Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Australian

Due to popular demand (one person asking is popular demand, right?), here is another story from my dating past. Gather round.

It's the fall of 2008. After three years of psychological torture and the loss of upwards of $200,000, I have at last managed to pawn off the fourplex I bought in New Orleans that was days later wrecked by Katrina off on some poor sucker. And not a moment too soon, as vandals had been tearing it apart for months and my insurance had canceled me for suing them, and little did we all know within weeks the world economy would collapse rendering risky loans like my buyer's completely impossible. But sell it I did, leaving me $100,000 in debt, however FREE of that terrible burden at last. I also had recently jettisoned my mother and childhood religion and made the decision that I was going to "get happy". All my friends were married and having kids. At 36 this was looking less and less likely for me, so I decided it was time to travel the world and see all the Great Wonders. I decided to start with the Pyramids.

I booked a cruise called the Three Continents cruise which would start in Athens and then land in Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, and finally Mykonos and Santorini. I was traveling solo for the first time since a disastrous trip to England at 20. It was going to be a great adventure.

The cruise it turned out was a bit of a party boat. There were groups of Australians and Brits and Canadians that stayed out on deck partying all night. There was a lot of drinking, which I'm not into at all. But like every contestant on every reality competition show has stated from the beginning of time, I wasn't there to "make friends". I kept to myself and enjoyed the utter madness of Cairo and visiting the holy sites in Israel which was very bitter for me having just broken away from an intense Christian cult shortly before. I found a lot of comfort in the impossibly irreverent Australians who to me were like Americans on crack - totally loud, tacky, and disrespectful. I was digging them. They had the balls to say what I felt about all the religious sites we were visiting, and I respected that.

One Australian in particular caught my eye but I didn't dare act on it - a single guy about my age with a certain John Lennon-like swagger named Cameron. He was traveling alone, too, and had the charming habit of helping the old ladies on and off our tourist coach, making sure they were comfortable and safe. He seemed like a really sweet guy, and I thought he was Just My Type (you may come to the realization that just about anyone is Just My Type). But he seemed to be fooling around with one of the bawdy Canadian girls, and I thought ugh, the trip was only ten days, what was the point of trying to strike up something there? I didn't dare make a play for this person and potentially ruin my trip if I were spurned. Still one day he was standing alone on the deck of our cruise ship and I forced myself to go talk to him, and as it turned out we got on like a house on fire. From that moment on we were pretty inseparable.

He was from an industrial mining-type area of eastern Australia (kind of like our Philadelphia), he worked as an advocate for the disabled (he placed disabled people in suitable jobs - probably hence his solicitous nature when it came to caring for the older members of our party), he was a singer/songwriter and quite a good one. We spent hours singing songs together and talking about our favorite bands, and movies, and relationships, and religion, and lives.

One night he was in my cabin after dinner and we had that wonderful moment where he screwed up his courage to ask me if I had feelings for him, to which I said I did, and he said he did for me, too, and had been interested in me from the moment he saw me in the hotel lobby the first day we arrived in Athens. I asked about this Canadian girl and he said yes, they had been drunk one night early on in the cruise and had messed around, but left it as friends. We spent the rest of the night recounting every minute of the trip up until that point and what had really been happening underneath all the pretense - that time I had swam up to him in the ocean in Cyprus and how excited he was that I had done that (and how at the time I had felt foolish doing it); how I had glanced at him a certain way in that church in Bethlehem, etc etc. It was one of those wonderful (and incredibly rare) moments when you realize you really like someone and they actually like you back. Then followed probably the most romantic night of my entire life - lying sweetly in his arms, feeling the sway of the boat and hearing the gentle slap of the waves as we sailed overnight to the Greek Isles.

The next day we did our tours of Mykonos and Santorini, which were amazing. One of my bikinis is still stained brown from the clay bottom of the natural hot spring we visited on Mykonos. We had the night to ourselves, so we went on an actual "date" on the island; went to dinner and walked around and shopped. Unfortunately my stomach was extremely upset from all the rich food and I spent the night alone in my cabin writhing with nausea. But the next day we were back in Athens to enjoy our final day before returning home early the next morning.

We both talked about trying to extend our "relationship" past just our vacation - but knew it was a long shot. I couldn't possibly have picked a further destination for a future boyfriend than Australia! Still I had done this before with the Frenchmen, so I thought, why not? You have to take love where you can get it, right? He said to me "why do I have to finally find my soulmate on a cruise, and she lives in LA?" That's how quickly things moved in just a few days.

Then we had to leave for our flights. He actually cried as he kissed me goodbye at the taxi, while I tried to be practical and businesslike and told him we'd talk as soon as we got home. That it would work, we'd make it work. I'd come visit, he'd visit me. Crazier things had happened. We could do this.

But as had so often happened with me and my love interests, everything in his life fell apart after he got home. He lost his job, the house he'd been renting for years was sold and he had to move, he didn't have a computer outside of his work so he wouldn't be in touch for a while, ditto his work-owned cell phone. We had a couple of emails and a couple of phone calls, all initiated by me, until finally he said he was moving hundreds of miles to live with his dysfunctional dad and would get in touch when he had a new address, phone number, and email address. He never did.

What happened there? Was it all just a put on? Was he really married with kids and looking for an easy vacation fling? Or, like Cyril, was he just so discouraged when he realized we couldn't ever realistically be together that he just turned off? I'll never know. And he remains to this day a total enigma. Other than a couple of articles in an Australian newspaper from the late 90s reviewing some live shows and CDs of his, there is little proof on the web that he even exists - no Facebook profile, no LinkdIn, etc. He is one of the most out of touch people I have ever encountered.

Still. What happened between us was incredibly foolish, fun, and romantic. I think back on those few days very fondly, and I'm so glad I had that experience. And somewhere out there Cameron exists, too, probably now married and a dad, and I hope he remembers me fondly, too. I hope sometimes when he hears a soft wind sweep over his house he thinks of that night he held me as we sailed to the Greek Isles, singing Beatles songs in two part harmony, thinking we were the luckiest two people in the world.


  1. Yes it is by popular demand! I just didn't say so last time but I was so excited to see this on my reading list.

    Do you have any more?

  2. Your story reminds me of my own Aussie romance in New York City a few years ago. We kept passing each other on the street as I circled a block looking for a bar. He was looking for the same bar. We finally found it (and our friends) and ended up having a lovely weekend together. On our last night, we kissed in the rain in Central Park before he hailed me a cab and we waved goodbye through rain-covered windows...

  3. Lovely! Makes me wonder if my own romantic tales would sound this nice if I ever wrote them out... I don't think so. This has all the markings of a short story or film. Good for you for courageously gathering this all up!