What if the only pure romance is short-term?
The fabled “honeymoon phase” of a relationship is everyone’s favorite part of love; the love that musicians sing about and poets write about, but they only tell the tale of a small sliver of time, you never know what happens in the long run. In the beginning of every relationship, everything is lollipops and rainbows because it’s exciting and new. But as the New York Times article “New Love: A Short Shelf Life” points out, “hedonic adaption is most likely when positive experiences are involved…we’re inclined – psychologically and physiologically – to take positive experiences for granted.”
The first kiss is magic. The second is intimate. The third is routine. – Raymond Chandler
So since “we are biologically hard-wired to crave variety,” then it makes sense that the mannerisms you once found endearing in your mate, like the way he laughs or the way she always bites her hair, will inevitably succumb to an annoying familiarity. As pointed out in the 1995 movie Before Sunrise, where two strangers meet on a train and decide to spend one night together in Vienna before they must part, “people have these romantic projections they put on everything. That’s not based on any kind of reality.” So what if the only pure romance is this beginning phase of a relationship where everything is seemingly in perfect harmony?
“Why do you think everyone thinks relationships are supposed to last forever anyway?” – Jesse in Before Sunrise
Here is the story of Charles and Claire (all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental):
Charles came from a land called America.
Claire came from a land called England.
This is the story of how they met.
Charles first met Claire at a hostel in Peru when he walked in to his dorm and was surprised to see three new girls staring back at him. Although he immediately noticed Claire, he went about his business unaffected and confidently helped them with their map, as they were new to the city. He consciously decided to avoid the travel topics of “where are you from,” “where have you been,” and “where are you going” in order to create mystery – there would be plenty of time for that.
Passing each other on the stairwell the next morning, they had a small but awkward chat about each other’s itinerary for the day and made loose plans to meet up that night at the bar, the common room for those staying in the hostel. This was Claire’s last day in the city as she had already booked a bus with her friends for the following morning. As typical of the mating dance, they arrived at the bar at separate times and ignored each other for the first several minutes. When the time came to chat, Claire was with another guy so Charles deftly separated the two so they could have a drink and the proper time to get to know each other. They decided to leave the bar for somewhere “more quiet” and to explore the city — what Charles wanted all along.
Walking down the neighborhood streets to the boulevard, they spoke of travel and Charles would grab her hand as they dashed across the street to avoid the aggressive taxis of the city. They decided on a quaint restaurant bar and settled down for a drink and the entrée of their conversation. After covering topics of family and school, the topic naturally fell to romance, where they both revealed they were single – but there was a hitch, Claire had already promised her heart to another, or to be exact, two others. One was a boy she met in Argentina and the other was a boy in prison back home. Disturbed by these revelations, but correctly realizing there was nothing he could do about these other men, Charles decided to ignore this as he knew she was also interested in him. They laughed and the drinks flowed, as did their emotional intent. After they closed down the bar, they decided to grab some late night food and flirted some more over fries and a milkshake.
It was getting late, but they decided to talk the long walk home through the park. It was there that they kissed, before Claire pushed Charles away because “I promised I would wait for him.” He asked which man she was talking about knowing full well that the answer wouldn’t matter, by pointing out her naivety towards these men she already romanticized in her head, it would only make him seem petty. He brushed aside the event and they walked, with her arm in his, back towards the hostel. They continued flirting and laughing without a goodbye, knowing they would see each other in the morning – except Charles knew they wouldn’t, she would be heading off to the next city and Charles wouldn’t be there when she woke up.
While not the typically Hollywood ending that many would hope for, Charles thought it was perfect.
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