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June 11, 2013

Wincing, I peel very slowly- a two day old band-aid off my left heel. I mentally calculate that its been through three showers and note to self… gross.

I have bravely, impetuously been breaking in new shoes to wear all over Europe, trying in vain to save myself from the mistake I made years ago with my pony hair zebra print flats. They left my feet so battered that I had no feeling along the side of my right big toe for years. Although, I’m not faring very well now I surmise looking at my bandaged toes.

It’s one of the things on my increasingly long to do list. It seems every time I cross something off, I remember something else. Buy plug converters. Make sure passport has enough pages. Pay old parking ticket, and for that matter- where does one park a car for the summer?

I am spiraling from an elated high, the anticipation of a summer of certain life changing adventure- way down to logic and foresight. What if I run out of money or don’t have anywhere to stay? Or worse…what if I get kidnapped and chained in a basement somewhere??

“….And she was never heard from again..” my friend teased me. I was overanalyzing while chowing on pre movie pizza, drinking happy hour wine. I was, as usual, obsessing.
“Stop!” I laughed, swinging my glass of Sangiovese. “Didn’t I get enough shit when I was swept off by the last Moroccan?” He looked at me and rolled his eyes.
“Only you could say something like that.” He was right. Leave it to me to meet Morocco, the sequel.

Last Saturday, I strapped on sassy ankle high boots, black leather short shorts, and sashayed to meet friends at a Lincoln Road hot spot. As I approached the crosswalk, I noticed a trio emerging from a cab, two guys, and a girl with a fabulous red dress on chatting in French. We all waited at the crosswalk and I strode on to Juvia, a restaurant overlooking South Beach. Best place to sip champagne. I stepped in the elevator and as the doors began to shut, an arm swung in from the side and caught it. The same people from the crosswalk step in, laughing amongst themselves. Once in the restaurant, I met with my friends just in time for them to want to leave. We headed instead to Segefredo to sink into couches and cocktails, one of my favorite places to sit and watch the South Beach parade; runway if you will. After all, it was Saturday night.

My friend had been waiting for a guy to join us all night. Not uncommon, most of us locals operate selfishly and consistently on what we refer to as “Miami time”, which is about an hour to an hour and a half late. He finally arrived and introduced himself to the group. She looked pointedly at me at some point and said, “He’s from Morocco.”

Immediately stirred up, I tune in. My ex was from Morocco. I believe when he told me he was from Casablanca I immediately asked, only half joking- “Is that a real place?” I had to look it up on a map. Not a proud moment.

As we were settled in talking, drinking, socializing- more friends approached. I looked up in disbelief. It was the people from the crosswalk and the elevator. I threw my hands up in welcome laughing, “I feel like I’ve seen you everywhere tonight, right?” I stood to double kiss everyone hello, they laughed with recognition, and the chemistry of the group elevated a notch. Turns out, they were visiting from Casablanca.

One of the guys sat right by my side. We began to chat, his face revealing more than he knew. I immediately recognize this trait, I can rarely hide my thoughts. Whatever I’m thinking or feeling is all over my face. On him it was so endearing, this man was interested in me, I realized with a grin. He was disarmingly handsome and had an incredible accent. We alternated between small talk between ourselves and the conversation between the group of us. My summer travels came up.
“I am going to Europe,” I said. “For four months.”
“Ooooooh nice,” he exclaimed. “Where to?”
“I thought about Morocco,” I said honestly. I’d wanted to go there since I’d dated my ex, but with him it would have never happened. It might have well been a fictional city from the movie like I thought.
“You should come,” he said effortlessly. His friends chimed in, “Yes yes! You have to, you’ll love it,” they exclaimed. I beamed, suddenly excited. It was so foreign to me to hear. Almost like I hadn’t been allowed to go.

I told them about London, Dublin, St.Tropez and Paris, to which he remarked- “Paris? I have a place in Paris. Let me know when, and you can stay there. I’ll call my guy. He’ll meet you with the keys.”

I breathed in sharply. Was this a joke? Had I really met another handsome Moroccan who speaks 5 languages and has a place in Paris? Seriously? Yet this guy was different. He was so open, natural, easy. There was no anxiety, I didn’t feel like I was being tested, or was walking on eggshells like I did with Marc. He seemed genuine, open, like his heart was pounding out of his chest.

