I did not go to Switzerland looking for love.
In fact, I felt like I needed a break from it. After getting my heartbroken too many times and feeling like I had run out of glue to repair it, after the death of two important people in my life, after leaving my job, I felt drained and exhausted; I no longer had the energy to play anymore games. The hopeless romantic in me was hanging on by a thread and I was just one false love away from becoming a full-blown cynic.
That’s when I got on the train.
I was coming home from a long weekend in Lucerne, hungover from the night before, with no makeup on and my hair a mess. I longed for a nap, for a coffee, for a taco.
I stared out the window, smiling at the way the tips of the alps pierced the sky. Switzerland is so beautiful. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s been photoshopped.
As I marveled at the view, the train crawled to a stop, the doors opened, people shuffled in, and a man in a blue t-shirt sat across from me. From the corner of my eye, I could see a blur of blonde hair and blue eyes and a muscular frame. I was suddenly so aware of myself then.
My mother’s voice crept into the back of my head and I heard her say, “Tess, you always want to look put together, even if you’re just running to the store. You never know who you’re going to meet.”
God, I wished I had listened to her.
I turned my head to him as the train crawled forward. He was looking right at me. I thought that maybe he was staring at me because he thought I was in need of some help due to my state of dishevelment but, then, he smiled. He was smiling at me.
Our eyes locked and, to be both horribly cliche and honest, it was this instantaneous emotion that I couldn’t put my finger on. Like I had met him somewhere before.
Had I met him somewhere before? No, I’d remember.
My stomach lurched. My heart turned to putty. I wanted to say something, trying to muster a hello, a how are you, a sorry that I look like such a mess, I promise I’m not usually like this.
He looked away, then I looked away, and suddenly we were in a game of “Who can steal a look without the other person noticing.” We were horrible at this game. He laughed a little. I smiled while pretending to glance out the window.
The train conductor broke our little game by asking to see my ticket. I said hello to the conductor, forgetting my German, my voice, playing a strange game of telephone so that the message was relayed to the man across from me. I saw him smiling to himself again. The conductor nodded at me, then took his ticket.
After he left, I pretended to keep glancing at the alps.
A few minutes passed and our eyes locked again.
“Are you lost?” he said, finding the courage to break the silence.
I wasn’t lost. I had taken this trip from Lucerne to Zurich quite a few times and the SBB was no mystery to me.
I smiled in spite of myself though and replied: “Oh, thank god, I am absolutely lost.”
He laughed, asking me my name, never even really giving me directions which is how I knew that he knew I wasn’t really lost.
His name was Michael. He was 25. He lived 20 minutes outside of Zurich. He was one of the most handsome men I’d ever seen.
We talked for what felt like hours and seconds all at once. He was kind and funny, embarrassed about his English the way I was embarrassed about how I looked. Neither of us seemed to care, though.
That feeling came again, like I knew him from before. We spoke like two people who had known each other for a lifetime. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so self conscious anymore. He slipped into conversation that he thought I was beautiful and for once, I really felt like I was. Even without the lipstick or the eyeliner or the general look of having my life together.
What was happening to me?
We were laughing at a joke that he had made about Americans and Donald Trump when I realized the train was coming to a stop. My stop. Shit, I was about to completely miss my stop.
“Oh, god! This is me!”
In a frenzy, I grabbed my suitcase and ran out the door, Michael looking after me with a look of surprise. I waved goodbye to him from the window when I realized, oh no, oh god, I had forgotten to give him my number. I didn’t even give him my last name. There was no information linking him to me other than the fact that my name was Tess and I lived in New York. My heart dropped into my stomach. I felt a little dizzy. My knees felt weak.
I know it seems dramatic, but I was absolutely devastated. I had just met such an intriguing, handsome boy who made me dizzy and I was never going to see him again.
However, I thought, it was my life. In my life, romance hardly ever lasted. I shrugged away the pit in my stomach, trying to rationalize that even if he did get my number, he’d probably never text me anyway. I was being silly. He was a stranger, just a man I had met on the train.
Yet, despite my inner monologue, I couldn’t get that stranger out of my head.
After a long day of overcoming my hangover and the loss of a man I barely knew, my dad went to sleep and I laid on the couch, turning on the trashy British television I loved to watch when I was there.
One of the contestants on “First Dates Abroad” mentioned that they came on the show because dating apps weren’t working for them. Dating apps. Tinder.
I had already tried searching “Michael, Zurich” in Facebook but you can imagine my dismay when realizing just how many fucking people there are named Michael in this world. However, I hadn’t thought of dating apps. Maybe, just maybe, Michael had a Tinder.
I flicked through my phone, metaphorically wiping the dust off of my Tinder account. I had sworn it off months ago after a string of horrible dates, but for this guy, it was worth the try.
I signed in for the first time in ages, as the app loaded my previous matches like a catalogue of my past mistakes being projected before my eyes.
I tweaked the location settings to make sure it didn’t think I was still in New York. I waited.
The app refreshed. My heart stopped.
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.”
I almost dropped my phone.
The first person to pop up on my screen was none other than the blonde haired, blue-eyed boy named Michael that I had met on the train just hours before. He was staring up at me, in the same blue shirt, smoldering in a mirror selfie. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t f*cking believe it.
Was I being Punk’d? Was this some sort of Divine Intervention? This literally seemed too good to be true.
I took a breath, almost laughing at this twist of fate, and swiped right. I held my breath.
Not even two seconds later, I got a message from him that read: “Oh thank God!”
I couldn’t believe it.
He was looking for me, too.
We texted until the wee hours of the morning that night and the next day, we went on our first date.
Then came our second. Then our third.
Our fourth. Our seventh. I was leaving to Sicily the next day and that was supposed to be the end of our romance.
Who were we kidding? It wasn’t the end.
After a drunken realization at a bar in Catania, I had already realized I was moving to Europe for good but, I also realized that when it came to Michael, we had some unfinished business to attend to.
I decided to take the leap. I came back to Zurich (even though I almost died getting there, but that’s a story for another day).
I finalized my move to Europe.
Michael and I went on our eighth date, and the rest is history.
I guess it’s true what they say- that love comes to you when you least expect it.
I just never expected it to come like this.
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