Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are not fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely planned. With that said, I changed names and will not mention any geographic information or time-frames to preserve the characters’ identities. With that said, Leah and Michael, if either or both of you read this, I hope you don’t mind that I’m writing about this.
With all the violence and death that has been going on of late (note: I started writing this in late April and am just finishing this now), I thought I would write a little story about love. Not my own love, (unfortunately,) but of a rare and beautiful kind that I felt privileged to witness firsthand during my travels.
Movies, television, and magazines have created notoriously unrealistic outlooks for romantic relationships. They create the expectation that there will be a great story when you meet the love of your life, that, despite any obstacles you may encounter, you and your significant other will have a fairy tale ending and live happily ever after. In some cases, this may actually happen, but realistically, it does not. I probably do not have to tell you that relationships are built on a combination of love, trust, struggle, and compromise; any of you who have ever been in a relationship or are presently in one know exactly what I’m talking about.
This is a story that, as far as I know, still has no ending, but I still want to share what I’ve already seen with you. I first met Leah and Michael during one of my many travels. Living the poor student’s life, I booked myself a hostel. As it wasn’t my first time living in a hostel, I was actually sort of keen to meet my roommates, hoping that they would be cool and that we could be friends. When I first got into the room, I saw that two of the beds were already occupied and I heard the shower running…and two voices. People traveling and staying in hostels in pairs is nothing out of the ordinary, but when you walk into this sort of situation, you can’t help but think and worry for a brief moment that perhaps you should have taken that extra five or ten minutes in the lobby to ask about the sights in the surrounding area. Fortunately, my worries were laid to rest when Michael walked out of the bathroom shortly after I walked in.
Introductions were exchanged, and the short version of everything is that Leah and Michael were on vacation with two of their friends from school in Spain, but they had, for some reason, made reservations at separate hostels. Considering I had come to town a few days before my University of Rochester friends were due to come in, and that the four of them were leaving on the same day, I ended up spending most of my time with them.
Up to this point, I had made the assumption that Leah and Michael were dating based on their behavior during the time we all hung out together. One of those nights, when Leah had gone to bed early, me and Michael went downstairs and proceeded to have “man time”. Among other things, mostly, it was me telling him about the relationship business I had going on in my life (that’s a story for another time). It was during this conversation that I found out that he and Leah used to date, and had broken up not too long ago. Despite this fact, they were attempting to remain good/best friends; in actuality, it looked more like what can only be described as an “‘It’s complicated’ on Facebook”.
When you sit and observe how they interact, there’s no doubt about the chemistry that (still) exists between them – it’s palpable, it’s wonderful, and it just made me quietly smile to myself the whole time. It had been so long since I’ve seen such mutual respect and regard between two people. It was all about the little details: the door opening, the proffered arm when walking, the short, tender kiss on the forehead, the consistent eye contact when talking, the concern for each other with regards to temperature, exhaustion, hunger, giving each other space, etc. The list goes on and on, and even though some people might consider some of this as “too much PDA”, it never felt awkward or weird because they never excluded anyone from their attention while all of these things (discreetly) happened.
Now, I don’t know the circumstances behind the break-up, but clearly there are still many residual feelings. I can also only comment on what I observed based on the few days I spent with them. However, I can tell you this: based on the snapshot (which I think is a pretty accurate summary of what their actual relationship is like anyway) I got, very rarely do you see two people who seem to understand and accept each other so completely, and treat each other with such love and respect regardless of the label on their relationship. This relationship does not have a fairy tale ending, nor is it the greatest love story of all time; it is simple and wonderful, and I can only hope to find this in my own future partner.
The bottom line – Leah and Michael, if you haven’t gotten back together yet or sorted out your feelings, DO IT! This author’s definitely rooting for you guys!
Photo: Leah and Michael, taken by me, motion blurred and desaturated