Welcome to #spillthebeansonlove

A True-Life Romance


Chapter 1 - I was in The Hamptons...

Here goes: I was in The Hamptons with Devon and Courtney having just finished happy hour at Wolffer Winery. Life was beautiful and little did I know it was about to get even sweeter...

So much sweeter in fact.  

The story that follows may seem like a fairytale, but know that it comes after twenty years of  learning lessons in life, dating and love. Many have called me lucky, I call myself patient, resilient, and determined. The man you'll meet in this story is my 'worth the wait.' 

Come along on this topsy-turvy love story ride and be sure to share your love stories along the way.  

Hold we go!

Chapter 2 - I'm most grateful for...

One of the things I’m most grateful for in life is my friendships. I’ve always been a girl’s girl and taking girls’ trips and nourishing these relationships has always been a priority in my life. I have a rule that I’m only friends with women whom I admire and aspire to be like in some aspect. This keeps me striving toward my best self and keeps the integrity of the people I hang out with at a high level. 

I admire so much about the two women in this story that I don’t have enough space to write it all, but I will tell you this: Devon is the most well-connected person you’ll ever meet. She knows someone everywhere we go and she’ll nonchalantly say, oh I met them 9 years ago on a train ride from NYC to Boston (Random example, but so realistic) She is a master at maintaining those friendships and relationships, and being that she’s one of the most generous people, she will give you the shirt off her back without a beat of hesitation which I’m sure is one of the many reasons everyone wants to be connected to Devon  I think of Devon as my social butterfly friend who knows where to go, what to do and will always know someone where ever we end up. 

Courtney is my sweet, genuine, modest, quiet at first friend who has no idea that she’s absolutely hilarious and one of the bravest and most adventurous souls I’ve ever met. She would never tell you that she’s whip-smart, highly successful in her field, and have traveled to most edges of the Earth even Bhutan (where she brought me back an authentic singing bowl that I use in my meditations) The three of us - very different, yet at our core possibly very alike. 

So one day Courtney and I are sitting at the pool two rosés deep, discussing her life motto #enjoythejourney, and Devon calls.  In true Devon form, she's calling with life-changing information.  She says, “do you want to go to the Hamptons for the 4th of July?” Without missing a beat, trust me, the answer is always YES!!!

Chapter 3 - We hit the road...

We hit the road from Philadelphia to The Hamptons super early, like 4am early. There’s only one road in and one road out and you can imagine how jammed up it gets on a holiday weekend, so we were on a mission to beat the traffic. As we entered the Hamptons, Devon gave us a driving tour and I remember looking out the window like a kid in a candy store taking in all the beautiful homes and the adorable shops. As we passed by all the cute restaurants I saw one that caught my eye and I mentioned to the girls that I’d love to get a lobster roll at some point. I’m not really sure why I said this, and to be honest I didn’t even remember saying this until Devon reminded me of it later in the day.

 We were too early to check into our hotel so Devon took us on a walking tour of adorable Montauk. We thought about having some midday cocktails but instead decided to sit down and have a light lunch al fresco as we were going to be heading to a winery later that evening. The air was warm, the street was bustling with eye candy and I was on vacay with two amazing friends. I wasn’t chasing joy, I was living joy.

Chapter 4 - Montauk is adorable...

Montauk is adorable. There’s something so TrumanShow / movie-set perfect about it.  We walked up and down the Main Street and did some window shopping and people watching.  The sun was out and the sky was clear.  The world was moving in a way that felt comfortable, caring, and safe.  

We decided to check into our hotel but since we still couldn’t get into our room we did the next best thing - we laid out by the pool.  The girls napped and read magazines and I watched a few young families with kids playing in the pool wondering if I would ever have the experience of playing with my own kids in the pool, and if I did, would a husband be in the picture? I’ve actually wondered this for years and in that moment at the pool watching the kids play brought back those thoughts. These aren't sad thoughts, more thoughts of curiosity.  Will I ever experience this or will it only be left to my imagination?  

We had a plan for the rest of the evening.  Step 1: Get super cute, Hamptons-style.  Next, we would head over to the house of one of Devon’s friends (obviously, Devon would know someone having a pool party in the Hamptons - obviously).  Next stop, catch music,  happy hour, and then the sunset at Wolffer Winery all while enjoying their famous rosé.  

Chapter 5 - Get cute, Hamptons style...

So this was my interpretation of ‘get cute Hamptons-Style.’ Lol. A few fake lashes, some Westmore Body Perfector, a few clip-in extensions, a white silk blouse, and my favorite skort.

Meanwhile, the humidity was on a mission that night and my nice flat ironed hair became so big and frizzy I had to take out my clip-in extensions because they were straight and my natural hair was curly (enter a very awkward hair style) Good thing I caught this hair faux pas early on while at the pool party, pre-winery bc it was UM...we’ll call it interesting in a not-ever-trending type of way.

My makeup was melting off but I just decided to roll with it and call my oil-slick face my ‘Hamptons glow.’ What’s a girl to do in 100% east coast humidity? Own it and move on. 💁🏻‍♀️

Just as we were about to leave the party and head to the winery a warm good night, thanks for everything gesture turned into a full glass of white wine flying through the air and landing directly on my white silk blouse. I had now inadvertently entered a Hamptons style wet t-shirt contest. I jumped into action doing the only trick in the book I know to take about a stain and quickly grabbed soda water and poured it all over the spill which takes my shirt to next-level wet and completely see-through.

As luck would have it, we had about a ten-minute drive to the winery which was just enough time for me to hang my chest out the car window and dry my shirt. Interestingly enough it worked pretty well and all that was left was an outline which later came out with a dry clean, but in the meantime, I could camouflage by wearing my handbag as a crossbody. ✨Score!

The winery was so very Hamptons. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people, beautiful wine. Everywhere I turned I saw beauty. The gorgeous sunset to my right, a joyful band to the left, fabulous rosé, a charcuterie plate in front of me, and two amazing friends to share it all with.

We enjoyed the evening until the sun had set. But now what? In my mind, the night was young. Where would we go, what party would we find, which celebs would we see? I was so excited to experience the Hamptons nightlife. Until this point I'd only seen it on TV and in magazines. Let's go play, I thought!

Perhaps my vision wasn’t exactly in alignment with the girls’ vision. In their defense, we did hit the road at 4am and I took a little snooze in the backseat on the way up. Regardless, looking back my biggest blessing is that they had a different idea of what to do next.

Chapter 6 - The sun has set...

The sun has set, the music is fading and I’m ready to hit the town. We pack up our blanket and souvenir wine and as we’re walking back to the car Devon suggests that we go to dinner. Dinner?! Honestly, dinner hadn’t even crossed my mind because I just ate a charcuterie plate, but because she’s so darn sweet, she says, “yes, there’s a really cute restaurant down the street where you can get the lobster roll you wanted.” Oh! Right, I asked for that. Well for starters Devon has never let me down with a dinner or social decision, and secondly, she was the DD, so quite frankly, I was happy to defer. Courtney is the most go-with-the-flow friend of the bunch who was just enjoying the journey, her life motto. We pull up to the cutest little beach shack, a Hamptons-style‘ shack’ if you will, that is actually famous in the Hamptons, not just for its lobster rolls, but also because an episode of ‘The Affair’ was filmed there. It’s called 'Lunch, The Lobster Roll'. Ironically, we were going for dinner. The three of us jump out of the car and head into the restaurant. While standing at the hostess stand I determine that the A/C is too cold for me and run back out to the car to grab my jean jacket. As I’m walking back into the restaurant, My nose is buried in my phone texting with my co-worker/'big sister' Shawn about our Friday night static beauty show that I'm missing. Interestingly enough as a ‘big sister’/mentor figure to me, a few days prior Shawn said ‘Have a great time in the Hamptons and go meet your rich, hot husband!’ ‘Ok, will do!’ I replied. Since I was fully immersed in my text convo with Shawn I was lagging a few feet behind the other girls as the hostess led us to not just A booth, but THE booth where ‘The Affair’ was filmed. Adorned with a plaque and all, we were officially sat at the special table. As I delinquently approached our ‘special’ booth and was making a decision as to which side of the booth I wanted to sit on, I glanced up from my phone, and for a second (whoooosh) the world literally stopped. Time.stood.still. I saw him. I saw the most beautiful man I’d ever seen in my entire life. And he saw me.

Chapter 7 - He saw me. I saw him...

He saw me. I saw him see me. And I kept seeing him…in fact I stared at him for so long it passed the point of flattery and went into the awkward zone. I didn’t care because some sort of bravery came over me and I thought it’s now or never - I’m going to continue to stare into the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen and now I pep talked myself into a…smile. It felt it good to smile, almost like a relief.

As fate would have it, the hostess seated him in the booth next to us. Not the ‘special’ booth, that was for us, girls, but the one next to the ‘special’ booth. I watched him sit down facing our booth. As I was walking up I was positioning myself to sit with my back to him, but then a wave of bravery took over, and without breaking eye contact or missing a beat in what felt like slow motion, I switched sides of the booth to face the most beautiful man. I maintained my eyes locked on his and nudged Devon to ‘move over…move OVER.’ (In the kindest way while being emphatic)

At that moment in time, I couldn’t blame Devon for not knowing that I was going to sit on her side of the booth, I had made a sharp change in my direction and hadn’t told her what was going on. There was no time to explain, this was my make or break decision. If I sat with my back to him, I’d have to be brave enough to turn around and talk to him, but if I sat across from him, I could ‘make eyes,’ which would be a much easier segway into a conversation.

He was sitting with another gentleman, an older man. Both of them well dressed but the most beautiful man in the world was the only one I was concerned with. He had dark hair with a fresh precision cut and not a hair out of place. He had perfectly even-toned and tan skin with a slight exotic glow (the kind I pay good money for with my beauty products) and deep soulful eyes behind stylish glasses (the kind I always wished I could pull off). He looked sharp in his suit, but his smile was the game-changer. I took all of this in and stared for an uncomfortably long period of time until he did what any nice man would do, he smiled back at me.

Chapter 8 - Perhaps he smiled out of embarrassment...

Perhaps he smiled out of embarrassment for me because I was truly taken and terribly obvious, maybe he smiled because he was flattered, or possibly and hopefully because he liked what he was looking at. I watched his perfectly shaped lips begin to split, his deep dark eyes soften and there it was, the most beautiful man with the most perfectly, imperfect smile. I melted. I was literally a puddle of rosé. The waitress came over to take our order. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was a menu on the table. I was in a parallel universe and it was just me and the most beautiful man. Without even looking at the waitress, I said, ‘I’ll have the lobster roll.” “Hot or cold,” she said. “What? Cold.” I didn’t care. I wasn’t hungry for anything but attention from this stranger. I think the girls were having a conversation, I’m not really sure. My entire focus was on my connection with and gravitational pull towards this man. I had such tunnel vision that it felt as though he and I were on a date and in a very intense conversation sans words. His eyes said everything I needed to know and his smile said everything I wanted to hear. There was a force pulling my heart toward his and in my mind, it looked like gold spun thread with a small locket in the middle. My lobster roll arrived. It was massive and I was not hungry. I asked Devon where her dinner was, and she said, ‘I don’t like seafood. I wanted to bring you here because you said you wanted to get a lobster roll while on this trip.’ Classic Devon, thinking of everyone but herself. I took a bite…daintily…with my fork. There was no way I would manhandle that sandwich full of lobster and mayo and try to take a bite while having an ‘eye dance’ with my…soulmate??? I’m not sure when his dinner arrived, but at some point, I looked at his plate and realized we ordered the exact same thing. I would take a bite, he would take a bite. I would smile, he would smile. I was essentially on a very romantic date, one booth over and with three other people attending. Finally, I went for it. “Where are you guys from?” The friend answers, “Miami.” The most beautiful man answers in a ridiculously sexy accent, ‘Yes, I am from Miami.” I look him dead in the eyes, “No you’re not…where are you FROM?” “Oh,” he says, “Cuba.” I melt. I throw in the white towel, I surrender. How did he just go from a perfect ten to a perfect ten plus?

Chapter 9 - I am from Miami...

The friend answers, “Miami.” The most beautiful man answers in a ridiculously sexy accent, ‘Yes, I am from Miami.” I look him dead in the eyes, “No you’re not…where are you FROM?” “Oh,” he says, “Cuba.” I melt. I throw in the white towel, I surrender. How did he just go from a perfect ten to a perfect ten plus? Cuba, I thought. Oh wow, how exotic. I start scanning my Rolodex of friends in my head to see if I have any friends from Cuba…? None, I have officially no friends from Cuba, but I do have a friend of Cuban descent and she will be getting a phone call about this soon. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a lot about Cuba, except the normal things, like a bit about their government, the complicated issues they have with the US, the fact that they make a coffee that can keep me wired for 3 days and that they produce GORGEOUS people. When I was in college I studied in Spain and I fell in love with the culture. It was rich and vibrant with fabulous holidays and a relaxed lifestyle. The food was savory and every meal was cherished and enjoyed for hours. The language was intoxicating, the topography was dreamy and the people were magical. Perhaps Spain was my first love, and well this stranger, might be my second. All I wanted him to do was to talk more. Anything, he could talk about anything, I wanted to hear that accent for hours. I wanted to speak Spanish with him and see if I could muster up what I’d learned 18 years prior. I wanted him to tell me all about Cuba from the Cuban perspective. I wanted to know when he got to the U.S. and how. I wanted to know where his family lived and if he got to see them often. I had a million questions. And while I’m thinking of everything I want to ask him, the friend asks where we are from? ‘Philadelphia.’ Trying to keep it short and sweet, I thought, there’s no need to expand upon that - it is what it is - moving on. We're talking and dreaming about Cuba right now!! So to keep the conversation rolling in the direction I wanted it, I looked at the beautiful man and asked, “Would you take a picture of me with my friends please?” Without missing a beat the friend (not the beautiful man) says, “Yes, of course, I will.” At this point, the A/C is on full blast and we’re all wearing our jackets - THREE.JEAN.JACKETS. 3 girls, 3 jean jackets, not embarrassing at all. (insert thick sarcasm here) We rolled with it and said it’s our band name - ‘Three Jean Jackets.’ It just rolls right off the tongue. The friend takes the picture. The beautiful man is watching. I know he’s watching so I make the prettiest smile I can while trying to be cool as I can as Jean Jacket #2 of 3. He hands my phone back to me. I inspect the pictures. ‘No good. Terrible, in fact. These must be re-taken.’ I look at the beautiful man, ‘Will you try?’ He takes our picture (it’s also not good yet not his fault, the lighting was bad, the angles were rough). I took one look at the picture, paused for dramatic effect, looked up at him, and said...“It’s PERFECT!” In my mind, the next sentence was, 'you're perfect, we're perfect, let's do this!)