“You know,” he said slowly, eyes cast down. “When I first saw you at the crosswalk, I felt like lightening had struck me. I said immediately to my friends, ‘Whoa whoa whoaaaa. Look at this girl, she is amazing. This is my girl.’ ”
They all laughed and teased telling me the story. Our story.
“Her legs!” The girl in the red dress exclaimed. “It’s your legs,” she’d cooed as I’d stood there oblivious.
“Then we got on the elevator,” he continued. “And you were there too. I didn’t know what to do. I lost you in the restaurant. I looked everywhere.”
“She was sitting down,” the girl exclaimed. “I saw you,” she smiled at me.
“I kept asking, where is my girl?” He continued. “Where did my girl go? You left before I knew it.”
“And then you arrived here,” I continued, clapping my hands, loving the story.
“Yes,” he laughed again. “They were coming here to meet up with everyone” he said gesturing to friends of friends, our little group considerably expanded. “But I was heading back to the hotel. I was done, just so so tired. Then I saw you,” he looked at me and smiled. “It is destiny. I was supposed to meet you.”

My heart was now thumping out of my chest as well.
“I feel like I found you. I was calling you my girl before I’d even met you,” he reached down to take my hand, and I let him. I sighed, resigned. I know full well I have no defenses against this. Romance of this caliber is what I’ve come to expect from happily ever after.

“I don’t know anything abut you,” I said, shy the next morning when I picked him up at his hotel after a night apart. (I am a good girl).
“Ask me anything,” he laughed. My mind was blank, where to start?… We settled into the drive and silence. He chimed in after a few minutes, “I know how I feel when I’m with you. The rest, we will learn in time.” I relaxed, his ease contagious. I realized I felt the same. No need to make it stressful. We just were. We were together because we wanted to be, headed out to spend the day on a boat with friends. My hand was in his, smiles on our faces.

The next couple of days were a romantic whirlwind. Tiny moments seared into my memory. The two of us standing waist deep in the ocean, his thumb and finger tilting my chin up to his face and saying, incredulous “I’m falling in love,” as I melted. Coming back from a morning run to him tangled in my sheets. My heart pounding, watching him sleep while thinking, “Is this him? Is this my person?” Leaning my back into his chest with his arms around me, stretched out on a chaise lounge ocean side, watching the waves and feeling the rise and fall of his breath.

Plans were made, things were whispered, Sinatra was sung. We had a blast enjoying every minute we could. All too soon, I took him to the airport. As we parked, my favorite song magically began playing. Etta James, “At Last” had us suspended in a perfect moment. Even though we were running late and delirious form lack of sleep, we sat for a moment and listened to the song til the end. I’d brought a card to write a love note in, and was carrying it with me through the airport pen in hand, unable to think of a single thing to say. Standing in line, I used his back and finally penned; “Although we are apart, it is our destiny to be together again,” and tucked the card into his backpack.

I walked by his side until I couldn’t anymore. We hurried our goodbyes, neither of us wanting to have to say them. I turned to leave, disoriented and completely lost suddenly. I turned the wrong way and walked with purpose until I realized I had no idea where the parking garage was. I turned back and as I passed him again, I hurried, embarrassed for being so disoriented and flustered. I finally found my way out to my car and sat for a bit, trying to get my bearings. Had that just happened?

I don’t know what happens now. For the first time in my life, I am free. I’m single, I have no obligations for the next four months, I’ve sublet my place and am prepped to travel the world and write about it, one meal at a time. I was very settled into the idea of a summer alone, exploring…. and now this.

“We will travel together,” he shrugs as I try to stifle the thrill this brings me. He has such grandiose ideas of travel, “I’ve always wanted someone to share the world with. I want someone to travel with me.” My insides tugged with recognition, hadn’t I said those exact words myself? Haven’t I felt just that as I stood before a thousand memorable moments and soaked them in solo? He speaks 5 languages I don’t know, but this language I knew. This subtle longing for your other half is familiar to me.

My most independent self thinks I will do exactly as my Irish ass intends, and if he is the man for me, he will be more than happy to support me. Even if I am a fool, I am a fool in love with life. Everything has aligned for a summer of enlightenment in ways I cant possibly predict. I had planned to forge solo, and at times I will. I insist I am not going to be afraid, or lonely (despite past evidence to the contrary- it is not the first time I’ve swan dived off the top branch). I am going to embrace this as the blessing that it is, and frolic the world until my heart is content.

But first, I will go and be with the man who wants to share the world with me. Casablanca, Ivory Coast, Marrakech, Fez- Barcelona, Paris, and and and… working our way to Thailand. Maybe Bora Bora? He calls me from Morocco to hear my voice. My phone pings love notes from him all day. Pics of his friends saying hi, pics of him at the office, pics of him driving. He’s keeping me with him until I can be with him; the whole thing participatory, open, honest, easy. The partnership I’ve always wanted.

I’m a little anxious. What do I fear? I’m not even sure anymore. The man of my dreams being another fake? Losing my gumption to follow my dreams? I guess, yes and yes… I’m also vibrating with excitement. I’m about to embark on the greatest journey of my life to date. Excited, nervous…either way, a mile in my shoes will be worth walking. Blisters or no, I’m in.