Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Romance on the road brief but leaves long-lasting memories

I had a little tryst in India. Her name was Alex, one of three German girls on leave from a volunteer stint in the South. The four of us blasted around Rajasthan as fast as we could, spending each night on the bus to the next desert town. As her friends crammed guidebook sights, Alex and I kept finding ourselves on midnight walks, sharing a watermelon in a bustling market or huddled under my jacket in a bus seat, rolling through the dusty night.

Ain’t that romantic? I don’t know why romance on the road happens like it does, but there’s rarely a more perfect match than two travelers in a strange land. If it were a movie, it would be cheesy as hell.

I planned to part with those Germans in every new destination, but somehow I could never manage it. One afternoon, Alex found me on top of a fortress wall in Jaisalmer, near the Pakistani border. Surrounded by street kids, I was holding a stray puppy and wearing what I imagine was a really dumb grin. But soon we were alone again, gazing together over the ancient city with nothing in the distance but the Great Indian Desert and the sun falling softly behind it. And then I realized why I hadn’t left.

We went north after that, and I stayed in the mountains while the Germans moved on. We had vague plans to meet up at the Ganges River, but I knew I was done. Alex cried. I damn near did, too. But understand: It never works. I’ve seen travelers try to hitch themselves on the road, but once you give in, that’s it. You’ve spoiled the very stuff that made it so exquisite.

Last summer I met an American in Nicaragua. It was pretty romantic: I had gotten off the bus in a pouring rain with nowhere to go. I saw her jump into a cab and told another driver, “Follow that chiquita.” We spent the night swapping stories over bad beer. The next morning I tried to slip out of the hostel before dawn, but she was awake, watching me from her bunk. She said something really nice, about seeing each other again, but I don’t remember her name.

I travel to be anonymous, blast it; to leap hundreds of miles on a whim. Besides, sometimes fate just spits on you.

I met a girl in New York. Her name was Virginia, and she had yellow eyes. We had a mutual friend at Vassar College; I had spent the last two nights on a floor in Manhattan and looked it, but Virginia didn’t care. She was a slim tomboy from Charleston with chestnut hair that fell loose around her freckled face. When we met, she bounced up, smiled at me with eyes the color of yellowjackets, and said, “It’s you!” I stayed there two days then flew to London. She was on my mind the whole way.

A year later, driving down New England with the same pal from Vassar, we stopped to visit his friend and her twin sister in a little shack on the South Carolina beach. The last night, the twin and I ended up in a hammock on the porch. It was warm, the moon sparkled on the ocean and the only sounds were the crickets and the surf. Finally, she moved in for the kill, but I dodged, put a kiss on her forehead, and whispered, “Not when I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m sorry.”

Humphrey Bogart would have slow-clapped.

I probably shouldn’t have done that, but understand: I couldn’t kiss her. Not when her sister Virginia was in the next room.

But it makes for a hell of a story. And I guess sometimes that’s all you get. Like the one about Miranda, the green-eyed Swede that made me lose my passport in Guatemala, or Lenna, who I met in downtown D.C. and then ran into again on a train the next morning. And there’s ol’ Ami; she and I got lost in the Himalayan woods and spent the night in a Tibetan orphanage. So I guess sometimes you have to go with it, if only for a good story.

This is what happened with Alex. I stayed in the mountains a week and then found her on the Ganges, where we just held each other for three days.

It’s all so sappy it makes me want to vomit.

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