Chapter 10 - She was beautiful, intelligent, and witty...

Three months prior and right around my 38th birthday, my Grandmother passed away. She and I were particularly close as I was her only granddaughter. She was beautiful, intelligent, witty, and very interested in making sure I would find someone to marry. During the last decade of her life, she would often remind me of my ex’s and ask if I would like to call any of them up to see if perhaps they would like to get married. As much as I appreciated the gesture I couldn’t help but belly laugh over this suggestion. Firstly because we had obviously broken up because we were clearly not marriage material, but also because if I have this right, I believe it takes two to tango. Of course, I knew this was coming only from the deepest love a Grandmother has for her Granddaughter. I assured her, that I would be ok. I would be patient and wait until the time is right, but in the meantime, I would be ok.

I didn’t want her to worry, so at times I even thought about staging a wedding before she passed so she could rest assured that I was in fact ok. But I knew she was too sharp and would have seen right through that lie.

When she passed, I knew with every fiber of my being that she would be my angel. I even thought she may guide me gracefully through life, but little did I know that she would be the one to organize the meeting between me and my person.

The girls were ready to hit the road. Understandably so, as we had been up since 4am or possibly even earlier. Personally, I could have stayed there all night, but that’s because when you’re falling in love your second wind kicks into high gear.

I asked for my lobster roll to-go. After all, Devon went out of her way to take me there, I only took about 3 bites and it cost almost $40. (It’s the Hamptons, what can I say?).

We got up from our famous booth and the girls headed towards the exit first. I lingered just a little bit in hopes that maybe he would ask for my number or Instagram or Facebook or Linkedin or Snapchat or place of employment or last name or ANYTHING! LOL. But he didn’t. He was a bit shy. However, what he did do, was flash me that perfectly imperfect smile and give me the look of hope and deep connection in his kind, gentle brown eyes. I stood there for a beat. He waved. I waved. I stood for another beat. I smiled. And then I walked toward the exit as I noticed my friends had already left the restaurant.

As I approached the exit, I was now in an empty, dark part of the restaurant which had already been shut down and was ready for closing. The tables were cleared, the chairs were stacked and the lights were dim. I was the only one in this section, as my friends had already exited the restaurant and were in the parking lot walking to the car. My exit from the restaurant was now mirroring my entrance to the restaurant. There I was in my own little world, a few feet behind the girls.

All of a sudden, a force physically stopped me. Not an actual human, but some sort of... I can’t explain it other than a pair or gentle yet firm, strong hands were placed on the front of my shoulders and stopped me in my tracks. I conceded. I stopped, I stood still and I listened.

A voice, a comforting yet commanding voice came into my right ear and said, “If you leave now, you will forever regret it.” It wasn't the type of regret that was fleeting or that I would get over quickly. The message that was relayed to me here was one of deep, profound regret It was made obvious that meeting this man was a crossroads, a sliding door if you will, moment in my life. Choose path A - continue on, choose path B - everything changes.

It was my Grandma. It was her voice. It was her command. Had she set this whole thing up in the mere two months she had been gone?

Chapter 11 - Stopped dead in my tracks...

Stopped dead in my tracks with legs like lead. I couldn’t move. I felt as though my feet were super-glued to the floor. I heard the command. It was loud. It was clear. It was coming from a force bigger than myself. I knew I needed to act and act swiftly. I thought, ‘Ok, I need a piece of paper.’ I realized my receipt was still in my left hand. I thought, ‘I need a pen.’ I looked down at the table in front of me, it was empty, except for not one, but two pens. In fact, there wasn’t a napkin, a piece of silverware, even a lick of trash in the room. Only tables, stacked chairs, and two pens. With my hand shaking from nerves I turned over my receipt and wrote Elise - (xxx) xxx-xxxx. I tried to write neatly because I didn't want him to have any excuse not to contact me. What if he couldn't read the number? What if my shaky hand and terrible handwriting ruins my chances? Nope, I got this. Somehow I had the wherewithal to think this through and I purposely didn't write my last name because I didn't want him to google me. I wanted him know the real me, not the me on TV with lots of makeup and perfect lighting. I turned around and walked back towards his table. Time slowed down, the room got blurry and could hear some sort of motivating soundtrack playing in my head. Simultaneously I could feel and hear the shuffle of my feet, as I put one foot in front of the other. With an intensity in my eyes I looked through the room, and to my relief, I saw that he was sitting at the booth and his friend was on the phone. I walked up sliding my feet in what looked like a shuffle/sashay all while trying to seem ever so casual. I moved the receipt from my left hand to my right and laid it on the edge of his table. Then with my cutest 'bend and snap' impression, I slid it from the edge of the table until it was right in front of him. Looking him directly in the eyes, “In case you ever want to visit Philadelphia.” And just like that, with my heart pounding out of my chest, I turned around and ran (literally ran) out of the restaurant, to the parking lot, and into the car. I slammed the car door closed and released a big deep breath. Courtney and Devon said, “Where were you?” “Um, I just gave that guy my number.” Collective shouts of “What! OMG!” followed by an eruption of laughter. “Yep, my Grandma told me to.”

Chapter 12 The girls and I get back to our hotel. It’s about 11pm, so not too late, but we had packed a lot into one day with a pretty early start time so we were ready to knock out. My nightly routine isn’t exactly the shortest with the face creams and the serums, the body lotion, the teeth whitener, etc. It’s a process…but in a way maybe I was stalling a bit to see if he would write. I think we were pretty exhausted by this point because we all got into bed and individually checked our phones in silence. Scrolling through instagram, checking Facebook, laughing at Twitter - ding. “Omg.” Pause. “He wrote me. He wrote me on WhatsApp." Wow, cryptic, I thought. The girls are now intrigued. “What did he say?” He said, “It was really nice to meet you” The girls asked, “Well, what are you going to say back?” Thinking to myself, play it cool, Elise. Typing: “Thx. I figured, why not?! You’re so cute” O-M-G - so that was the opposite of playing it cool. Definitely NOT cool. Oh well, it’s done. Sent. I knew he was modest!! I knew he had no idea how hot he was. He writes “I don’t think so, but thank you!” Girls,I’m going for it - Typing… A-r-e Y-o-u S-i-n-g-l-e? At this point, my theory is, let’s cut to the chase. I’ve been waiting like 20 years to meet my person and I don’t want to be thinking about some dude who’s in a relationship the whole time I’m on my girl’s trip. Yes, I am a dreamer, yes I am a romantic but even more so, I’m practical and meeting a man who's in a relationship - not practical, not feasible, not gonna waste time on it. In a way, however, it would almost make it easier if he was and I could just move on? But is that REALLY what I want? I can see he’s typing…I’m so nervous. Please say yes, please say yes. “Yes, I am single. Are YOU?” Why in the world would he ask me that? I literally just pursed the hell out of him. Oh! Maybe his friends are like THAT? Could that be? Ok - I’m getting ahead of myself. Me: “Yep” Him: “How so?” Me: “LOL, IDK! Long time too!!” And as if the next text is coming in slow motion he types the dreaded characters that spell the words: H-o-w o-l-d a-r-e y-o-u? Me: “I’m 38. You?” Time passes. More time passes. An eternity is passing. My face serum has fully absorbed into my skin, my anti-aging moisturizer has dried up and maybe this is mirroring how he feels about my answer. Me: “Uh oh, LOL” I fall asleep with the assumption that I’m too old. It’s ok. It was fun. It was an adventure. I enjoyed the thrill, and I was proud of my bravery... I’m not sure what woke me out of my deep slumber, but at some point in the middle of the night I woke up, rolled over and OMG - he wrote! Him: “Sorry my phone died”. “I thought you were younger” (Um, is this good or bad, please expand) “I’m 42.” Me: “Oh 42 is good. You have some life experience”. Here’s where I thought I could go in and learn everything I needed to know. “Do you have Instagram?” Him: “No social media here.” Me: “Oh, that’s so mysterious.” First WhatsApp, next no social media. Who is the guy? Mysterious might have been my first thought, but my real subtext was oh shit, how am I going to find out his backstory without a good night of cyberstalking? He better be in for a load of questions. The night slips away from us…we chat for a while about jobs and family and what we like to do in our free time. He slips in the fact that on the weekends he likes to go on his boat. WTF is going on? The perfect, sexy, hot Cuban HAS A BOAT in MIAMI. What is happening with my life and when am I getting on it and am I bikini ready? After some back and forth pics of our ‘kids’ (our dogs) we eventually drift off to sleep. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is check my phone. He texted! Yay, I love waking up to a text!! FINALLY he asks me if I want to grab lunch. Me: Causally I say, “Sure!” I mean, hellooooooo I’ve been waiting for this invite for a whole 15 hours now.

Chapter 13 How in the world did the most beautiful man end up at Lunch, The Lobster Roll? One day while at work in Miami he and his co-workers were finishing up a proposal for a potential client. The proposal was now fine tuned and they were ready to present it to the client in person and planned to do so at the client’s home in NYC. The most beautiful man was not originally planning to make the trip but one of his co-workers requested that he be included in the presentation as he excels at explaining the details and some of the trickier parts of the proposal. Together they decide that three of them will go present to the client in NYC, the most beautiful man being one of the three. At the last minute the client informs them that he is not going to be in NYC and would instead be in the Hamptons that weekend at his summer home. He requested that they come present to him there. Of course when your huge client asks this of you, you say yes, no matter the inconvenience or current travel plans in place. So the most beautiful man and two of his co-workers take their original flight to NYC and now have to tack on a long drive to the Hamptons on the 4th of July holiday weekend with about a day of advance notice. Due to the short notice, all of the hotel rooms were booked up for the weekend causing them to have to stay just outside of the Hamptons in a town called Riverhead (About 42 miles from where I was staying in Montauk). After a very long travel day, they arrive at their hotel in Riverhead, drop their bags, and head to the client’s house in the Hamptons. They do the presentation, it’s goes really well and they secure the job. In the meantime, one of the co-workers goes off on his own, and the most beautiful man and his other co-worker/friend decide to take a ride through the Hamptons to admire the beautiful homes, beaches and restaurants. During this time the friend does a Google Search to find 'the best lobster roll in town.' Obviously, Lunch, The Lobster Roll comes up on their search and they decide to head that way. They arrive at Lunch, The Lobster Roll and when they walk in, the place is absolutely packed, bursting at the seams with patrons. The hostess says, it will be a minimum of 45 minutes and to go ahead and put their name on the list if they want to get in. They put their name on the list, but the friend says, “let’s get out of here. ...There’s a restaurant on the beach a little ways up.” They jump in the car and head up the road to a gorgeous, romantic (probably a bit too romantic for a work dinner) restaurant right on the water. They check in with the hostess and she says it will be an hour and a half wait. The most beautiful man wants to stay, enjoy the view and wait it out, but the friend says ‘no way, let’s go back to Lunch.” The most beautiful man was a bit miffed because he was ready to take a load off and relax after a long, yet successful day, but after some coercing, he decides to go with the flow and head back to Lunch, The Lobster Roll with his friend. By the time they got back to Lunch, The Lobster Roll, they had been driving for over an hour, so upon arrival the restaurant had majorly cleared out. In fact, there were only a few cars in the parking lot and it was dark from the outside. Now the friend was aggravated because he was sure it was closed. The beautiful man, being the solution-guy he is, decided to run in to see if they could still be seated, and with a stroke of luck, maybe the kitchen would still be open. The hostess said, she passed their name on the list a long time ago, but that they were still serving and she could seat them now. He runs out, tells the friend. They park the car and walk back into Lunch, The Lobster Roll for a second time that evening. As the hostess is collecting two menus and begins to lead them to their booth, I come walking back into the restaurant with my jean jacket that I had gone out to the car to get. My face is buried in my phone because I’m texting with Shawn. The most beautiful man sees me scurrying in, trying to catch up to my friends while simultaneously texting and like a gentleman, moves to the side and lets me walk in front of him. Without looking up, I say, “thank you."

Chapter 14

We started texting around 7am the morning after we met. It wasn’t until around 10am that we discussed going to lunch (not the restuarant...actual, lunch). We decided we should meet up for a quick bite and then he needed to hit the road for NYC to catch his flight home to Miami.

I got up, told the girls I was thinking of meeting him for lunch, giggled about it for a minute, and then started to get ready. Seeing that The Hamptons was completely packed that weekend and the traffic had been so bad, I thought I better check google maps prior to this meet-up to see what kind of traffic I was up against.

