‘Listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness, like a heartbeat that drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost.’
– Fleetwood Mac
His fingers wrapped around mine as he took me down yet another Roman backstreet, I didn’t know where he was taking me, but he had my trust. He kept promising to show me the real Rome, and lead me further and further away from the obnoxious glare of the tourists’ flashing cameras.
Tugging me inside a bustling Italian bar for aperitivo, he waved to some of his friends and lead me to the quiet upstairs for more privacy. We drank our drinks and said nothing whilst he longingly held my stare from the other side of the table. I tried using my best Italian to compliment his shoes but he just laughed quietly and silenced me by placing one soft finger upon my lips.
My heart raced as he reached over and massaged my fingers with his own, separating them and entwining our grasp, not breaking eye contact for even one moment. When the time came to leave, he wrapped his jacket around my shoulders to protect me from the rain and then walked me to the train station, holding my hand the whole way, not caring about those who stopped to stare at the pair of faggots holding hands.
And then as I boarded the train away, I cleared my throat, and coyly asked him for a kiss. He silently stepped up onto the train, pressed his warm lips against mine, and then slinked away with a heartfelt smile just as the carriage doors slammed shut.
That’s how it happened in my imagination, anyway, a fleeting romance that I’d tell people about for years to come- but as my life isn’t a fairytale, here’s what actually happened.
With the promise of a date with a beautiful Roman I had met briefly on my last visit, I sat by the fountain in the piazza watching the grey clouds slowly gathering overhead, impatiently tapping my phone and constantly checking the time – he was late.
I watched the Italian couples unashamedly making out wherever it took their fancy, and longed for some human contact. And then as the minutes turned to hours, I realised he wasn’t coming.
Determined to not let it ruin my evening, I found myself a quaint little back-street restaurant and asked for a table for one. Usually this inspires feelings of independence and freedom, but knowing full well that it should have been a table for two replaced such feelings with only shame and humiliation.
I ordered a plate of my favourite Italian food to try to compensate for the lack of a date, but when it arrived it only tasted bitter. The loneliness of the evening lead me to revisit bold and vivid images of my past failed relationship, and for a moment I was consumed with grief.
I left the restaurant, walked to the station alone in the rain, with no hand to hold and no jacket to wrap around my shoulders, and boarded the train away without a goodnight kiss. Although the logical person inside me tells me that I need to stop setting myself up for disappointment, I’m a romantic at heart, and I can’t help but imagine that every date will be the best date of my life.
I left Rome feeling sour and betrayed, but as my train arrived on The Italian Riviera the following morning, just one glance at my best friend waiting on the platform made all the negative feelings dissipate, and I was reminded of what I had known all along- you don’t need a man to make you happy, as long as you’ve got good friends.