When I left America I had high hopes, little money, and zero plan. I just got out of a relationship of 5 years with my boyfriend Dan, after he decided my best friend could keep his bed warmer than I could. I bought these plane tickets ages ago as an anniversary gift, and now, not only do I not have a boyfriend to go with me, but I don’t have a best friend to take in his place either.
I’ve always wanted to travel, but I had never really done anything close to it; I knew I had the heart for adventure, but naturally, I was nervous about going it alone. I broke down and asked my mom if she would go with me, but she just replied with some statistic about tourist kidnappings. I even asked my neighbor, but she just smiled and waved like she didn’t hear me... After we were already in a conversation. Thanks, Susan.
Long story short, it quickly became apparent that this would have to be a solo mission. Just because my ex wasn’t willing to be true to me, doesn’t mean I can’t be true to myself... Whoever that is. The point is, I’m going and I’m going to own this.
After several hours on my first plane ride, we arrived at long last to the Gold Coast. I’ve got to admit, I’m excited to do some tourist type things, like find P. Sherman in Sydney, be swept away on a surfboard into the sunset by some charming lad, and hopefully catch a kangaroo fight. You know, the normal stuff.
The first thing I notice as I step out of the airport is how many people there are. There’s easily a hundred, not including my fellow passengers, all spread out in different directions. I’m already feeling a little overwhelmed, and I can feel the excitement turn to anxiety. Find something you know, something you understand. Collect yourself and regroup.
I walk down the road a little ways until I come across this hole-in-the-wall bar. This. This I know. I pop inside to grab a brew and let my eyes have a chance to adjust away from that blinding sunlight. I walk over to the bar and take my place while I find the drink menu. I’m skimming it over, but I’m mainly trying to take a moment to reflect on the fact that I’m even in a bar in another country. I did it; I’m doing it.
“What can I get you?” Oh. That accent. It shouldn’t have caught me off-guard, but it did. While making me absolutely weak in the knees, it simultaneously made me brain dead. Which must have been apparent because he just smiled and told me he would give me a minute.
After a few moments, I hear a warm voice ask if the seat next to me was taken. I turn my head to say ‘no’, but I keep my eyes fixed on the drink list so I can figure out what I’m doing to avoid any further embarrassment. “Pretty intense list there... At least, you sure are making it seem that way”. I look up to laugh and I see his face. It takes me a moment to even comprehend what I’m seeing, like a painting. I see such strength and softness in his features... A jawline that goes on for days, but with smooth, rounded edges. He has a smile that stays in the corner of his mouth, even once his rich laugh dies down. He has a bit of stubble, as if he can’t decide if he wants to grow a full beard or not, but purposeful nonetheless. It perfectly balances with his dark brown curled hair, that seems wild in its own world. Above all else I noticed his eyes. There is a kindness to them, one that has a joy for life and a love for people.
I can feel that I’ve been staring for too long because he smiles again. I laugh nervously which breaks the now-noticeable quiet, and I glance back to the menu to focus. “Yeah, I... I guess I have been staring at this for a little too long, you got me there”, I smile back up at him. “I was going to ask if you’d let me get you something”, he says. “At this rate, you could be waiting here all night” I joke. He lets out a soft chuckle and to my surprise says, “You know what? I’m thinking this could be worth the wait. I’m ready. I’m all secure... Do your worst” as he grasps his bar stool and shakes it back and forth underneath him. I let out a laugh, probably louder than I reasonably should have if I’m being honest with myself.
At this point the bartender walks back over and asks if we’re all decided. I’m bent over resting my head on my hand and look back to my new friend. He silently raises his hands as if to shrug, while his eyes seemed to dance with the entertainment. “VB.” I give in and force out to him. “VB!” he exclaimed, “VB?! With that accent I expected you to say Bud Light or moonshine! VB it is!” He seems pleased, and now I’m definitely laughing harder than I should be.
“Hi, I’m an American.” I inform him as I outstretch my hand playfully. “You don’t say!” he sarcastically remarks, “Well hello American, I’m James”. “Oh, dad jokes? Really? Is that how we’re going to do this? You know what? I’ll just see myself out, I’m going home”, I joke. “Are you sure? It’s a long swim back”, he retorts. Now that was worth my audible groan.
“If I tell you my name, will it make this stop??” I question through chuckles. “I don’t even know that I know how to turn it off at this point... But you can try” he replies. I roll my eyes and tell him my name is Lona. He nods, as if in approval, but the smile doesn’t leave the corners of his mouth. It’s quiet for a moment until he says, “Yeah, nah, yeah... There’s no stopping this”. We both laugh and continue on for a few hours, and run through several pints of beer. He’s been laughing at all my horrible jokes and I can feel my bottom lip is sore from biting it too much, in attempts to stifle my constant, ridiculous smile.
I tell him about the break-up and how I had to come on this trip alone. I must have looked down because he responded with “Well, next time you should probably bring your AA sponsor with you to keep an eye on ya! If nothing else to keep you from those ‘notorious Australian kidnappers’!“. “Listen... At least if I was kidnapped I’d have a place to stay!” I played. “You don’t have a place to stay?“, he asked as he got quiet and almost looked disappointed. “Well, I figure I’ll just maybe lay out on the beach... until it’s the next day”, I quip. “Now THAT is how you get kidnapped” he jests, and we’re both snapped back into laughter.
My cheeks hurt at this point, but they quickly fall when he sighs and says, “Well, it’s about time for me to have to get out of here” as he taps out a little rhythm on the table. He stands and now I’m able to appreciate the rest of him, outside of that perfect face. First I see his tall, thin frame. He looks strong, in a capable sense, as if he gained his leanness naturally. His features are dark in a comforting manor, and he may actually be taller than me for once.
I look up at him with a loss of words until I spew out, “I’m not really staying on the beach. I have a run-down hotel a few blocks from here for the night”. “And after that?” he asks. “...And after that, the beach”, I say through a smirk. He smiles so warmly at me that I melt from the inside out. “Well let’s go check it out” he says as he outstretches his hand toward me. I must be in a dream. But even my dreams aren’t this wonderful. I must be, though, because I swear I floated right up to him after my hand slid into his. It was like two perfect puzzle pieces... and he just didn’t let go.