It’s a really good thing I did because OMG - it was well over an hour to get to a halfway point. I started doing the math in my head and realized if I go through with this, this guy’s going to miss his flight! Should I do it anyways?

The practical side of me came to the forefront and I realized that not only did he risk missing his flight, but that I was potentially going to be sitting in traffic all day during my first visit to The Hamptons and it would be taking up a lot of my precious quality time with my friends (I cherish friend-time). Of course I wanted to see him, but perhaps it would be better if I planned a Miami trip (wink, wink…I really wanted an excuse to go to Miami. And I really really wanted to get on his boat!).

I mentioned to him, that I thought the timing was cutting it close. He agreed and then also jokingly said he would be happy to miss his flight. I liked that comment.

After some back and forth, we agreed that we messed up the timing and should have met for breakfast instead of lunch. That was that. Was the end of my potentially fabulous love story?

We didn’t get to meet up prior to him leaving The Hamptons. But, what DID happen is that we stayed in touch... and we made a plan. Gosh, I love a plan.

We began to communicate all day long and we covered a myriad of subjects. As we texted, talked, and shared pictures I began to realize that I was in touch with one of the best communicators I’d ever met. The take aways I was getting from this non-stop communication was that not only was this man beautiful on the outside, but he was a hard working, ethical, kind, and generous man as well. He was a devoted son and uncle, brother and friend.

He began to share stories with me not only of his current life in Miami, but also of his first 22 years of life in Cuba. His journey was incredible and inspiring and I was downright smitten. I takes a lot for me to stop talking, but when he shared his childhood stories of growing up in communism, I couldn’t help but fall silent. His strength, character and spirit were tested daily, yet I was speaking with the happiest, most gentle, bursting with gratitude for his life in The United States, man.

As we talked, and he shared more of his life with me, I dreamt of the day when I could write about his journey to become a U.S. citizen. It was one of the wildest and most inspiring stories I’d ever heard and his determination to create a great life reminded me of the work ethic and discipline of my Father. As I listened, I kept thinking - THIS needs to be shared. THIS is drive, THIS is inspiration. THIS is a man who overcomes all odds and obstacles placed before him.

I remained in The Hamptons for two more days on my girl’s trip. Every move I made, I would send him a picture. If Courtney and I went running, I would show him. If we went to dinner, he would see what I ordered. Not because he needed to know, but because we genuinely wanted every excuse to be in touch with each other.

We made a plan…we were going to connect when I got back to Philadelphia and figure out the next steps. What was this connection? Was it real or was it vacation fantasy? We had to find out if this was in fact a love story or a lust story...

Chapter 15. Since neither one of us was ‘planning’ to meet a potential dating interest and especially a long distance one, meeting up was going to take both a little time and planning. Little did we know we were ahead of our time for 2019 and planned a FaceTime date for our first date. In today’s climate of 2020, this is the norm, but I can honestly say, that was my first one and it was lovely…and LONG. I got ready, but not too ready. I had some light make up on, decent clothes and a sat in a pretty spot in my home. I wasn’t that nervous because we had been texting non-stop so this was simply the next step. We set the time and the day and just as I suspected from the ever so dependable, fantastic communicator; he called me right on time. Like to the minute on time. Let me tell you how this warms my heart. One day I started thinking about the qualities that I love and appreciate in my relationships (not just romantic, but friends, co-workers, etc.). I realized that dependability was very high on the list. Quite possibly in first or second place. So when he called on the day he said he would, and at the exact time he promised, my heart was fluttering with joy. The phone rang, I double checked my lighting and my angles (I work in TV after all)… “Hellooooo, hola.” I say casually. For some reason he gets a real kick out of when I speak Spanish. Maybe it’s my accent, or perhaps he finds it endearing that I’m trying to relate or maybe because it’s just awful and he doesn’t have the heart to tell me, all while secretly enjoying the train wreck of my tenses being all mixed up? Whatever it is, I like it, because I love to hear his laugh. The FaceTime screen popped up and OMG - there he was, the most beautiful man with his precision haircut and the perfectly imperfect smile. Oh Thank G-D, I thought to myself. I mean what if I was just wrapped up in a vacay moment and thought he was the most beautiful man in The Hamptons, but nope, it was confirmed, he was also the most handsome man I’d ever seen while sitting on my couch in Philadelphia. I was starry eyed. How does someone looks so damn good from every angle. I do not. Hence why my arm was getting tired and falling asleep from holding my phone high enough to show off my most pleasing angle. He was at work and gave me a tour of his office. Showed me some of the projects he was working on and then settled in for a VERY long date. We probably spoke for about two hours and then we took a break for him to drive home. This also gave me an opportunity to touch up my lip gloss and grab a glass of wine. Once home he called me back so I could see where he lived and meet his cutie-pie dog. I joined him and his pup for a walk around his neighborhood and we continued to get to know each other. We talked about our current life, and the dreams we had for the future, both personal and professional. We talked about our families and our belief systems. We talked about our winding paths that lead us to Lunch, The Lobster Roll that fateful night. We talked for SIX hours. Not only was that my longest FaceTime ever, but it was also my longest first date, so we pretty much broke two records that night. Over those six hours we began to realize that although we come from very different backgrounds and childhoods we had a lot in common and oddly similar life goals. This realization confirmed that we did in fact want to meet-up in person and see what this connection was all about. I already knew I wanted to, but I think he was still a little baffled at how this whole thing went down. I mean after all, I couldn’t exactly tell him on our first date, that all was going to be OK because my Grandma set us up and she was guiding this whole thing. That would be what we call a one and done, 'nice to meet ya,' see ya later. Being that I had been quite forward this whole time, I continued my streak. I suggested that I travel to Miami and that I will get my own hotel room. This way I can see his world, meet his friends, go on a fabulous trip and still have control over my safety. He thinks about it, and says that he would rather come to Philadelphia, so I don’t have to travel on the first date (technically second) and that he would be happy to get a hotel so as not to stay in my house. I agree with him and at the same time am a little disappointed as selfishly I was hoping for sun, salt and sand...oh, and a hot Cuban on a boat! The next morning I awoke to a text: “Good morning beautiful.” Oh!, I like this. This is fun. “Good morning, guapo” I giggle to myself. He writes me back and says he has an idea for our date. I’m excited to hear the idea. Has he changed his mind and we will in fact be on a boat in Miami? Does he want explore Bimini or another Bahamian island? Does he want to jet over to Turks and Caicos? All of the shades of blue and turquoise are running through my mind. I can already smell the salty air and taste the sweetness of a freshly cracked open coconut. I'm seeing tiny umbrellas in my frozen drink just as... He says, “What if we meet in Chicago? I’ve never been and I’d love to go. Most of all, I would love to take you. This way neither one of us has the pressure of hosting in our home town.” Silence… Which felt like 10 minutes but was probably 4 seconds. “WHAT? WHY? CHICAGO…what, why?” The tropical rug had just been ripped out from under my perfectly pedicured bare feet and now my coconut rum drink with an adorable tiny umbrella was turning into fizzy warm beer and my freshly caught fish turned perfectly citrusy ceviche was turning into greasy, fattening deep dish pizza. After I told him a million times that my favorite part of my life was working on a cruise ship and traveling to exotic tropical islands, he wants to woo me in the Midwest of The United States? OK, that was not on my radar. This sharp right turn or in a geographical sense, this straight to the middle of the country exploration was shocking to me. I’m going to have to calm my Aries fire, choose not to react or say anything, and think about this one for a minute…

Chapter 16

Like any reasonable girl in her late 30’s I started to have some suspicions. Was this too good to be true? Was HE too good to be true? Why was he really taking me to Chicago? Was I being lured to the middle of the country for a purpose other than a fabulous first date (a 5 day first date mind you).

I’ve always said that my imagination is both my best and worst quality. My angel and my demon. My imagination is what has allowed me to book incredible acting and hosting jobs, it’s what has allowed me to be the dreamer that I am, and to go after goals thought to be too lofty by others. My imagination has helped me shape the life I have in the most beautiful way, but it can also quickly turn and go down a deep, dark and too detailed path. Unfortunately, this is the direction it began to go. I got scared. I got doubtful, and I thought a lot about cancelling. In fact that’s all I thought about.

I never have trouble sleeping, but all of a sudden I was up until 2am, 3am, 4am, playing out all of the scenarios of what Chicago might bring. The musical Chicago kept playing over and over in head, as that’s all I know about the Windy City. Was it like that, was I going to have to be Roxy? I just couldn’t figure out why he would want to go somewhere so random, unless there was an ulterior motive. So…

I background checked him. Not once, not twice, not the free online one, but three times with full payment and a detailed search. In a way, I was determined to find something. Something to tell me that I didn’t have to go. My gut was saying don’t go, my heart was saying go, my head was saying don’t go, wait, was it my gut or my head? My gut is never wrong, but now my head was confusing my gut. OMG, that's it. I’m not going, it’s just all too much.

It’s 5am and I finally fall asleep. I wake up groggy and I wake up later than I would like. I turn over, check my phone and there it is, the consistent, “good morning beautiful.” Damn, I love that.

Someone that sweet, and that consistent couldn’t be plotting a massive scheme, right? Have I watched too many scary movies, have I lived alone as a woman in a big city for too long, have I read too many terrible news articles, because I am full-on freaking out.

He jokingly says, “Guess what? Someone from the “Philadelphia area” keeps background checking me.” As he laughs and makes light of the situation, I say with full conviction - ‘Yup, that’s me. I’ve done it three times and I’m not stopping until I find something.” (Also, thinking to myself, why in the F would the background check company notify him, rude and talk about defeating the purpose!)

I couldn’t find anything - clean as a whistle. Why did I feel slightly defeated? Why did I want to find something so badly?

He’s on the other hand is so lighthearted that he actually found humor in this and instead of getting upset with me or offended by my over-the-top actions, he simply said, ‘what would make you feel most comfortable?’

Oh, now this was nice. I could feel my anxiety reducing from a 10 to a 5 like that commercial where the guy pushes the redline of acid reflux down from his esophagus to his stomach. That was me, the anxiety was dissipating with the sound of his voice. Yet, my remaining angst said, ‘well, first of all I need to ask you a few questions.” “Ok, go on,” he said.

Me: 1. Why Chicago?

Him: Because I’ve never been and I’ve always wanted to go. Being from Cuba this is not a place I would have normally vacationed.

Me: Do you know anyone there?

Him: No

Me: Please explain why again, and with an alternate answer to the one above.

Him: (With incredible patience) It’s supposed to be beautiful in the summer. My friends went last year and loved it. There’s a lot to do, great food and some really fun exploring to be had.

Me: Hmmm.

Me: Are you a US citizen?

Him: Haha, yes, I’ll send you a pic of my passport

Me: I’d like that and I need to know the full story of how you immigrated.

Him: Done

Me: Will you be getting me my own hotel room or should I take care of that?

Him: I will get it for you.

Me: Do you understand why this is scary for a woman?

Him: Yes, I think so, but you don’t need to be scared. We can do whatever you want. I will come to Philly, if that is more comfortable for you and once you trust me, we can go to Chicago.

Me: Hmmm, ok. (Thinking…I’ve never known someone so excited about going to Chicago.)

A few hours pass. It’s very clear to me that I have officially shown my neurotic cards at this point. However, I really don’t care. My safety and well-being is my number one priority and if a guy doesn’t understand that, he can hit the road. There is a huge difference in being a single man and a single woman and I’m not quite sure a man will ever fully understand how we, as women, have to constantly watch our backs, but he was definitely empathetic and that I appreciated.

The phone rings. It’s his number, but a woman is on the line. I think to myself, ‘oh here we go, it’s probably the girlfriend or wife calling to tell me that he’s a scumbag and he in a relationship, has seven kids, blah blah, blah' and the imagination is off and running...

Nope - sure wasn’t. It was his co-worker, we’ll call her C. She says, ‘Hello, Elise. This is C and I’m one of the most beautiful man’s co-workers. I’ve been working with him for over five years and I can tell you woman to woman that he is a stand-up man, with a good character, and a gentle heart. You will be safe and you will have a really good time if you choose to go to Chicago.”

WOW - just wow. OK - now this is good stuff. C, I trust. She didn’t have to call me. She didn’t have to take time out of her work day to make me feel safe. What does it matter to her if the beautiful man and I meet in Chicago?

She hands the phone back to him. He says, “this was the only way I could think of to make you feel safe.” I hope it worked…

Chapter 17

It didn’t take much after the call from C for me to agree to go to Chicago. I was still nervous, but I had a plan in place. Two of my friends had access to track the location on my phone at all times (they still do, btw), plus I carried a back-up phone in case of emergency (Yeah, I know…I’m extreme, but no guy would suspect a second phone - take note, ladies). I had alerted the few friends I had within a state or two radius of Illinois that if they received any communication from me over the next week to get in the car and come get me… and with that, I decided I would go to Chicago.

We looked at the calendar and found a four day stretch that was perfect. He took care of everything. Tickets, hotel and a FULL TRIP ITINERARY including times, and locations plus an alternate list in case something wasn't to my liking.

I had to work really late the night before the trip which was a blessing and a curse. It was good because I couldn’t keep running every scenario through my head, but it was tough because he bought the first flight out which meant I wouldn't get much, if any sleep that night.

