I study his face like there’s some kind of secret I can uncover. He’s about my height with brown eyes and that trustworthy air about him. Like he has the world on his heart and shoulder carrying it constantly without a complaint. I’m the opposite, giving zero fucks about people and letting them filter in and out of my life.
“I have a girlfriend back in Mexico. She’s waiting for me while I travel Europe.” He says while we make the trek outside the Roman Colosseum. I feel relieved and more at ease. I have the insatiable problem of being an overwhelming flirt. There’s this constant game I have where I may want someone but I can never do anything about it. It’s more difficult if they don’t have someone they’re tied to.
I warn people I don’t like being touched which is partially true. I don’t like it because it makes me feel too much. It’s like an overload where my logic is superseded at times and I can’t think if I like the person touching me. I especially hate it when strangers assume they can touch me and I’ll be okay with it.
I currently am wrapped up in something I can’t quite shed yet.
“You’re lucky to have that sort of freedom. A lot of people get in relationships and they won’t let the other person travel. Or be their own person,” I say. My voice holds a sadness as I remember what my mother did to me. She kept me locked up like a bird that had its wings clipped.
“She has her own kids so she said to go and see everything. She’ll be waiting for me when I come back.”
I bite my lip and keep my own thing secret. It just doesn’t work well to reveal my own entanglement. We walk toward the street and I notice something. He takes my arm and positions me so that I’m on the inside of the street. I know why he’s doing this, and it’s a matter of protection. I laugh and push my glasses further on the bridge of my nose. His eyebrows raise slightly and I keep chuckling to myself.
“You moved me over to protect me from the traffic. I know someone who does that, but only one other.”
“Well, see, with the girlfriend in Mexico I do the opposite. I’m like go ahead of me, come on.” He says in a kidding voice. There’s a part of me that admires his obvious kindness. And the warmth that shows in his voice when he speaks about his girlfriend back in Mexico. I can tell he loves her and hasn’t pursued anyone else with his adventures in Europe. As we talk I realize that my guess was correct.
I stop suddenly and look at the amazing sites that we’re leaving. I never imagined being in Rome, a day or two after I turned thirty. Now I’m traveling with a guy from Mexico and we are randomly trekking through this city that is rich with so much history.
It strikes me that I hardly know him, but I want to share this experience with my closest friends. They’d never believe me if I said I randomly traveled with a guy across this unknown city. I don’t trust anyone, and I’ve worn that like a badge of pride my entire life. He stops and notices my hesitation as I bring out my iPhone and point it toward him. There’s a question on his face and I grin back.
“Wait a second! I have to take a picture of you.”
“So, that when I go back and tell my friends about you I’ll have proof. And they won’t think you’re an imaginary friend.”
“You are crazy,” he laughs. It won’t be the first or last time that I’m referred to as ‘crazy’ but I don’t mind it. There’s a lightness to a word, and he shakes his head. I make a shooing motion and he stands with the Coliseum in the background. A genuine grin adorns his face and he makes a peace sign with one hand. The crowds bustle behind us as we make our way back to pushing through them. His face clouds slightly with the people pushing and moving past us. I can feel the change as he eyeballs them.
“Fuck this,” he whispers through clenched teeth.
“Fuck this? Wow, we really are going to get along so well. One of my favorite phrases,” I start laughing.
“Fuck is one of the best words in English.”
“I couldn’t fucking agree more.”
I make sure to keep my hands to myself. I can’t help touching people randomly if I feel a warmth for them. His iPad is brought out occasionally to double check our directions. We decide upon the catacombs first and then grabbing some dinner together. Every time we cross a street he moves me to the inside while he takes the outside. I would normally fight a man trying to protect me but I can’t help but to find it enduring.