trips and with wonderful people. Moreover, I’m a lucky guy to have had so many great adventures with so many great people.

Even if there was no making out.

What is the most untrue romantic situation you have been in and with whom?

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