In the 3 weeks prior that we had been talking and getting to know each other, I realized that we would sometimes say goodnight around 12midnight or 1am and at 5am or 6am at the latest he would be saying good morning to me via text. Around 8 or 9am I would receive the message and that’s when I realized I was dealing with Superman aka a human who only requires 4-5 hours of sleep and can still function at an optimal level.

He knew that I did not function well on 4 hours of sleep and that was the maximum I was going to get due to work and the flight he booked so he decided to book me first class. I played it cool and didn’t say anything at first, except, thank you. Then he chimed in and said, “I figured you would need to sleep on the plane and the only way to do that is in first class.” (Clears throat) “Yes, I concur, thank you.” I tried to play it off as if I was used to this treatment and of course first-class was the only viable solution for lack of sleep.

My alarm goes off, it's morning already. I don’t think I slept at all. Maybe a few minutes, an hour tops. I put on my very cute yet causal, pre-chosen outfit of a classic white T, jeans that are suitable for flying and don’t look stretched out after sitting for a few hours, a couple of layered necklaces, some fresh new kicks and a trendy backpack, b/c well…I’m just that naturally stylish or at least wanted to seem that way.

According to his first date itinerary and time table, he was to arrive at the airport about 20 minutes before my flight. He planned it this way so that he could be waiting for me at my gate when my plane landed.

I get to the Philadelphia airport with plenty of time. I go to grab a little breakfast pre-flight when I realize that oh crap, my foundation splattered little specks onto my cool/casual (I didn’t try so hard) white T-shirt and I just now notice it. I decide to nix breakfast and head out on a search for a shout wipe.

Two gift shops later, I find the wipes and myself in the women’s bathroom blotting away. The makeup is gone, but the ring of the shout wipe, tbd. I wonder if he’ll care considering the night he met me an entire glass of wine followed by seltzer water was spilled then dabbed on my shirt?

I get on the plane. I feel spoiled. I’m in row 2. I’m glad I’m not in row 1, I’m not a fan of having to put my things in the overhead compartment, I prefer them at my feet. Am I really thinking these thoughts while sitting in first class right now? I have enough room in my seat for two of me. I have a complimentary champagne on my tray table and more leg room than I’ll ever need. Row 1 or 2 would have been just fine. Pull it together, Elise. But row 2 really is the best and I'm so happy to be sitting there.

I decide that I should try to get a little sleep. After all, I’m about to embark on a 4 day, 3 night first date, and I may not sleep at all. Then he'll see sleep deprived Elise and that could be the end of our love story.

I close my eyes and drift off. About an hour or so passes, I wake up. I’m a bit disoriented and I open my window shade assuming we are about 1/3 of the way there…I look out the window and I see…The Philadelphia Airport! OMG - we haven’t left yet. Dang! I was really hoping I would have time to get to the airport, run to the ladies room and freshen up prior to meeting him, but now…nope. Not a chance. Now I'm just running on a prayer that my long-wear makeup is going to do what it advertises.

I texted him that I was running late, the plane hadn't even taken off yet, and that I would just meet him at the hotel. This way I could freshen up and take my time. He said, ‘no way. I’ll be waiting for you at your gate.’ Dammit. Ok. He’s so nice.

Finally we take off. I think to myself, there’s no turning back now. I honestly can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m going through my checklist in my head. Friends tracking my location, check, hotel name and number given to friends, check, personal will in place and directions for what to do with milo in case of a bad situation, check. Ok - here goes.

I wonder if I’ll still like him when I see him? I’m very sensitive to energy, I hope his is positive. I wonder if he’ll still like me? I wonder if I’ll go home early, I’ve definitely gone home early from a date. You know early from normal dates, like dates where you grab a drink at your neighborhood bar. Not dates where you fly several states over. I wonder if we’ll click in person the way we do over FaceTime? I wonder about everything…

We land. I check my makeup in my tiny compact mirror. I look at my shout wipe stain - I’m good to go. I pop in a piece of gum. I straighten my perfectly layered necklaces and I head off the plane pretending I'm confident and 100% ready for this date.

I exit the plane. I put one foot in front of the other until I've made it through the jetway and into the airport. I expect to see him right away. Where is he? I thought the plan was for him to be waiting? Why would he follow a plan with extreme precision up until this very point and then drop the ball? He’s had plenty of time to get to my gate. Did he not come? Did he send me here as a joke? Was this some sort of really mean prank...

Bam - he spots me...he swiftly walks towards me from my left...a smile, a hug and a passionate Hollywood style kiss. Oh, there he is…and he smells gooooooood.

Chapter 18

Ahhh, mmmm. This is probably the only time I have smelled something beautiful at the airport and, wow, ok. So here we are. Two random people, who randomly met and now after a few weeks of FaceTiming…together in a random city. Now what? I couldn’t help but laugh.

I tend to laugh when I’m uncomfortable or uneasy, and this definitely fit the bill. As we sat in the car from the airport to the hotel, I kept looking over at him and giggling under my breath. What in the heck are we doing and why are we in the middle of the country again? I know I’ve asked three times, but why…again?

He was excited and full of energy. I was nervous and relieved, still a bit skeptical, yet hopeful all at the same time. I made a promise to myself and decided that I would set my very type A personality to the side and I would take a backseat during this trip. Meaning, I would let him lead fully and I would enjoy observing him, how he manages this trip and how he works his way through the meticulously planned itinerary. Listening…it’s something I’m working on. This would be a good opportunity to listen, and not talk or suggest or plan…just watch, listen and learn about this man.

We take the hour ride from the airport to the hotel. We talk about how wild and crazy it Is that we are actually doing this. A few minutes go by in the car. I’m looking out the window at Chicago, soaking it in and checking to see that my contacts know where I am. He says, ‘are you ready?’ Um, what? Am I ready for what? ‘Sure, for what?’ He whips out the itinerary and starts rattling off what he has planned - when, where, what time and some info about each place.

First he says, we drop our suitcases in our respective rooms and then we go get deep dish pizza. This cracked me up, because I only suggested deep dish because it was literally the only thing I’d ever heard of Chicago, plus, I like pizza, plus I figured if we aren’t having tropical drinks in a swimsuit, then we might as well be having deep dish pizza!

We get to the hotel and drop our things. I decide to take a few moments to regroup, lay on my bed and try to catch a few power nap zzzz’s as well as wrap my head around the next FOUR days. He, being at least part-superman was ready to roll and within 15 min was unpacked, freshened up, and mapping out our walk from the hotel to the pizza place.

I touch-up my makeup, brush my hair and my teeth and we leave the hotel. The weather is perfect. The sun is shining and the sky is clear. It’s summertime warm but not stifling or humid, perfect, really. He has done so much research that he is now the trip organizer and the tour guide. He takes me the scenic route, right along the river and begins to point out some of the famous buildings and architecture.

The riverfront is full of eye candy. Beautiful buildings, boats and people. He walks fast, with purpose, but I could tell he slowed down a bit for me as I was soaking it all in. I was enamored with the skyline and as I looked up at the magnificent buildings, thinking about what a beautiful city this is and how I never realized the charm of Chicago, I feel a tickle and that’s when I realize his calloused hand is gently grabbing mine. Our walking cadence begins to match and we continue hand and hand to the pizza place for our first official date.

I smile. He smiles. I ask him if he’s excited to eat deep dish pizza he says yes, he’s never had it. I’m not sure I have had authentic deep dish either, so I’m looking forward to it as well. Plus I was hungry since I opted to find a shout wipe for my shirt instead of eating breakfast earlier in the day.

We arrive at the pizza place exactly when our itinerary suggests we will. We are seated across the table from each other. I take a pic of him as if to make sure this is real. We take a look at the menu realizing that we really have no idea what each other likes to eat so we start the typical ‘what do you like,’ convo.

That’s when he nonchalantly mentions, ‘I can’t eat red sauce.’ ‘Um, what?!’ I exclaim. That’s 1/3 of what pizza is. I suggest we leave and that I really didn’t NEED deep dish, I just thought this is what you were supposed to do in Chi-town. He tells me not to worry, he can have a little and it was important to him that I get to try deep dish in Chicago since I asked for it. Pause…(this is where I am practicing my listening)

‘Are you sure,’ I ask. ‘Yes, I am sure,' he says.

I pause. I let that sink in for a second.

Pizza sauce…who knew I’d learn so much about a person and their character from one simple ingredient?

I look across the table and there it is…the most imperfect smile on the most perfect man. It’s kind, it’s gentle, it’s reassuring. It’s magical. Is this real?

Chapter 19

Chicago was a blast. He was right, this is exactly where we should be for our first date - our 4 day long first date. This was the beginning of my realizing that he’s usually right and that it’s finally OK to let someone lead.

Being Type A, fiercely independent (not necessarily by choice), single, or in relationships with people who weren’t dependable - letting someone else lead isn't easy for me. The difference here, is that he makes it easy for me. He’s organized, dependable, honest and forthcoming. These were qualities I hoped for in a man. These were qualities I was willing to wait for. I just knew in my gut that I could have it all - these stellar qualities plus attraction. I just didn’t know how long I would have to wait.

As we ate our deep dish pizza, red sauce and all, he briefly talked me through the itinerary but left a few things out so he could purposely surprise me later. I love a plan and I love a good surprise. Must be the Aries in me. I’ve always been a plan A, B and C person so a man with a plan and one that’s written out and researched, is very sexy to me.

He said, after pizza we will walk the river and have time to relax. Our next activity is scheduled for 7:30. I was so happy. Nervous, hopeful, excited, a bit baffled, but mostly just happy. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I didn’t have to have my nose buried in my phone looking up recommendations of what to do in the city, or scrolling through Google Maps trying to find my way around. All I had to do was remain present. This was new for me and it felt like…home.

I used to work on a cruise ship. Three years in a row I sailed for about 100 days of the year and our ship would go to ports all over the world. Because of this fortuitous opportunity I’ve been able to travel to the ends of the Earth. I’ve never counted how many countries I’ve been to, but I can easily say that I’ve been to more countries around the world than U.S. states. As we walked the river in Chicago and I was awestruck by it’s uniqueness and beauty. I began to wonder why I haven't explored more of my home country. I honestly had no idea that there was a city this beautiful, interesting, cosmopolitan and architecturally invigorating right smack dab in the middle of the country. Why didn’t I realize this? Why hadn’t I given the U.S. a chance? It took my Cuban boyfriend (wait, he’s not officially my boyfriend, that was just a fun thought to pass through my mind) to show me my own country.

As we walked hand and hand, we spotted a cute place to sit down and have a drink. We basked in the sunshine, enjoyed the cold, refreshing cocktail, and smiled at each other with our eyes and lips. Connecting in person while the beautiful boats sailed down the river in the background was not something I was taking for granted.

‘I love boats,’ I said. ‘I know, he said.’ ‘That’s why at 7:30 we are jumping on a boat to head down the river and learn about the architecture of these famous buildings.’

Oh my gosh. This whole time I thought we wasn’t hearing me out. I thought he was negating the fact that I love boats, I love ships, I love the water, I love being anywhere with sun, sand and water (salt or fresh, I’m not picky). Yet this whole time, he was listening intently without divulging his plan. Somehow, someway, he found a way to incorporate something he knew I absolutely loved right in the middle of the country, where I would least expect it. Perhaps going to the Bahamas was too literal or obvious. After all, jumping on a boat there would definitely not be a surprise, but in the midwest - I was floored.

I look him up and down - who is this perfect guy with the imperfect smile? I wonder, and want to know more.

