“Take another one; come on Mal! The light wasn’t quite right and I want everything to be perfect” my best friend, Jaclyn, called up to me.
I hid my irritation behind the lens, very conscious of the disgruntled Europeans attempting to make their way down- if only these South Africans weren’t blocking the way. I had already snapped a multitude of pictures, all with a variety of poses- I doubted Facebook friends would be THAT interested in the scene before me.
“Desculpe” I muttered behind me, holding up a finger, “we’ll be quick”. I turned back to my friend who was staring up at her recently made acquaintance as if time had halted and she didn’t have a care in the world. Of course she didn’t, recently graduated and in the mood to fall in love- this was her perfect summer vacation, and I was here to provide the flash and document her memories.
I envied her, finding a summer fling and spontaneously touring the country with him. Of course she would go back to real life at the end of the week, but for now her fantasy was as real as the life she left back home. Despite my envy I was happy for Jacs, I mean it’s not every day a friend qualifies as a doctor, and my artsy education had to acknowledge that. And it wasn’t her fault that she had thrown caution to the wind to attack Lisbon like an unpainted canvas, ready to leave her imprint, whilst I ironically planned, strategized and became skilled at the language and general knowledge of the place. The swap in personalities was entertaining- at least for her.
“Mal” Jacs dragged out my name, rolling her eyes, “What is with you? People behind you are getting impatient!” I snapped out of my daze and hurriedly fired a few shots.
“Done” I lied, having no idea what the quality of the pics looked like; “Can we go now?” I skipped down the stairs.
“Yup, Rafael wants to take us to this totally, cute restaurant” her hazel eyes gazed adoringly into his brown ones. I noticed how they clung together, as if at any moment one of them would slip down the stairs and take the other with them- Romeo and Juliet would be proud.
“Hopefully not another romantic one” I grumbled, slinging the camera around my neck. The last restaurant that gorgeous Rafael had wonderfully suggested had looked like Barbie had thrown up in it, and the Euros spent on the delicious food was hardly worth the nausea experienced as the couple whispered sweet nothings in each other’s ears.
I was assured it was very nice, not that I had much say in the decision making, and reluctantly followed them down the steps, only to pause at the sweetest sight I’d seen. Timeless love. Not this fickle fancy, but two old people who had grown old in age and in respect and compassion for one another.
They were settled, they had lived a full life and there was nothing left to do, nothing left to accomplish except spend all the days they had left with each other. The old man helped his wife out the tram and she smiled at him as if it was 50 years ago, when he gallantly opened the car door for her on their first date. He held her hand, gently and reassuringly, knowing that for half a century she had stood by his side, constant in her love and support for him. While passers-by hurried onto their errands or next item on their agendas, the couple took their time, appreciating the history that they had been a part of. The cobbled steps and rustic buildings, growing even more enchanting through the ages, was just a reminder of how far and how long they had been walking the streets of Lisbon together.
It hurt me how much I wanted that, not necessarily the love and adoration- that would come later. No, what I lusted for so resolutely was the hope that in 50 years’ time I too could look back on my life with fond memories, of a life well spent and I finally feel sated after all my ambition. I was so scared of this free fall I was in, ever since my graduation- the unknown of how the rest of my life would be played out. Would I get a job? Would I like my job? What if I studied for all those years, only to find out that I had loathed my chosen path all along and just denied my feelings toward it? Every choice that I make would take me down some enigmatic path, and the scariest thing of all was that I wouldn’t know my destination until I got there, until all my decisions accumulated into 50 years of travelling and winding up in…Who knows?
I guess it was why I was envious at Jaclyn’s life, she knew where she was going and what she was heading towards and could afford to be spontaneous for just a few short weeks. My whole life could only be summed up as spontaneity, adrift without any structure and easily affected by whatever whim or fancy was acted on.
I watched the couple head passed us. The woman paused suddenly and planted a peck on his wrinkled, stern face. I smiled at the unexpectedness of it and giggled to myself as I skipped down the stairs. Spontaneity didn’t always have to be a bad thing; it didn’t mean that I would automatically live a life of regret and vapidness. I just needed to keep making myself happy, and cherish those around me and the rest would sort itself out. I may have to peck a few cheeks on the way, but one day, I would be kissing just one and laughing at the foolishness of youth as we pass a young couple, taking a picture to immortalise their love for each other.