I believe in love stories. I believe we are born to have our own love stories. I’ve been creating them in my mind since I was six years old. I was first in love with my neighbor
Butchie who lived across the street from me in Wallingford, Ct. I watched him ride his banana bike up and down Londonderry Drive. He would chase after Mickey’s Ice cream truck screaming at the top of his lungs and I believed he did that just for me.
The day I realized that my love for him was not everlasting was the day I saw him teasing the little girl in our neighbor hood who had Down’s syndrome. I heard a tiny crack begin inside my heart.
I told my husband to meet me at Tutta Pasta on Carmine Street. I can’t remember what we ate, but I remember where we sat and what we said. We were at a two-top in the front of the restaurant and I whispered, “I have two choices, I could be a great Mother to our daughter or a really unhappy wife to you and I choose our daughter.” He stared at me for a long time and then replied, ” Are you really leaving me? Because, no-one will ever love you the way I have loved you.” Thank God. My marriage began as a love story and collapsed along the way. My husband’s identity became his fears, his diagnosis, and his unwillingness to heal. Our love became contaminated and our eighteen-year difference was now glaring, blinding and terminal. I cried in the shower every day for two years. Love isn’t always enough.
After selling our loft, my daughter and I moved to a one-bedroom rental in the West Village. It was small, but it had views of the Hudson River. We would sit on our window seat with our dog Shadow and watch the cruise liners and the boats pass by. I was 38 years old and sharing a queens size bed with my 11-year-old daughter. I purchased my first orchid plant. I felt hopeful.
When the world of dating opened up to me I found myself very interested in lacey underwear, high heels and lip-gloss. However, none of my dates were invited back to my apartment for a nightcap. I could assess a guy in one dinner, but usually gave them another try. Finally, due to the prodding of my 82 year old psychoanalyst and my Mother, I started to see someone exclusively. Every other weekend I would stay at his loft in Soho and my daughter would reluctantly stay at her Father’s place. My new serious boyfriend was intelligent, funny but emotionally distant. There were other glaring problems. He had a difficult time looking me in the eyes. He wasn’t affectionate, complimentary or loving. The things that brought us together weren't sustaining us through the details of every day life. We went out to nice dinners and on trips to Miami, St Lucia, and Palm Springs. But, there was always this dull ache in my heart that silently nudged me when we were together.
While my relationship was wavering, my daughter was having an excruciating time staying at her Fathers. He was suffering with anxiety, panic and depression. Plopping her in front of the television while he locked himself in his bedroom calling his roster of doctors while popping Ativan. She counted the minutes till I came to pick her up on Sunday and created her own world of rituals to ward off the pain. I made the executive decision to allow her to stay with me full time. The concession was to have dinner with her Dad once a week. This did not go over well with my boyfriend. At night, I would pray that he could be compassionate and find a way to guide my daughter in ways her Father was incapable of. My living situation wasn’t ideal for a man that wanted more quality time with me. In order to salvage our relationship I scoured the city for a two-bedroom apartment. I found one in Federal Plaza. It was a new building with a putting green, a lounge and very nosey doormen. The apartment had a view of the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall, but it was small and a fortune to rent. We moved in on August 1, 2004. After tipping the movers for chipping my furniture and taking 3 hours longer than they said it would take to move me, I asked my daughter to go exploring. I walked out of my apartment and headed towards the elevator. I spotted a tall man with a poof of wavy blonde hair wearing a button down with his name stitched on the pocket pressing the button for the elevator. We smiled at each other. Then I said, “Hello, we just moved into 17M and I was wondering if you knew where I could buy flowers around here?” He gave us a couple of deli’s to try in Tribeca and welcomed my daughter and I to the building. He also mentioned that his good friends used to live in our apartment. We parted ways, but I remember thinking “that guy has such a beautiful smile”.
His name is Sam and he was also involved in a relationship at the time of our first encounter. We began flirting innocently (if that’s possible?) and playfully inquired about each other’s families and our lives. Our interactions were limited to the lobby, the elevator, the lounge or the hallway. Sam was a young guy from Atlanta. He was charming, delicious to look at and worked at Playboy magazine. Our attraction was evident, but my desire to jump in his arms every time I saw him began to disturb me. I had no idea that the head of Security in our building kept him up to date on my comings and goings. If I had a disagreement with my boyfriend in the lobby, the doorman and the head of security would inform Sam of our current mess.