Chapter 20

Day one of day four of our first date - officially in the books and it was so much fun. We successfully met up, had deep dish, walked along the river, took a boat ride, learned about the famous buildings and architecture and then went to a fabulous dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant. Each step of the way was planned, yet fluid; organized yet surprisingly not rigid. I was relaxed, I was joyful, but most of all, I was grateful. At the end of night one we got back to the hotel and I had a little time to reflect. Was this too good to be true? My whole life, I had heard that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. This time, however, I wasn’t sure. My plan remained the same - watch his actions. Be an observer, not a leader. If I lead, I would of course enjoy the date because everything would be my idea. I had to remind myself that there was immense strength in the observation role….and to enjoy it, because it’s more fun anyway. There’s an art and a beauty to being courted. So many times in my past I think my fiery, masculine energy would take over and I would hinder the courtship or unintentionally manipulate it into going a certain way. I had to make a conscious effort to set all of that aside and go with the flow like the boats which so gracefully sailed in the river. I pep talked myself - no matter what comes of this - enjoy the moment. It may be nothing, it may be everything, but wow, what an experience and what a self discovery this trip is turning into. Day 2 - The next day I awoke to a text of our itinerary. I laughed when I read it, but inside I was so dang happy. Yes…consistency. A man with a plan, AND consistency, AND follow through. This. Is. Nice. He’s an early bird, I’m…eh, a medium bird. Remember, he is Superman and barely needs sleep, so he was up and at ‘em at 6am. I am normal, I was up and at ‘em at 8:30am. He said we have brunch plans at 10am. Come hungry because it’s a fabulous buffet and it’s a several hour long event. OK, game on! I thought. I never get my moneys worth at a buffet because I can’t eat a lot at one sitting, but a little birdie (aka google, I looked up the restaurant - I’m not THAT go with the flow) told me there were bottomless mimosas and THAT could make up for the little I would eat. We arrive. It’s a cool vibe. The music is playing, a DJ is spinning, the sun was shining down on the indoor/outdoor space. The buffet was beautiful, like the kind I used to see on the cruise ship, and the mimosas were flowing. I order: “Hi, I’d like a bottomless mimosa, hold the O.J.” He laughs - I’m relieved he understands me. We brunch, we laugh, we take pics, we make friends, we call friends from home, we stay for three hours which feels like 20 minutes. All of a sudden he looks at his watch and says, ‘We have to go!’ I assume it’s because we have brunched our fair share of the day. He grabs a taxi, and we start driving in the opposite direction from our hotel. ‘Where are we going?’ I ask. He says, ‘just wait, you’re going to love this.’ I wonder why this part wasn’t sent to me this morning in the text message? I watch the road intently. I’m tempted to jump on Google Maps and see what’s nearby, but I resist. After about 15 minutes, I look up and there it is…a mini airport with several helicopters. O-M-G. I’m super scared of helicopters. I’m curious, but nervous. What are we doing here? Are you going in one? Are WE going in one? Are you jumping out of one? Do people even do that? …what’s going on? ‘Come on!’ He says. I let him lead. I slowly get out of the car. I walk up to the helicopter. The sound of the blade is loud and repetitive. I hear it whooshing over my head over and over again. I feel the need to duck, but at 5’2” 1/2 the blades are nowhere near my head. My hair was blowing all over the place. A man walks up to us and introduces himself as the pilot. I’m tempted to ask him to recite his resume and training hours, but instead I shake his hand and say, ‘I’m nervous. I didn’t really sign up for this.’ He laughs. He assures me that it'll be ok and in fact I will love it. The most beautiful man smiles and says, he’ll hold my hand during the flight. I think to myself, that the definition of liquid courage is kicking in, because if we hadn’t had bottomless mimosas, there’s absolutely no way I would be getting on this helicopter. We strap in. We put on our headphones, and we lift up into the big beautiful blue sky. It’s magical. It’s exhilarating, it’s breathtaking beyond words. I always wondered why we offered so many helicopter tours as premium excursions while on the cruise ship and now, seven years since I’ve worked on the ship, I was finally understanding the allure. From an elevated perspective the Earth’s beauty is unbeatable. It’s undeniable, it’s absolutely incredible. The pilot gave us the full tour and now I was getting to see, and embrace the beauty of Chicago from a new perspective. Was this a metaphor for my new found ability to sit back and enjoy versus control? For years I’ve done meditations where I imagine lifting above my circumstance so as to show that my current issues are merely a dot in the grand scheme of life, but for the first time ever, I’m literally seeing and experiencing what the meditation teaches. As we fly, I notice that I’m smiling. I’m in somewhat of a dream state. It’s hard to describe. Somewhere between awe, nervousness and elation. This is insane…good insane, but still, totally insane. He grabs my hand. I look at him. He’s smiling. I can tell he’s finding joy in watching me experience this moment for the first time. We descend. We land. We unbuckle. With wobbly knees, I thank the pilot about 70 times. I look at the most beautiful man and shake my head. I don’t have words. I’m not sure if I’m mad that he just made me conquer a fear; happy, proud, confused, so in lieu of words, I just shake my head. He laughs, grabs my hand and says, ‘I wanted to make sure this was the best first date you have ever had or will ever have.'

Chapter 21

My legs may be wobbly, my heart may be racing, but I’m steady in my thinking that this man is something special. At this point, I’m sure we’re heading back to the hotel for some R&R, but as we joke in my TV job, ‘but wait, there’s more!’ I’m realizing now that when you’re on a date or a vacay with Superman, you don’t stop for rest and relaxation. There really was more on the itinerary, and he was determined to stick to the plan. We stop off at the hotel and he tells me to take my time freshening up but please know that we have one more activity that involves us being high in the air. I truly do not have a poker face, so I’m sure some sort of OMG facial expression was plastered to my face. Before I leave to shower and change he says, I forgot to give you something. I’m baffled. What does he want to give me? ‘Here,’ he says. ‘I brought you a few things from Miami.’ He hands me a white ball cap that says Miami on it. ‘You can wear this when we go on the boat in Miami or when you’re running in Philly, because I know you always wear a hat when you run. And, here, if you like this, please wear it tonight.’ He hands me a beautiful bottle of perfume. Well this is a first for me, and as someone who works in beauty, I was taken back for several reasons. For starters, what a gutsy move to hand me a bottle of perfume, something that is so personal and so individualized. Shocking as it may seem (insert sarcasm here), I’m quite particular about most things in life, so the chances of me liking and wanting to wear this perfume was basically slim to none. I open the box. I read it out loud, ‘Creed, Royal Princess Oud.’ Oh, Wow. OK. I gingerly spray it in the air, away from my body, curious as to what this is going to smell like. A few seconds go by, I smile a closed lip smile at him, and I start to think of my gracious response and how I will gently decline wearing such an - OMG, absolutely beautiful, sensual, undeniably, delightful perfume. I AM IMPRESSED. Pour it all over me…just kidding. He smiles and tells me that it’s his favorite perfume of all time. I tell him that I would be delighted to wear it tonight, but that I will wait to wear the hat another day. He laughs - whew, he gets me. We finish getting ready and we jump in a taxi. He holds my hand while sitting in the backseat and leans over, nuzzles my neck, and takes a deep breath in. ‘You smell so beautiful,’ he says. ‘I know,’ I say jokingly. We arrive at our destination. He has arranged for us to go to the top floor of The Hancock building and grab a bite and some drinks as we enjoy the view of Chicago from above. Now, this is a bit more my speed as far as being up in the clouds is concerned. I don’t necessarily have a fear of heights but my palms sweat when I look down from something that high. I kept my hands to myself and peeked over the edge of our window seat. It was unbelievable. I hadn’t been that high up in a building in so long. The last time I remember being this high up and looking down like that was when my Grandmother took me to the top of the Twin Towers in NYC. I was about 8 years old and I remember she and I talking about how the taxis looked like yellow ants. Had Grandma had a hand in this experience as well? It was an oddly familiar deja vu type of feeling. We ordered some drinks, talked, and laughed. We had the best time telling stories and learning about each other. We stayed so long, we saw the weather change and shift from cloud level. We watched a rainstorm appear in the distance, slowly come our way, and pass overhead as raindrops battered the windows in front of us. We waited out the storm with another round and watched as the sun's rays reemerged from behind the clouds with a majestic presence, and eventually we said goodbye to this epic day by watching the sun gently set. This was a day for the record books and although after this day I thought - I never want to have another first date, if life were to turn out that way, he was right, there would never be one as special as this.

Chapter 22

On the final day of our Chicago trip I awoke with bittersweet feelings swirling in my stomach. It was a confusing mix of excited thoughts with a dash of anxiety and a peppering of ‘what now?’

This was bizarre. I had worked so hard to stay present and in the moment while in Chicago that I hadn’t thought of what happens when the date ends. Well, the day had come and we were to head to the airport in mere hours where we would go sit at different gates and get on different planes and go to our different cities and live our separate lives. Was that it? Is that what we were going to do…forever? Was this just a good story to tell my girlfriends of the time I met a guy and went on a four-day first date, just because.

Could I ask him what he’s thinking or should I just sit back and see what action he takes next? My mind starts to race. I’m having circular thoughts as to what to do and how much I should say. I think he had a great time, but we are quite new and we do live 1000 miles apart. Maybe it’s too much for him? Maybe I’m fun and cute and nice and smart blah blah, but I’m too geographically undesirable? Anything is possible...but is it possible that he's not showing his cards?

I pull it together and decide to remain quiet. He wants to stick to the itinerary and go see Cloud Gate nicknamed,The Bean, before we head to the airport. We walk to The Bean, holding hands. He’s busy leading the way, weaving through other tourists and simultaneously answering work calls. I’m in my head. We get to The Bean. We stand near The Bean. We hug in front of The Bean.

While hundreds of other tourists buzz around us, I catch a glimpse of our reflection on the side of The Bean. It takes every ounce of me not to spill the beans on love...we look so at ease together. We look good together, like we just fit. It’s a really nice sight, and I wonder if he sees it, or better yet, I wonder if he feels it?

Alas, it’s time to head to the airport. As we sit in the back of the taxi he can tell I’m being quiet, that my energy just isn’t the same. A Camila Cabello song is playing in the background, as I watch the huge Chicago buildings appear smaller and smaller. After several minutes of silence, he says, ‘what’s going on?’ ‘Nothing (girl code for everything), I’m just a little worried about what’s next.’ He grabs my hand and assures me that we’ll figure it out.

We arrive at the airport with not much time to spare. We go through security and get to the gates. As we’re walking we arrive at his gate first. I prepare myself to say goodbye to him, but he insists that he walk me to mine even though his is already boarding.

Mine is just a few gates away. We arrive with five minutes until I board. Suddenly, the room energy shifts, much like it did right before I gave him my phone number in the restaurant. I know people are racing all around me, but somehow they no longer exist, at least I can’t see them clearly. As they walk by me, they are merely a blur of color that leaves behind a paint stroke of energy. Time has once again turned to slow motion. I peel my eyes off the floor and look up at him, and oh crap, there it is. The floodgates open. I try to hide it, but I've played my cards, he sees my tears and he gently wipes them away. I do cry easily, I knew there was a possibility of this happening, but wow, with just minutes until I board, and his plane already boarding, that's intense.

He pulls me in for passionate embrace in almost the exact same spot I had received that Hollywood kiss just four days prior. We hug. I say, ‘I hope I see you again.’ He says, ‘you will.’

We board our respective planes, fly back to our respective cities and go back to our respective lives.

Chapter 23

As I walked down the jetway rolling my carryon I turned around a few times to see if I could catch one last glimpse of him. I could not. He had to hurry back to his gate as they were almost finished boarding.

I boarded the plane and got situated in my very comfortable and spoiled 2nd row seat. As I was organizing myself, and untwisting my headphone cord I admittedly fantasized about the idea of him running down the jetway, on to the plane, whisking me out of my seat and taking me home to Miami where we would jump on his boat, drink fresh coconut water with a splash of rum, listen to Camila Cabello, watch the sun set over the ocean and live out our love story.

Just as I was getting to the good part in my head I heard, Elise…? I shake my head a bit to snap out of it and look up, embarrassed that my eyes are red and slightly puffy. I pray it’s not someone who recognizes me from TV, because that would be super embarrassing…it’s not. It’s my co-worker. He says, ‘Hey, what the heck were you doing in Chicago?’ ‘ Ha, long story. Vacation of sorts,’ I say. ‘Nice,’ he says. ‘See ya at work tomorrow.’ I smile. I wish I were still in my fantasy.

Have you ever come home from a fabulous day with friends, or a great day at work, or after accomplishing a big goal? You’re on a high, you feel like you’re flying, you’re untouchable. You get home, open the door and reality smacks you in the face; you realize you have no one with whom to share that good news. This has happened to me more times than I can count in life. When you’re single long enough or in a relationship that makes you feel like you’re single, this can happen all too often.

I’ll never forget the day I booked my first movie role. I began acting at 13, moved to Los Angeles at 23, and after five years and hundreds of auditions, I got the news I’d been waiting for. I soaked in the words, ‘you . got . the . part.’ A bright white light of elation and excitement traveled through my body beginning at my feet and shot up into my heart which filled me with radiant joy, a deep sense of accomplishment and touch of relief that I was, in fact, on the right path. I took a beat, inhaled deeply, looked around at my empty apartment, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cried. So much joy, so much hard work finally recognized, and the start of so much introspection. It was one of the first times I realized that no matter what I was experiencing in life, it was sweeter when experienced with others.

I began to question a lot of things. The elation of booking the job, or getting the raise, or accomplishing my goal was amazing; it was a high, but it was temporary. What could I learn from this? How could I have a more balanced approach? Could I keep accomplishing my life goals and simultaneously have a meaningful relationship? Could they potentially even enhance each other? And most pressing of all, if it was possible, when could I have this?

This isn’t a pity party. I very much enjoy(ed) my single life. One of the reasons I was able to move to Los Angeles, then work on a cruise ship, then move cross country for my TV job is because I was single. I didn’t have to consider someone else’s career, hopes, dreams, and feelings. I was able to laser focus on my own dreams. In addition, I believe, being single for so many years is also what allowed me to nurture my friendships to the deep level I have, and is in part responsible for allowing me to find my truth and become unapologetically comfortable in my own skin. These are most likely products of spending so much time alone, with my own company and my own thoughts. I do not regret this precious time for learning and self-discovery. It’s made me the woman I am today and it's made me abundantly grateful for the family and friend relationships I have.

I catch a Lyft home from the airport, the driver is playing Latin music…you have to be kidding me, I think to myself, I’ve literally never heard Latin music in Philly. Maybe I've just never noticed it...I really don't know, but it seemed auspicious to me.

While I was in Chicago, Milo, my yorkie, was having the time of his life with his man-crush, babysitter, Michael, and Michael's dog, Princeton. When Milo and Princeton get together they rough house and play non-stop only pausing long enough to enjoy a homemade dog treat baked by Michael, which leads me to think that he had the best long weekend of his life and is also sufficiently worn out after his summer camp/vacay rendezvous.

I search around for my keys and get frustrated when I can’t find them, only to realize they are in my hand. I open the door to my apartment and boom, that gut-punching reality and lonely familiarity sets in. I realize that my home which I love, and have filled with plants, good vibes, positive energy, and the cutest yorkie on the planet, feels lonely, empty and distant from my earlier high. Thank goodness for Milo. He musters up some leftover energy from his vacay and comes bounding to the door to greet me and we reunite after four days apart. I know he’s had fun. Does he wonder what I’ve been up to? I bend down to scratch his ear and tell him how much I love him and how much I’ve missed him.

I know it doesn’t make sense, but I can’t help but think…wouldn’t it be amazing if I opened the door and the most beautiful man in the world was inside holding Milo? The idea ran through my head and it felt right.

