4 Years and 4,000 Miles Later, I Found My Study Abroad Fling

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As any realist (or cynic, depending on your point of view) will point out – life isn’t fairy tale. However, there are times when life can surprise you and restore your faith in magic – and romantic comedies. This was one of those times.

Once upon a time (2007) in a far away kingdom (London), there lived three fair maidens (study abroad students) who set out on a journey to find Prince Charming (cute foreign boys) to live happily ever (make out) with.

OK, let’s try this again…

London, 2007

Towards the end of our study abroad program in London, my two room mates and I realized that, while we’d done plenty of traveling and sightseeing, we’d failed to do one, simple thing: fulfill our moral obligation as American study abroad students by making out with cute foreign boys and having a study abroad fling.

With a mission in mind, we got dressed up one weekend and decided to take advantage of the fact that we lived in Soho. At the very first club we visited, we met three Irish guys who fit our criteria perfectly – they were attractive, fun and nice. More importantly? There were three of them, and three of us. They were only in town from Ireland for the weekend. One of the guys – the one I ended up with (who we’ll call “Sean”) – was relocating to Brussels for work the next week, so they were in London having a goodbye party of sorts.

We spent the night flirting and laughing – and yes, making out like floozies. When it came time for last call, we all decided we were having too much fun to cut the evening short. With a lack of anything better to do, we decided to continue the party back at our flat. Strangely, we listened to Andrea Bocelli (which I think my room mate thought would ‘set the mood’ but ended up leaving us in hysterics) until we all finally passed out.

When we woke up the next morning, we bid farewell to our Irish boys and went about our Saturday, not expecting to see them ever again.

– – –

 

Early that afternoon, there was a knock on our door. We opened it – and found our three Irish boys standing there. Overcome with “Cat-lic” (their pronunciation of Catholic) guilt, they had camped out at a bar across the street all day as they wanted to come back and check on us to make sure we were OK. Needless to say, we thought that was basically the sweetest thing ever. And the cutest thing ever? Was the look of horror on their faces when we disclosed the fact that we were all Protestant.

Once they recovered from the fact that they had spent the night with Protestant girls (who knew that was still an issue?), we picked back up where we left off. In fact, the group of us ended up spending the remainder of the weekend together. Sean* I got to know each other better, and I was pretty smitten with him – butterflies and all. He was cute (and so was his accent) and we had a great time together. However, I knew that after that weekend, I’d never see him again.

When it came time to say goodbye, he gave me his card, told me to email him sometime, and the three of us waved goodbye while our cute Irish boys walked down the steps to the Underground, never to be seen again. *tear*

Ultimately, I believe Sean and I exchanged emails once. We swapped photos from that weekend, did a quick catch-up, and that was it. In the chaos of packing everything up and moving back to the states, I lost his business card.

 heart

Chicago, 2011

By this time, it had been nearly four years since I’d returned to the US and London was, sadly, nothing more than a distant memory. Instead of traipsing happily around Europe, I was now plodding miserably through one workday after another.

Despite our best intentions, I lost touch with my roommates and just about everyone else I’d spent time with in London. Every so often, I’d briefly think about tracking Sean down, but each time talked myself out of it. So much time had passed, he may not even remember me, and even if he did, it would probably be downright strange to get in touch after all this time. After all, it was just a study abroad fling.

– – –

One summer morning, I was walking to my office from the CTA. It was a hot, humid, muggy day, and per usual, I was running extremely late for work. On a mission to get into work before my boss noticed how late I was, I rushed down Ontario as quickly as possible.

As I neared my office, an approaching man stopped dead in his tracks, stood in the middle of the sidewalk, and stared at me. Assuming he was simply a crazy person, I kept my head down and averted my eyes towards the ground. As I got closer, I realized he was blocking the entire sidewalk with his bike, and wasn’t about to move to let me pass around him. I sighed, bracing myself to either get sexually harassed or asked for money.

When I got within a few feet of him, I looked up, preparing to scare him away with the death glare. The moment we locked eyes, my jaw dropped.

It was him.

We both stood frozen in place,  trying to process each other’s existence. If you’ve ever seen someone completely out of the normal context, you know how disarming this can be – your brain takes a few seconds to decipher who this person is and why they’re not in their normal setting.

After what felt like minutes of staring at each other wide-eyed, we both snapped back to reality, we hugged each other, and as we spoke, I thought, “Oh my god, if this isn’t fucking fate, I don’t know what is.” All I could think about the entire time we spoke was that this had to be a sign that we were meant to be together. After all, what are the chances of an American meeting an Irish man in England who is about to move to Belgium and later running into him in her hometown?

As it turns out, his company had transferred him here a few months prior. Not only that, but we were virtually neighbors, and his office was in the building next to mine.  He said that he’d wanted to look me up, but had no idea how to find me, as he didn’t know my last name and no longer had my email address.

My mind was blown. If this wasn’t a fairy tale / romantic comedy moment, I don’t know what is.

So what happened next?

After our magical, happy reunion, we fell madly in love and had a brief, passionate, torrid romance.

 

Wait, wrong fairy tale…

So what really happened was this: nothing. As it turns out, he was engaged. We hugged one last time, and went on our respective ways, and haven’t seen each other since.

 

– – –

 

While the ‘fairy tale ending’ to this situation would have been lovely, something about what happened was enough to restore my faith in magic and make me realize: many times, the story itself is better than the ‘fairy tale ending’ we all hope for.

 

The reality is, life just doesn’t typically work out like a romantic comedy – and that’s ok. The man doesn’t run through the airport seconds before the woman is about to board the plane to profess his undying love for her. Unrequited love typically stays that way. John Cusack doesn’t stand outside your bedroom window with a boombox over his head playing Peter Gabriel songs, and Blaine will never profess his love for you at prom.

However, if you look close enough, you’ll find that magic really does occur often in our lives – you just have to be open to seeing it.

 

Note: I highly recommend reading Lisa-Jo Baker’s post, When You Think Your Love Story Is Boring

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  • kdc

    This was lovely.

Color of the flowers?