“But why didn’t you to Paris?” Drea asked, interrupting my long-winded tale of how I ended up walking Camino Santiago.
“Huh?” I asked, confused as to why that would be important at all to my story.
“You just said, ‘clearly,’” she replied. “You said, ‘I wanted to see the love bridge, but clearly I couldn’t go to Paris,’ but why? Why clearly? I love Paris.”
“Oh! Well, you know,” I sort of hesitated at her mocking laugh, “I mean, I told you about that guy back home. It sort of seems like a place you’d want to go with a lover. I think I’d feel homesick watching all of these couples kiss and put locks over the bridge and take cheesy pictures.” I started to laugh, “It would make me want to have someone there to kiss and take cheesy pictures with.”
“Then you should skip the love bridge. Take him next time, but go to Paris.”
“But it’s the whole place isn’t it?” I asked, “I mean, it’s Paris! It’s like, romantic and stuff. I want to go there and be in love or fall in love!”
“Everywhere is romantic if you are with the person you love, and everywhere is romantic if you’re in love. What makes Paris more romantic than this place?” She pointed out at the scenery that was rushing passed us as we made the drive back to Portugal. She had a point. There were lots of times during the walk from Porto to Santiago where I was certain there was no place more dream-like, more beautiful, more quixotic than where I was, only to walk another 5 miles and think the same thing. How many times had my mind wandered happily back to California? How many times did I feel joy even with distance; happy at my silly daydreams, content with just the simple knowledge that we’d met?
“Besides,” she continued, “We laugh at this love bridge. Why do you need a lock? What does that do? Locks can be broken like rings and promises. It’s all just some show for tourists.”
“So you wouldn’t put a lock on the love bridge if you were there with your fiancé?” I asked.
“Why would I want to spend money on an ugly lock to show our love? Locks are ugly, and why a lock? For me, that does not define us. For me, love is freedom. With that extra 10 euro, I would buy wine and macaroons and we would laugh at all of the couples buying locks in broken French.” I laughed with her and rolled my eyes. Europeans always think they have so many secrets on us Americans.
“I guess I always thought that some places were supposed to feel more romantic,” I said after some silence, “You know, like in all the stories and stuff of Paris. It was just in my head that you should go there with a lover and put a lock on the bridge and kiss under the lights and all that stuff.”
“If you’re in love how could you be more in love? I’m not sure love works that way in my experience. But you’re much younger than me.”
I laughed, “Well maybe you can’t be more in love, but I’d definitely feel more romantic kissing in a pretty sundress with a view of the Eifel Tower than right now with my broken ankle and ripped jeans,” I joked.
She laughed at me again and rolled her eyes. “You don’t understand love,” she said with certainty, “If you did, you would have gone to Paris, and if you did, you wouldn’t care much about the love bridge.”