I roll my suitcase in and leave it by the front door. I grab a glass of water, take a seat on the couch and look around. I love my place. It’s so me. It’s clean and modern. It’s girlie and pretty. It took me three years to finish decorating it. I took my time, and because of that, I love every piece in there. I’m comfortable there and I’m proud of the life I’ve created for myself. Although I’m happy to be home, I can’t help but notice that the space I normally love because it’s quiet was too quiet, the space I normally love because it’s calm was too calm and the space I normally love because everything is in it’s place, almost looked too perfect.

I just had the first date of a lifetime and conversely, quite possibly one of the deepest realizations of my lifetime. Life is beautiful as is, and perhaps an even more beautiful version exists when shared with the right person. Had I just had a taste of the latter? Milo and I cuddle and I tell him that I met someone very special.

Ding - The most beautiful man texts. It’s a screenshot. What is it? I take a closer look - OMG, he just sent me a screenshot from the background check company. They are STILL emailing him that he has three background check views from an anonymous source in Philadelphia. Come on!!! That was SO last week!

I text back, ‘I’m so glad you checked out to be perfect.’

Chapter 24

How quickly life returns to normal. It’s one of those weird realizations that the world doesn’t stop spinning just because it seemed that way to you.

The most beautiful man and I are fortunate because although we loved our first date/vacay, we both came home to lives and jobs we enjoy.

The next morning, as usual I wake up to my ‘Good morning beautiful,’ text. I text back, Good Morning Guapo (Spanish for handsome), but it auto corrects to guano, which is precisely defined as: the excrement of seabirds and bats. Dang it. Maybe he doesn’t know that word since English is his second language…? Fat chance, but worth a shot.

He writes back: We spent approximately 78 hours straight together. Isn’t that crazy? I’m unpacking now, and it feels a little sad.

Me: I need to do the same and I’m dreading it.

Him: Wow, I can smell your perfume on my clothes.

Me: Ok, now I’m sad. This is awful.

Him: Please don’t be sad. I think it’s pretty amazing that we met each other, took the big risk of going on a 4 day vacation (first date) across the country…and had a great time.

Me: I know. I hear you. I’m just sad, because I’m scared of the outcome.

Translation (not texted): please don’t hurt me. I haven’t felt this way before, I had a great time, I want to see where this goes, please be gentle with my heart.

Him: Yes I know, I also feel an intense level of mixed emotions. This type of passion can blind and confuse us and I’m scared of that. A little time apart will make us cool down and behave rationally versus emotionally. Please don’t take that the wrong way.

Um…..I am most definitely taking that - the. wrong. way. What way am I supposed to take it?

Right as I begin to spiral, and overthink, I realize I’m getting worked up about someone who lives 1000 miles away, could this be a blessing? Is this where I insert my stiff upper lip and my Los Angeles living motto of ‘rejection is protection?’

I take a beat. I put the phone down. I decide to sit tight and remind myself to pay attention to actions versus words, which has been my plan this entire time. I pick up the phone.

Me: You’re right.

Him: In the meantime if you could please share your schedule with me, I would like to come visit you for the weekend.

Okay - there he is…there is my guapo. For a minute there, I thought his nickname was going to turn to guano permanently.

I head into work. The sun is shining, it’s a sunroof open kind of day. I feel good to be back in my routine and on familiar ground. I love my job, so although coming home to an empty apartment is tough, heading into work is welcomed. I love buzzing around the building saying hi to everyone and I enjoy the thrill of what the day will bring. After all, live TV is very unpredictable, so every day is new adventure.

I have about two hours until I go Live. I just finished my appointment in the salon where I ask for my inner JLo to shine through, which translates to a slick ponytail, glowy skin and my favorite big dangle earrings. I changed up her typical nude lip to a pop of color, just because I was feeling a bit sassy.

Just then I turn the corner and run right into Shawn. She jumps up and down, squeals a bit and says, ‘OMG, how was your trip?’ I can’t help but smile and then out of nowhere, I feel tears welling up in my eyes. First, I think, What is this, are those real tears? Then I think, I have to hold it together because I don’t have time to fix runny black eyeliner. Shawn quickly retreats as all hosts know, not to talk about heavy things before going on-air…save those convos for a post-shift chat. She says, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, it was bad, we’ll talk about it later.’ No! I said. It was good. It’s just that it was so good, that now I’m scared.’

In true ‘Big Sis’ Shawn form, she puts her hands on my shoulders, looks me straight in the eyes and says, ‘Oh honey, that’s wonderful. G-D will work this out for you. We’ll talk later.’

I salvage my black eyeliner and go on-air. I love my time on-air. I can't think about anything other than exactly what is in front of me. This makes the experience meditative and a guarantee that I'll stay in the present moment for at least a couple of hours of my day.

I finish my shift,I just talked for three hours straight and I'm tired. It's both exhausting and exhilarating to hyper focus for hours on end.I get back to the dressing room and sit down.I wipe off my bright lip, unclip my big dangle earrings, take out my fake ponytail and slouch in my chair. I take a beat, a big inhale/exhale, time to regroup.

Ding. Guapo texts: 'Linda. You looked beautiful tonight.'

Chapter 25

During my junior year of college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Seville, Spain. This time in my life was so incredibly transformative, and to this day, it holds my most special memories of college. Halfway through my semester abroad, I switched host families and was assigned to a beautiful family who took me under their wing and taught me all about the Spanish food, culture, holidays and most of all, the language. They had the most fabulous 8 year old daughter named Gloria who would practice her English with me. They had two adorable dogs, Millie and Boo Boo, and a son in his late twenties who no longer lived at home, but visited often.

One day the son offered to take me and my study abroad roommate out on the town with his friends. We jumped at the opportunity to go out with the locals. They showed us to a fabulous day full of touring the city, teaching us Andalusian history, stops at their favorite cafes for café con leche (coffee with milk), an impromptu Sevillana lesson (a type of dance influenced by Flamenco), and of course to eat the best tapas in town. As we walked the streets, laughing and enjoying a magnificent day, Julio, one of the friends said to me: Tienes una sonrisa linda. I knew he saying something about my smile, but I was’t sure what he was saying about it. I asked my roommate, and she said, ‘He’s saying you have a cute smile.’ Oh…how lovely, I thought.

Fast forward 18 years to sitting in my dressing room at work when Guapo texts me, ‘Linda, you looked beautiful tonight.’ Oh how sweet he is. Is he calling me, cutie? I think he is!

And did he really tune into my show? I wonder how much of it he watched or if he just flipped through? So many questions, but for now, I just smiled at my phone, as I enjoyed his compliment and reminisced about one of the most memorable days of my college years. Never did I imagine that my ‘linda lesson’ would come full circle.

Guapo and I were now in the phase of - what’s next? We talked and texted every single day and he continued to be amazingly consistent and communicative. I could tell just by his guaranteed ‘good morning linda’ texts that this was a man I could count on, and one who made me feel important and safe.

After a few days of texting post Chicago, while according to him we were supposed to be ‘cooling off’ I received a dream text.

Him: Good morning, Linda. I’ve been looking at ideas for our next date. How is your schedule, Aug 9,10,11?

Me: Morning, guapo! I am so bummed, but I’m scheduled to work those days.

Him: Ok, I’m not even going to tell you what I have going on that weekend.

Me: Bimini?

Him: Baha Mar Nassau for a client and I’d love to bring you.

Ugh, now there’s my tropical vacay! Reading this and knowing that I couldn’t swing it made my heart shatter into little pieces like the crushed ice in the daiquiris I would be missing out on. The man of my dreams inviting me to an island I’ve never been to, for date number two - what . is . this?! I need to know all of the details, yet I don’t have the ability to stomach them, knowing I can’t go.

I decide to send him a bunch of alternate dates of when I’m available, in hopes that we can still make something work. In the back of my mind, I wonder who will get to go on this fabulous trip in place of me?

A few days go by with lovely text and phone call exchanges, but still no firm plans as to when date two will happen. Obviously, I was anxious to see him again in person, but learning more about each other prior to our next meet up was also very beneficial. Maybe he was right, maybe this was the ‘cool off, come back down to reality’ time?

I loved his consistency and I loved how invested he was in learning about me, but after a week or so, I wondered if this was perhaps turning into a pen pal situation? The ‘cool off’ period also made me wonder if he was dating in Miami? He told me he wasn’t, but often times when two single people meet, there are leftover relationships or loose ends from less serious dates to tie up, even if they are meaningless.

What I was figuring out is that long distance relationships magnify the need for major, upfront, honest communication since that’s all you have in the moment. In fact, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I realized that although we were in near non-stop communication throughout the day and night, I still really had no idea what he does on the daily, and who else he is in touch with nor did he of me. I knew I felt a deep connection with this man, but perhaps it was too early to put all my eggs in one long distance basket.

After all, I too had some minor loose ends to tie up. Nothing serious, in fact I hadn’t dated anyone seriously in over a year, partially by choice and partially due to lack of quality inventory. However, I would go on a mediocre date here and there. Even though Guapo and I were not official, I still knew my feelings for him were stronger than my feelings for anyone I’d met in my entire life, so there was no need for me to go on dates with other people just to pass the time. Instead, I could put my energy into bettering myself, connecting with him, and spending quality time with my friends.

I thought about how much we were in contact and the depth at which we had shared about ourselves and that gave me comfort. I appreciated that he was open and forthcoming, emotionally available, and at the same time fully accepting of me and my quirks. At times, he would even seem in awe of the fact that I could so openly share my thoughts and desires.

Maybe he wasn’t used to such a big personality, maybe it excited him that I am deeply in touch with my feelings, wants and needs? Maybe he loved that I am a dreamer, a hopeless romantic and someone who refuses to settle for mediocrity or complacency in any aspect of life.

For many other people, the intensity of these qualities and my personality was interpreted as ‘too much’ or ‘too heavy,’ basically, a turn off. But for Guapo, our deep conversations about love, life, dreams, goals and philosophies didn’t scare him away, in fact, I began to notice that they were drawing us closer.

Over these weeks of constant communication, I learned that many of the dreams and goals I was working towards were in alignment with his, and it seemed as though we would in fact make a really good team. Not just that we would be able to individually grow and respect each other while in this relationship, but that we would in fact, be able to grow as a united front as well as an intertwined and deeply connected couple. I kept seeing the image of a double helix, DNA like, in my head, and this was the only way I could describe how this connection and our energy was forming into something so incredibly different than anything else I’d ever experienced. We were significant on our own, yet when we crossed paths and put our energies together, our possibilities seemed even more beautiful, substantial, powerful, and creative... What are the possibilities, I wondered? Could this actually be a real life example of the ‘limitless potential,’ that up until this point I’ve only read about in my manifestation and quantum physics books? Was this me getting ‘too deep’ and being ‘too much?’ Whatever is was, this unique connection realization made me even more eager to see him again in person. Nassau was out…for now, but should I pop down to Miami?

At last, the action I had been waiting for. Perhaps he felt the same connection I felt, or the excitement of possibility? I’m not sure, but I was very excited to read his incoming text.

Him: Please look at this plane ticket and tell me if it works for your schedule. I have to come see you in Philadelphia.

Me: Hi! Yes, it works but it’s NINETEEN days away! I can’t wait that long.

Him: Wow, yeah, no good. How about this one? It gets there on Friday.

Me: Yes, much better. Can you come earlier in the day? I’d like to take you to a concert at my favorite outdoor venue that evening.

Him: I’ll make it happen.

Music to my ears or more like candy to my eyes.

I love someone who takes charge, and there was no better answer than, ‘I’ll make it happen.’

Chapter 26

Indeed he made it happen. In the dead heat of summer he got on a plane from beautiful Miami and headed to Philadelphia.

In organized, type A fashion, I created a list of all my favorite things to do in the city, and I was determined to show him as many of those things as possible. I wasn’t sure if this would be his first of many visits or his only visit, so I wanted to make sure I did my best to show him a fabulous time. My ulterior motive was that by showing him how fun Philly is, he would begin to fall in love with the city of brotherly love. At least, that was my hope.

I didn’t have as detailed of an itinerary as he had for our Chicago trip, but I did have a pretty good handle on the weekend.

The plan for Friday was to pick him up at the airport, head home to freshen up, grab some tacos from Spruce Street Park, then ride the ferry to New Jersey, as the sun set over the Delaware river. Then we would snuggle on our blanket and enjoy a romantic date listening to country music on the lawn as the summer night faded away. After the concert we would ride the ferry back to Philadelphia, possibly hit up a hot spot lounge/bar for a nightcap and then head home.

Friday night turned into the perfect example an ‘Instagram vs. Reality post.' I was pretty clear on how I wanted the night to go, but this is what actually happened:

I picked him up from the airport, he was cuter than ever. There he was, not a hair out of place, a perfectly pressed polo, clean shaven and that smile, OMG, that perfectly imperfect smile. It was actually surreal to see him standing there waiting for me. The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen was standing on the sidewalk with the cutest little duffel bag, waiting for me. I was about 5-10 minutes late, due to some last minute cleaning and prep, but he’s so easy going, it was no big deal.

As I pull up to the airport, his smile broadens, then mine follows, and soon we are mirroring each others smiles and excitement. He has so much energy as he jumps in the car and says, ‘Que Linda,’ and kisses me. Uh - he’s so handsome. He tells me that I smell good, and I remind him that we both know why I smell so good.

