In 2010 my girlfriend Dana was tying the knot in Newport, Rhode Island. Newly single and clear that I wanted to attend, she encouraged me to bring my sister, a friend-so long as I showed up. Half way through the white glove service, Astor mansion-set wedding on the cliff walk, Dana dashed to my table on a serious mission with a tremendous grin across her face. I can still see and hear the conviction in her voice. “Lisa you have to meet my friend Tommy. I don’t know how I never thought of this before. He’s here with his whole family-they are amazing people. He is super successful on Wall St. and lives in Tribeca.” She squealed in excitement. “He thinks you’re so beautiful”. I wasn’t sure how I actually felt about it since I was very much raw from the split with my ex. The handsome, charming, drunk fool never did make his way over that night. When I look back at photos from the wedding 5 years later I can tell why.
It took him 4 days to write but he eventually did-via private message on Facebook. I was on a cruise ship with family and friends when I got his note. Introducing himself he mentioned the wedding and not getting to talk to me in person, some standard “good things” he had heard about me and an offer to take me out. I remember smiling but again not feeling ready to date. I politely answered that I appreciated his reaching out but I didn’t see it working for me at the time. Since Tommy is Tommy he met the note with confidence. His reply was short and sweet-“No worries. Just so you know the offer doesn’t expire if you change your mind.” That handsome, charming son of a bitch-he won when I caved in two weeks later.
Our first blind date on the Hudson river lasted 3 hours-a bottle of delicious white wine and fluid conversation I easily agreed to date 2. A movie and dinner in the city on his turf I remember heading back to see his place. His room had exposed brick walls and his dresser had expensive designer jewelry strewn around. I remember everyone’s comments about how successful he was-young money, fast money, but duly earned. Apparently he was the “man to be” at the time. Lucky for him I never cared. I remember the strong attraction sitting on his bed-but he was a gentleman. He walked me to my car and gave me a short, sweet kiss at the door.
Date 3 another wine-induced, seductive dinner later we were making out at some bar on the Hudson River-the halfway point between where we both lived. In between kisses he asked me to an upcoming wedding upstate in a few weeks. I remember agreeing but being unsure if this was the right answer. By the end of the night, all smiles and a bit tipsy he pushed me up against his car and we made out there too. As delicious as it all was I just, wasn’t convinced. Two days later I wrote him to say I was sorry but I still had unfinished business to deal with my ex once and for all. And so the story goes [according to Dana’s inside] that Tommy was insulted, upset or downright confused by the idea of a girl turning him down. Apparently our handsome, charming successful lacrosse superstar turned wall st. golden boy was not used to being turned down.
2 years later and no interactions between us I sat in the oncology wing of White Plains hospital in April 2012. My stepfather had been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer 3 weeks after the heart warming wedding he and my mom had shared. It was gut wrenching and honestly nauseating in every single second we lived it. Intubation, biopsies, colostomy surgery and chemo was their honeymoon. In the wake of sitting in shock and bitterness I logged into Facebook to distract myself and there he was. The picture posted was of three dolphins perched above crystal clear water around his fishing boat. A tan, glowing, thinner and seemingly happier version of the man I had dated in 2010. I remember wiggling a little in my chair while smirking. I was so taken aback by the photo along with the other 20 people who had commented on it. I wrote “This cannot be a real picture”. Within minutes he sent another private message, teasing that he hadn’t heard from me in forever and had to look several times at my profile picture to figure out who it was. It probably didn’t hurt that I had recently changed it to tan, toned photo sporting a sexy dress from my trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico. He asked how I was. “HA-oh I’m great, ya know just sitting here in the cancer unit of the hospital-per usual, what else?” Part sarcasm part actual jealousy to wherever he was. I told him what was going on and teased that clearly his life was a lot more exciting it seemed.
He was traveling-with no end in mind. He had chosen to leave the desperate and collapsed version of Wall St. by 2012 to reward himself for the hard earned money he worked the few years prior. For his 30th birthday he would travel far and wide to ski, surf and fish-do all the things you promise yourself you’ll do when you retire. Very intrigued, we began flirting and it continued for weeks. Surfing in Panama he ventured daily to a café for wifi and we’d talk. After three weeks I mentioned that he should really appreciate where he was because I would have done anything to be with those dolphins at that point in my life. He, like Tommy does, responded point blank “So come see them”. And just like that little miss rule-book, straight A student, oldest, responsible sibling decided to take an adventure for the first time ever.
The night before flying to Panama City he called me to say “Don’t be mad I promise it will be worth it. I need you to repack your bag so that its less than 20 lbs-we are going to a private island off the coast and we need to go by boat.” What the hell do you possibly argue to that? You bet your ass I got it under 20lbs. I still remember his face picking me up at 2 am in the airport. Ecstatic and bewildered he asked where the rest of my stuff was-to which I replied…”I listened”.
My family and friends back home were like cheerleaders rooting for our tropical jaunt to turn fairytale come true. We were barefoot for days-we chased sunsets, swam, read, tanned and made love. I was crazy about him and the idea of a second chance. As much as I wanted this to be my fairytale something inside me worried again. It was June of 2012 and he claimed the end of his journeys would be in August. It was a feasible amount of time to wait to be together stateside but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The voice inside me whispered a very real truth. He’s only ever been two things well-an incredible athlete and a finance hotshot. The impending identity crisis upon his return home would certainly not be easy for him and I knew, in turn I would become the second victim behind his ego.
The last place he journeyed was to Indonesia stopping in Bali. During all his travels he collected local treasures for me. Days before leaving he bought me a handmade, white lace Balinese dress. He told me it reminded him of me because I was his “angel.” When he returned and gifted it to me for my birthday he was pissed, I mean really pissed when it didn’t fit. There stood my mother, grandmother and aunt all beaming with excitement and wanting to rectify it-quickly. ‘Ok well we’ll just have to hem it and take it in here and adjust that and it will be fine!” I laughed. You don’t trim and tuck a handmade Balinese dress. They meant well wishing it were a prelude to a wedding dress. We later we went online, chose a style, wrote the company sending cash for them to send the dress that fit. Yet somehow it came back across the world-untouched with tags and money.
We split in April 2013 when Tommy left to herd cattle across Australia. (No, I can’t make it up). And so the dress stood hung in my closet. I always looked at it partly in anger and otherwise sadness for the fact that we hadn’t stood a chance at that place in our lives-while he waded in indecision, confusion, anger and uncertainty about how to rebuild his world-what to do and “be” next all the while I tried to remain a loving, supportive girlfriend for him. I was broken over it-ego badly bruised, pride sucked dry and heart shattered in what felt like rejection. The only way I could cope was to self soothe. One night, that I now can never forget-I looked at the dress and said out loud-‘Don’t worry Li-someday, somehow when you get to Bali, even if on your own accord you’ll get a new dress. A new dress that fits.”
And so there I sat November 2014 in a café named Olive-in Seminyak on the southwest coast of Bali sipping a Mosquito mojito cocktail, working on my first book. I had just returned the dress 2.5 years later, even though the shop had a 7-day return policy. I left with a gorgeous, updated, silky white lace version of the one Tommy originally purchased.
I now have a form fitting dress and 50,000+ word draft of a book and he has a profession that fits-a business that allows him to travel the world scouting locations for adventurous missions for clients to escape and explore on. Nearly 5 years of history on and off, global travels and worlds between us, somewhere in between a modern love story was woven.