I sat in a small English pub by myself sipping my beer. It was the very last night of my year of traveling, working on a kibbutz and crashing with friends in Europe. That particular night, I was staying with a friend’s sister in London. I was 25 years old and wanted to have some fun before I headed back to grad school and reality.
Suddenly, this super cute guy is walking towards me. Much taller than I prefer (I’m barely 5 feet tall so…), dark-haired and adorable, he ambles even closer while I hold my breath.
He smiles at me and then sits down next to me! He starts chatting with his friend who is on the other side of him. I remember thinking this shit never happens! His friend had a blond shaggy beard and saw what was going on. He started chatting me up, and we all moved to a table outside to enjoy the beautiful summer evening.
I remember it was a Sunday because the pub closed really early. They invited me back to their house which was around the corner. Now, I’ve traveled alone quite a bit - and had at this point as well. But I was still navigating how to be a free-spirited gypsy on my own and still be smart about keeping myself safe. I hesitated so they hollered over to the bartender, who laughed and told me they were harmless. At the very least, someone would know where to find my body!
My friend also lived very close by so I knew I could easily walk back to her place. Her and her husband were religious Jews so I felt a bit weird partying while staying with her. It was awkward calling her from the guys house and saying I’d be out a little bit longer. Texting would have been much easier!
Blond Guy - i can’t remember either of their names - started rolling a big, fat joint. I was pretty tipsy from the bar. I’d quit drinking years before in order to heal the inflammatory bowel disease, so I was a total lightweight.
On top of that - as many American travelers know - English beer has more alcohol in it than American beer. Even drinking a couple of pints like I had - without eating dinner - will move an unsuspecting traveler from buzzed to full-on drunk quickly.
I felt safe because Dark-Haired Guy was so incredibly sweet, and very shy. I spoke more with Blond Guy who was boisterous and talkative. His girlfriend also lived at the house and was expected home shortly.
It was pretty clear that Blond Guy was trying to get me together with Dark-Haired Guy. I was so clueless about “hook-up” culture back then - it wasn’t quite as much of a *thing* as it is now and well, I think I’ve established how talented I am in this area of my life. Plus, I wasn't feeling particularly pretty.
On top of that, one puff of the doobie and I was MESSED UP. Even rookie partiers know that smoking weed right after drinking alcohol is a BAD idea. But yet, I did it!! And on an empty stomach!! I tried to appear fine, went to their kitchen and stuffed my face with whatever carbs I could find. A couple of biscuits and stale crackers would have to do. I remember leaving crumbs everywhere - so not my style - desperate to get back and appear “normal.”
I gulped down as much water as I could and went back in their living room. Blond Guy was giving me a look like “my friend likes you.” And shy Dark-Haired Guy kept glancing over, clearly waiting to see what I was going to do.
People are always surprised to hear this but I’m actually pretty shy if I have a crush on someone. I say and do RIDICULOUS things. If I’ve ever acted like an awkward 12 year old girl around you, then you should be very flattered!
I didn’t get a chance to even try and flirt. I felt like I was going to be sick. I had to get out of there.
But it was my LAST NIGHT of traveling! Argh, argh, arch! I’d gone through so much during that year, I felt like this was such a sweet parting gift from whatever angels were watching over me!
My stomach lurched. Nope, not gonna happen.
Dark-Haired Guy walks me to the door, with Blond Guy waving goodbye and giving us approving smiles.
We both stand at the door nervously, me dizzy and feeling sick. Him, tall and handsome.
And I kid you not, I shook his hand goodbye!! That’s how smooth I am!!! [This is an excellent example of a man waiting to get CUES from me and let ME decide if I wanted to touch.] I used to cringe about that but now I think it’s sweet.
Plus, I didn’t end up puking on him, which is ALWAYS a plus.
Of course, there was no way to stay connected back then. People weren’t even exchanging email addresses!! That’s how much the world has changed in just 20 years. When you met a stranger on the road, you’d say goodbye and they’d disappear forever.
I came across this photo with my friend’s sister and remembered this story.
Big thank yous to the two English guys who made my last night of traveling very memorable! Oh, and sorry for making a mess in your kitchen.
Photo #4b. This is part of a writing project where I challenge myself to write 700-1000 words per day - not in advance - for 30 days using old photos and different writing prompts. This particular set of stories will focus on my experiences as a (white) Gen X woman and experiencing America pre- and post- #metoo movement.