I live pretty close to the airport and have done the drive to and from at least a hundred times, but for some odd reason, today of all days, I lose my train of thought and I take the wrong exit. This mistake was pretty costly, as we were already cutting it close to concert time. We get stuck in extremely heavy traffic and I’m so mad at myself. I’m thinking of the chain of problems this is going to cause, late getting home, miss dinner, miss the ferry, late to the concert, who knows if we’ll even make it?

As we sit in the traffic nightmare, the clouds turn dark and Los Angeles flashbacks of the 405 start replaying in my head. I feel stuck and helpless and I'm getting more and more frustrated. He is so lighthearted. He is so carefree. He is so go with the flow. He reminds me to relax and that it’s really no big deal. I realize that it’s not a big deal and he’s right; I was simply putting a lot of pressure on myself to make the trip perfect just as he had done for Chicago. Perfectionism, just like my imagination…one of my biggest blessings, and simultaneously one of my biggest challenges.

As we are pulling into my driveway, the skies open up and it begins to pour. Our seats for the concert are outside, in fact the entire evening I planned is outside. I recommend that we scratch the whole date and start over. He says, let’s let the rain pass and see what happens.

We decide to risk it and head to the concert. We improvise, and instead of bringing just a blanket, we bring a blanket and, wait for it…puppy pee pads. Yes, that’s right, we pack puppy pee pads to put under our blanket since the ground will now be soaking wet and we have to sit on it. Little did I know that these pee pads were foreshadowing what would soon happen.

We jump in a Lyft, head to the river and notice that the ferry is leaving. Although, that’s the one I planned to be on, it’s fine because now we can grab a bite. I take him over to an adorable food truck park by the river which is normally bustling with people, energy and upbeat music. Today, it’s soaking wet, grey, empty and almost downright somber. We grab two tacos and have our choice of any wet seat in the place, when normally it’s standing room only.

The ferry arrives and we get on. The ferry ride I imagined was bright and cheerful. The sun is setting and it’s reflecting on the river. Music is playing and people are laughing and smiling on the upper deck. This time however, the ferry experience was quite different. It was half full and most people sat on the bottom deck trying to protect themselves from the persistent raindrops, and salvage what dry clothing they still had.

As we arrive at the venue the rain has stopped, and the sun begins to shine, (thank goodness) but the ground is soaking wet. We look at our options and all of them seem pretty muddy and subpar, but we have our puppy pads, so we’ll be able to make do. We start setting up our blanket and he notices something. He’s kicking what I think is dirt out of the way, to make our seats more comfy. Then he takes a closer look.

Me: ‘What are you doing,’

Him: ‘There’s shit right here.’

Me: ‘WHAT? There can’t be!’

Him: ‘I know shit and THIS is shit.’

Me: ‘Like what kind of shit?’

Him: He walks around, He inspects. He sees some geese flying and points - ‘That kind of shit.’

Me: ‘OMG, we are going to be sitting in goose shit!?’ Guano!!!???

Him: ‘Yep’

Wet goose shit was not on the itinerary. Man, he’s a good sport.

We kick the shit to the side, lay down our puppy pads, then our blanket, as we impress our lawn neighbors with our forward thinking.

The concert opener comes on stage - HE . IS . AWFUL. I mean the WORST. It was a mix between poor comedy, beatboxing, magic and I don’t know what. We were at a country music concert, what was this? Who was this…and why are we being subjected to this, all while sitting in wet goose shit?

We look at each other and start laughing. Time for drinks!

The main act comes on stage. They are ok. Nothing like concerts I’ve been to in the past at this venue. Perhaps, it was the rain, the wet ground, the goose shit, the misstep on my timing, I’m not sure, but it was awful.

We finish our drinks and decide to head out early. No reason to sit here when we have an entire fabulous city to explore, sans goose shit.

Since we were choosing to leave the venue early, the ferry wasn’t running yet. I recommend that we call an Uber. We do. We wait THIRTY minutes for the Uber to cancel on us as we wait and walk the streets of Camden, NJ, not the place you want to be at night, when you’re not a local.

Finally we manage to grab a cab just as we see droves of people heading out of the venue. The cab driver asks where we want to go, and I say, just take us over the river back to Philly and we’ll figure it out on the way.

We get over the river and I have the driver drop us off in a fun part of town so we can at least hit up one cool speakeasy before heading home and pretending none of this actually happened.

I suggest we jump out at the corner. Just as we exit the cab and begin to walk to the speakeasy, we are cut off by cops chasing and arresting a man. I look at Guapo and he looks at me. ‘I swear this is the first time any of this has ever happened in front of me on a simple Friday night out.’ I try to explain that this is not normal Philly and that we have just had a stroke of bad luck. We decide we’ve pushed it enough for one night and we jump in a Lyft (I’m over Uber and cabs at this point) and head home.

The rest of the weekend is a bit more low key. I take him around to see the different historical sites, we walk along the river path, we eat in a few cool spots and I take him to one of my favorite rooftops where we look out over the city, and gain some perspective. The beauty of hanging out with Guapo is that in the moment everything is always perfect, even sitting in wet goose shit has its way of feeling perfect, yet there is always the underlying, ‘how are we going to make this work?’ looming below the surface.

I can’t say it doesn’t scare me. I’ve always said, there are worse things in life than two successful people who love their jobs, homes, and current lives, but that still doesn’t ease the underlying anxiety of what are we going to do and how are we going to make this work? So for now, I just look into his kind eyes, and smile when he smiles, and enjoy the sensation of my heart beating against his as we hug.

In between all of the running around, we were able to spend some time at my house. One of the mornings, as I was making breakfast, I noticed him doing a walk-thru of sorts. I’m proud of my place, it’s in great shape, less than ten years old and freshly painted. It’s decorated in a way that feels relevant, modern and inviting, plus I did a deep clean prior to his arrival so I knew he wasn't finding dust bunnies. He starts to ask me questions, like: ‘Are these the original faucets? Do you realize that those pictures are slightly off center and if you moved the table this way, you could have more space?’ ‘Mmm, yeah, a task rabbit hung those, and yes, it bothers me, but I just deal with it’, I say.

‘Do you know how to work this complicated thermostat?’ ‘Mmmm, not really,’ I say. ‘I see you have some shelving on the floor in the bathroom, would you like for me to hang it? And this light fixture, is that for the hallway?' He asks nonchalantly.

OMG - wait, is this for real? I’m literally about to burst with like five conflicting emotions all at once. OMG, yes to all of it. No, I can’t have you working on your vacay. WOW, it would be amazing to have these things done. That’s just not right. My goodness it would be sexy to see him in action. I can’t…Pause…'Can I really give you my honey-do list,' I ask? He laughs.

Does this mean he’s my actual honey? I wonder? I hope.

Before I even finish scrambling the eggs, he has artwork properly hung in my dining area, the table moved, the hallway light hung, measurements for new kitchen and bathroom faucets and pencil marks on my bathroom walls for the shelves he would hang post-breakfast.

I . AM . DEAD . Who is this Superman and how lucky am I?

Did the perfect man just get…more perfect?

Chapter 27

It’s the middle of the night and Milo, my yorkie, and I are sound asleep. He is the best little spoon of anyone around. He’s warm, he’s generally quiet, he’s tiny, and once he puts himself to bed at 10:35pm, that’s it. We were fully immersed in a REM cycle when out of nowhere we were startled right out of bed. We did the kind of jump that lifts you horizontally straight out of your sleeping position as if you’re levitating but at spaceship take-off speed. I thought for sure someone was knocking at my door or even worse, trying to get in. Milo may be little, but dang he has a big bark and a keen sense of hearing. We ran out to the living room, looked through the peephole, checked the cameras - nothing. Did I dream this? Did I jump during a dream and scare Milo, which backfired and then scared me? Was this a chain reaction of fear?

In a foggy daze, we wander back to bed. 8am rolls around, I take a look at my ‘Good morning Linda’ text, smile, and get up for the day. I walk out to the kitchen, start brewing coffee, and then head to the living room for my morning meditation. Still only half awake I catch something odd out of the corner of my eye and I literally jump back. To my complete horror, I see that my chandelier has fallen out of the ceiling and is hanging over my dining room table by literally ONE wire. A million and one thoughts race through my mind and all of a sudden it clicks. The chandelier falling out of the ceiling was the noise that woke us up last night. I have so many questions, but there isn’t any time for that. I must act and I must act swiftly.

I quickly assess the situation and decide that I am too scared to touch the lone wire holding the chandelier so instead I grab a stool and a bunch of books and put them on the table until they stack high enough for the chandelier to rest on them, giving the wire a chance to relax. And then, I FaceTime Guapo.

‘Good moooooooorning,’ he says. He loves to draw out his words. I have the camera facing the chandelier instead of my face. ‘Whooooooooooa, what is that,’ he asks?

I think to myself, honestly yeah - what is that? I explain to him what happened and he tells me to show him the piece that is supposed to hold the chandelier to the ceiling. He takes one look at it and tells me exactly what mistake the electrician made. I tell him, OK - I’ll call someone to get it fixed, and thank you for diagnosing the issue. He then teaches me how to turn off the electricity for the chandelier and tells me to call him back if there are any issues. Like what, I’m thinking? Could something worse happen from this situation? I don’t even want to know.

For the longest time, I thought I didn’t need a man living in my house and that I could take care of everything, but at this very moment, I realized that I was grouping all men together. True, I didn’t need most men in my house, but this one…this was different. This man is a MacGyver of sorts. Not only is he handsome (that’s been established), he has a great sense of humor, he’s smart and hard-working, and he can do EVERYTHING! I always wonder how some people just know how to do everything. I do not.

Milo and I go about our day when I get a notice that I have a package delivery. I order way too much online, so I’m assuming it’s something I ordered and forgot about. I pick it up and I try to scan through the recent orders in my head. Usually, I’m ordering clothes, jewelry, shoes, makeup, you know, girlie things…but this box was big and heavy and from a company, I wasn't familiar with.

I run upstairs, grab my box cutter, and dive in. Inside are all kinds of faucets. One by one I start to pull out pretty, shiny faucets, pipes, things that look like they attach pipes to faucets, I’m not really sure. What is this? I do a little more digging and I realize what’s going on. When Guapo was visiting he measured my kitchen and bathroom and this was my faucet upgrade delivery! Wow, they are so shiny, pretty, and modern. Hmmm, I didn’t realize mine looked so dated, but now that you mention it….

I FaceTime him again, with the camera facing the faucets. He laughs. I can’t believe him. He tells me that my place is beautiful, but that I deserve some upgrades. Then what he tells me next is exactly what I am waiting to hear.

‘Hang on to them. I’ll head up there in a couple weeks and install them for you…and re-hang your chandelier…the right way.’

My heart beat intensifies. I am so excited. He’s coming back!

Chapter 28 A few days pass and it's time for my parents to come visit for a long weekend. I look forward to this visit every year. It’s nice quality time that I get to spend with just my Mom and Dad without any distractions or interruptions. This time around, we had a lot planned for their quick visit. After breakfast, we planned to go to the adorable city of New Hope where we would spend the afternoon, ride the Ivy Express train, see a theater production and enjoy a nice dinner al fresco. Before we headed to New Hope, we walked from my house to one of my favorite breakfast/brunch spots in Philadelphia. We were enjoying the best breakfast in town, in my humble opinion, while catching up on general life things when my Mom loving blurts out, ‘are you dating anyone?’ I throw my hand over my mouth to help hold my coffee from spitting out all over the table. That came out of left field, but at the same time, that’s so Susan. She loves me so deeply that all she wants is for me to feel love and happiness always. Up until this point, I had not told them about Guapo. It may seem ridiculous with all the nice things he had done for me and the fact that we spent time together in both Chicago and Philly, but I typically don’t waste useless energy discussing details about guys, because in most cases, it ends up being a pointless conversation. I hadn’t dated in so long, and after so many failed relationships I felt that by not sharing details, it would save me the painful conversation of explaining what happened this time; why it wasn’t right…again. I guess this was a way of protecting my fragile heart. As a kid, did you ever eat chocolate sauce that would harden upon contact with your cold ice cream? I loved that chocolate sauce. My friend Sara and I would have so much fun turning the sauce into a magic shell. After it hardened, we would gently break open the shell, and enjoy the yummy sweetness of the ice cream just beneath the surface. As I think about protecting my feelings, oftentimes I imagine the sweetness of my heart protected by an outer shell. It's not too hard to break-in, but it does take a little work, and once you get in, it's very very sweet, much like the magic shell and ice cream. This time, however, something came over me when my Mom asked the question and instead of avoiding it or changing the subject, I said, ‘Yes, I am. Finally.’ I think this caught them off guard as my Mom and Dad both put their forks down and leaned in a bit closer. My mom actually teared up at the table. I thought, does she know something I don’t know? How does she know that this one is different? Maybe it’s because I hadn’t dated in so long, maybe it’s because she knew I was holding out for my one true love, I’m not sure, but her reaction told me that she was on to me. I showed them a photo of me and Guapo in Philadelphia and my Dad, our serious scientist, our man of few words, our patriarch who keeps his opinions to himself said, ‘Bug, that’s the first man I’ve ever seen you with, that I like from a picture alone.’ WOW! I am shook. What is happening? I proceed to tell them the story of how we met, and how I gave him my number. How I was making eyes with him and how I specifically chose my seat to face him during dinner. My parents are laughing, shaking their heads. I tell them about Grandma’s voice and how I think she orchestrated this. They are enjoying the story as much as I am enjoying sharing it with them. We finish breakfast and begin to walk back to my place. We take ten steps and my mom says, ‘When do we get to meet him?’ ‘I’d like to invite Guapo to meet the family.’ Hold your horses, Susan. One step at a time here. We head off to New Hope and have one of the best days I can remember spending with both of my parents in quite some time. The weather is sublime, the town is charming, the theater production starring Sally Struthers was amazing, and wow does she have impeccable comedic timing. It was a near-perfect day full of cherished memories until we came home to a surprise...