Right before Christmas, I saw Sam in the elevator and I told him to come over for a hot toddie. I later learned that my offer was a cougar code word for impending naughtiness. I thought I was just being neighborly. The night he was scheduled to come over had to be canceled because of an emergency with my client. I slipped a note under his door apologizing and I left my cell number. He sent me a message saying he understood and we could do it another night. This warm sensation took hold of me and suddenly I had an uncontrollable urge to purchase hundreds of mistletoes.
The next day Sam from 17D came by and brought a fabulous bottle of wine, champagne, chocolates and hot chocolate for my daughter. Fa la la la la la la . I gave him a card and a bottle of wine. We were both wishing each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in our hallway, when the elevator doors opened and my boyfriend stepped out. I introduced the two men and mentioned Sam’s holiday generosity. I watched how the two of them sized each other up and then shook hands. Deck the halls!
As we walked away in separate directions, I looked back and Sam shot me a wink.
Bold fellow. My beau and I were in a familiar format; uncertain, flat and souless. Neither of us was willing to call it quits. We were resistant to being truthful with each other. I was beginning to feel more vulnerable and more self-aware but I was still afraid to share how unloved I felt. Turns out I didn’t have to. Shortly after the New Year we ended our relationship. He said he wanted to move on and didn’t want to be married to me. We both cried a lot and shared more intimate moments than we had in a year. I felt fragile, but wide awake and hopeful.
My daughter and I went to a movie called “Meet the Fockers” and during the part when Barbara Streisand’s character is massaging Robert DeNiro, I received a text message from Sam. It read “YOU WILL, LET ME TAKE YOU OUT FOR A DRINK?” I gasped then replied, “Why, certainly!” I showed the text to my daughter and she rolled her eyes. After some textual ping pong we secured our first date. I was told to meet him at the Ellis Island Ferry Station near Battery Park at 7:30pm.
That was the only instruction I received. What to wear? What the hell do people do on Ellis Island at night in the middle of the winter? Should I look hot? How old is he really? I decided on a sexy wrap dress with high black boots. It was the day after I had my blue cast removed from a snowboarding accident, and my right arm looked a little atrophied. Cocktail gloves were not an option. I worked until 7:00 pm ,so I had a few minutes to throw on some mascara, lipgloss , brush my teeth and my hair. My cheeks were burning and my ears started clogging, which curiously happens when I’m overly excited.
The taxi dropped me off at the entrance of the ferry terminal. There he was, wearing that beautiful smile and a handsome suit. I was greeted with a hug and whisked through the terminal security. I could feel his hands trembling on my lower back. We were
directed towards the ferry and sat up top very close to one another. As we pulled away from the dock, Sam looked at me and said: "The first time I met you I wanted to have 10,000 roses delivered to your apartment." He put his arm around me and announced "tonight is about full disclosure!" Who is this man? I don't know how long the ride was to Ellis Island, but we managed to share a lot of truths. The view of the city in the background was stunning and as we neared the dock we saw hundreds of photographers, a red carpet and Will Smith. This was getting very interesting. The crowd was buzzing and the music was blasting inside the hall. Will and Jada were walking in front of us. Eva Mendes and her boyfriend came over and greeted my date and he introduced me. Then we were ushered into a theatre where the premier of Hitch would be showcased for the first time. My date was velcroed to my dress and whispered the sweetest things all evening. Then I felt compelled to ask the 10 million dollar question, "So, how old are you?" He smiled and said,"guess" I said (praying) "30?" No. "29?". No." 28?". No. "27?". No. "Oh dear GOD 26"? Yes!
We both laughed and I was just happy to be genuinely enjoying myself. The movie was entertaining, the stations of food filled the giant ballroom. Will Smith sang to the audience and we all danced till midnight. Sam and I looked out the windows facing the harbor and he quietly said" This would be a great story to tell our grandchildren." This guy must really want to sleep with me or something is happening that is beyond my comprehension.
Our first date was four years ago. We now live together on the Upper West Side of New York City with my daughter and our dog Shadow. Sam proposed to me this summer in a rain forest in Costa Rica while the Howler Monkeys serenaded us. We are in the throes of planning our engagement party and helping my daughter decide on what colleges to apply to next year. Our love story has had it's challenges, breakups, tears and it has all somehow shown us how to expand and forgive. I just love waking up to him every day. I hope Jeanne Moreau was right when she said, "Age doesn't protect you from love, but Love to some extent protects you from age." I later discovered during another evening of full disclosure, that he was 23 on our first date. So you do the math!