Female • 18 years old • Vienna
I was doing that whole backpacking-Europe thing with my cousin. We were camping in Vienna amidst a horde of middle-class Austrians in motor homes when we spotted two shirtless Australians playing ping-pong. One was tall with a crooked nose; the other… Owen… had curly blond hair and the most genuine smile. We toured Vienna together and became easy friends.
Illustration by Thomas Pitilli
Owen was relentlessly optimistic, believing in smiles above all else. That night, we retreated to our tent to play cards and drink beer. Whatever game we were playing resulted in stripping to nothing. I leaned my head against Owen's shoulder, and we started kissing, and it all felt a little drunk and sloppy. After the kiss, I remember the zip of the door, and our naked dash across the dark campground to his tent.
He laughed easily and was self-deprecating, making all my insecurities vanish. I remember him putting on a condom, but I don't actually remember having sex. And I wish I did! I woke up sore in the middle of the night wearing nothing but his boardshorts. I hazily reached over to pet his stubbled face before falling back asleep.
In the morning I was hopelessly awkward as we packed for Budapest. The Aussies were leaving for Amsterdam. Climbing aboard the train, Owen grabbed my cheek and kissed me on the lips. Before the doors closed, he called out, "Keep smiling, love!"