Chapter 29

We came home to a surprise indeed. I was babysitting my friend’s geriatric dog and the poor little thing had so much anxiety. Even with her thunder shirt, a comfy bed, and the companionship of Milo, she was still so nervous and in turn had several accidents on my bathroom floor mats. I hugged the sweet girl and took the bath mats and put them in the washing machine. Within about 10 minutes of what seemed like a normal wash, my Mom and I noticed that water was overflowing from the laundry room and before you know it I was running around the house like a crazy woman gathering every towel in the house, to soak up the soapy water before it caused any damage.

After an intense cleanup, I stood there like a wet noodle, staring at the washing machine and thought - wow, what next? Why did my house seem to be falling apart right before my very eyes? I looked to my left with the chandelier hanging out of the ceiling, I looked in front of me at the pile of sopping wet towels, I felt totally defeated knowing I didn't have the knowledge or ability to fix these issues, and this is how my parents were seeing my typically beautiful, spotless house that I worked so hard on.

There was an obvious machine malfunction, so I decided to do some research. Naturally, my next step was to turn to YouTube videos, boring, terrible, watching paint dry - washing machine YouTube videos, not cool makeup tutorials. As I was well into video number four, my parents recommended that I just go ahead and pay for a professional to come out, diagnose the problem and fix it, or even worse, buy a brand new washer/dryer set.

At this point, I’ve checked out and my imagination is running wild. All I can see is dollar bills flying out the window. Perhaps one of those flying dollar bills would take me on a magic carpet ride to Miami?

Just then my phone rings and I snap out of my fantasyland magic carpet ride to paradise. It’s Guapo. I’m happy to hear from him, but a little overwhelmed by everything that just went wrong and at the same time a bit embarrassed to tell him about yet another home incident. I answer with a somewhat exasperated ‘hola.’ My parents smile. They get a kick out of me saying hola and wait to see if the rest of the conversation will be in Spanish. After all, they want to see if that college semester abroad in Spain paid off.

He asks how my time with my family is going and I skip over our fabulous day in New Hope and instead launch right into the story of the washing machine. I tell him that I’ve YouTubed it and I think I have a clogged tube…we both laugh a little and then he tells me that yes, indeed I have a clogged tube. He mentions to please not bother calling someone in, because he can easily fix it when he’s here to hang the chandelier and install all of the faucets.

I pause and let this sink in. Guapo - of course. Why didn’t I think to ask the man who can do everything? I guess I’m still getting used to having such a handy and capable man in my life who actually loves to help. Maybe it’s deeper than that? Was my grandmother in on this? Was she causing problems in the house so that I could learn to ask for help and he could show me love through helping me? There must be something going on behind the scenes, it's just too coincidental that prior to Guapo in my life, I hadn't had a single house issue.

As I stood there covered in soapy water from head to toe I finally understood the term damsel in distress. With just a few passing moments, I came to the conclusion that I was in fact, a young girl, helpless in the field of home repairs, desperately in need of an expert. Perhaps the strong-willed, stubborn, fiercely independent Elise Ivy was actually the exact definition of a damsel in distress? That's when a light bulb moment came over me and I realized for the first time that although I wanted help, I was uncomfortable asking for it.

I had to dig deeper. What did this mean? Why was this hard for me? Why did asking for help make me feel weak, not capable, or less worthy? Why did I feel I didn't deserve the help?

These were hard almost embarrassing questions to ask myself. It was time to set pride aside and dig deep. That's when I remembered a ‘golden nugget’ I learned many years prior. I remember someone saying to me that my relationships will be my best teachers - as long as I'm willing to listen, learn, and look inside.

Not only was I willing and now almost desperate to look deeply inside and explore this newfound acknowledgment, but by listening to him, I noticed that his willingness to help, his generosity, and his calm demeanor were all attributes that I highly admired and wanted to emulate. Once again, Guapo would come through as my Superman all while remaining humble and calm.

Suavely, he says, ‘good news. I bought my plane ticket! I’ll see you next weekend! But now I’m thinking I’m going to need more than a weekend to fix everything in your apartment.’

Me - ‘Very funny. It seems I met you at the right time.’ ;)

I'm wondering if my Grandma is getting a kick out of my response?

Him - ‘Yep. Happy to help. I can’t wait to see you…4 days and counting.’

I get off the phone to two beaming parents. I saunter over to them and casually say, ‘Guapo said he’ll fix it.’ All three of us smile at each other with a knowing that this is something special.

The next day I’m gutted to see my parents leave. It’s just one of those things that never gets easier, in fact, it gets harder and sadder every time we say goodbye. My mom and I have gone through the same routine for 20 years. We hug and kiss, I say ‘bye Mom, I love you, please don’t cry.’ Then she says, ‘I’m not,’ as she has tears streaming down her face. I say, ‘Mooooom, why do you do this, now I’m crying.’ We have been doing this shtick since I was 18 and my Mom and Dad dropped me off at The University of Nebraska in the middle of a cornfield, well technically a dorm parking lot, but it might as well have been a cornfield.

Have you ever met someone who was so in alignment with your energy that you could feel their feelings and emotions without being near them, possibly even states apart? My mom and I have this type of connection. We know what the other is feeling whether we have talked on the phone that day or not. In life, this has happened to me a handful of times with other people, but most consistently with my mom and now in the short time I’ve known Guapo, it was happening on a daily basis.

Right on cue, he texts.

Him - ‘Were you sad to drop off your Mom and Dad?’

Me - ‘I always am.’

Him - ‘I’m so sorry. I know that’s hard living so far from them.’

Me - ‘How many days until you’re here.’

Him - ‘3 days mi chiquitica! I got something for you, but I can’t tell you what it is’

Me - ‘More perfume? A shower head?’

Him - ‘LOL yes, a shower head but that’s not really a gift. Stop guessing.’

In true Aries form that just fuels my guessing fire.Me - ‘Gimme a hint!’

Him - ‘Te quiero!!! That’s a hint.’

Me - ‘That’s nice, but that’s not a hint. Is it a helicopter ride without doors, because that’s where I draw the line.’

Him - ‘No more guessing!’

Me - ‘A house. OMG, it’s a house…I mean you are kind of remodeling my house.’

Now I’m really just throwing crazy ideas out there.

Him - ‘Te extraño (I miss you). I have to head off to six meetings, talk to you later.’

The next morning I awake to my favorite text, ‘Good morning Linda.’ Followed by, ‘be sure to check the mail today. Something special should come that we can share this weekend.’ At this point, I’m stumped. I don’t get stumped easily, so for this very curious fire sign, I was bursting at the seams with wonder. What could we possibly be sharing this weekend?

The mail arrives and I have not one but two packages from Guapo. Without wasting another second, I dive right in, tear the packages open and look inside. One package contains a brand new showerhead, which is a fabulous upgrade to what I currently have, and will now create a spa experience in my shower - check! (I’m assuming this is coming with professional installation, I giggle to myself.) The other is 4 bottles of his favorite Malbec and a note that says, ‘I can’t wait to share a bottle of wine with you this weekend. Don’t drink all of them before I get there. Just kidding. See you soon and get ready, I have a big question for you.’

Chapter 30

Who sends four bottles of wine and says, ‘I have a big question for you?’ This better be good!

I knew the question wasn’t going to be THE question. We didn’t know each other well enough and there were too many things to iron out being that we were long distance, but honestly, that made me question it even more. What in the world was he going to ask me and why couldn’t he just ask it during one of our many phone calls, FaceTimes or texts?

I learned many years back during my yoga teacher training that there are 4 Gates of Speech. They are:

1. Is it truthful?

2. Is it necessary to say?

3. Is it the appropriate time?

4. Can it be said in a kind way?

Being an impulsive Aries, number 3 is a tough one for me. When I think it, it usually tends to come out pretty quickly. Guapo on the other hand, a Libra and in true ‘balancing scales’ form, is steady, patient, grounded and careful with his words and timing of them. I assume this is why he’s waiting for the perfect moment to ask me this mysterious question.

The day is here - I’m so excited to pick up Guapo from the airport. I do a big clean in the apartment and get my tool kit as organized for him as possible. After all, he has quite the ‘honey-do’ list. I’ve never made a ‘honey-do’ list, so this was kind of fun. In a way, I felt like I was playing ‘house.’

He arrived late at night, so we planned to hop to all the projects first thing in the morning. My job was to cook breakfast and make sure that Guapo had adequate energy and caffeine consumption to get the job done.

The sun starts to peak through my curtains and before I know it, Guapo is up, showered, and digging through my tool kit. Milo and I stay in bed and snuggle a little longer. He loves to be the little spoon and I never deny him those snuggles. After a bit of time, Milo gives me a look. Being that we spend a lot of time together, I know what he’s thinking - how can someone jump out of bed with so much gusto to do house chores? Well whatever that super power is, I’m not complaining.

After a few more minutes of puppy snuggles, it was time for me to get up and work on my end of the bargain.

I start cracking the eggs and out of the corner of my eye I see that the chandelier is happily back in the ceiling where it belongs. ‘Guapo! The chandelier!! It looks amazing. When did you hang that?’ I ask.

He laughs and says, ‘while you were sleeping mi vida.’ I explain to him that when your 6 lb. yorkie wants to spoon, it’s really really hard to say no. (That was me covering for the fact that I love to sleep).

I look over and he is single handily lifting the washing machine and pulling it out of the laundry room.

I remember seeing a National Geographic special of some sort on the power of ants. Something like they can lift a few times their body weight, and as I watched my Superman, I thought, hmmm, look at that ‘ant-like’ strength and determination. He disassembled the washer and within about a half hour, the clogged tube was cleared out with a hanger from the dry cleaner and the washer was functioning properly and back in the laundry room.

He paused to enjoy eggs, toast, fruit and coffee with me. He loves the way I make scrambled eggs, and I love to make them for him. Truth be told, my mom is the master egg scrambler but I guess I picked up a thing or two from her, because mine are pretty darn good. He tells me that it’s the best breakfast he’s ever had and that he could eat this every morning. I jokingly asked him if is coffee is spiked.

He graciously spent a couple more hours that afternoon replacing/upgrading my kitchen and bathroom faucets as well as the shower head and knob. I couldn’t stop looking at my apartment. The upgrades gave it a whole new energy, a renewal, a freshness that was so exciting. I loved watching him work, and loved being his assistant. The teamwork aspect of it was fun, and as usual, I was blown away by his generosity and his desire to do these things for me. Instead of diving into all of the questions of why he was doing this, and why he was doing this for me, etc. I chose to accept the gifts and just say thank you.

I made us dinner reservations for that evening and I’ve never been more excited to get ready than I was tonight. Quite frankly I was dying to try out my new shower. I got in and I literally couldn’t believe it? Was I living in a five-star hotel? I yelled to him from the bathroom, ‘it’s amazing! It’s better than I ever thought it could be!’

I beamed with joy from the most magnificent shower of my life not only because the shower head was incredible and the hot water was on point, but more so, because the daily task of showering was now forever filled with loving memories of his gift. After my spa-like renewal, I peeked into the living room and noticed that he set out two wine glasses and was decanting one of the bottles of Malbec.

He had Celia Cruz playing in the background. She’s a famous larger-than-life Cuban singer who provides the best music for salsa dancing.

I got ready quickly so I could sit with him and experience his favorite wine. It was delicious. It was bold, full-bodied, and dark like him, it was juicy, jammy and sweet like me. With each sip I fell a little more deeply in love.

Here we were in my beautiful apartment, together, sharing this magical moment. A moment I wasn't sure I'd ever experience...

He smiles at me, stands up, reaches out his arms, pulls me in close and leads me through a beginner salsa. I’m a bit stiff, wishing I’d at least finished my glass of wine before I show him how rigid a former competitive cheerleader really is with her dance moves.

We laugh, we hug, we salsa, and we connect deeply yet tenderly. This moment reminds me of the Yoga sutra 'sthira sukha' which means strong, steady, stable, yet gentle, joyful, peaceful. The best of both worlds in one special moment.

He smiles at me with his perfectly imperfect smile, and says, ‘I’m going to teach you how to salsa.’ My mind fast forwards at the speed of light to the first dance at our wedding. I’m excited, but panic comes over me. I need lessons, stat.

I come back to my mantra of staying present. I think to myself, It’s ok Ms. Type A, you don’t need to know every salsa move right now.

I love when I can catch myself being so perfectionist that even I can see the ridiculousness. I internally chuckle, we sit back down and take a sip of the empyrean Malbec.

He softly, yet powerfully grabs my hands. I snap out of my internal thoughts. He says, ‘so I have a question for you.’ I remind him, that I am very well aware of this. I wonder if he knows my super power? I more than remember that he has something he would like to ask me.

He gently and methodically begins to string his words together. He carefully enters into uncharted territory and I can tell that he is nervous to ask me the question. His dark soulful eyes connect with mine and he says, ‘I would like to know if you want children someday?’

Chapter 31

Oh! Wow, ok. Did we need wine to discuss this topic? Was he nervous to ask me because he was talking to a late thirties girl who hasn’t already had children? Was he methodically stringing his words together because he wanted a yes…or did he want a no? After all, this is a guy who is in his early forties who also hasn’t had children, and I’m sure has had the opportunity…or maybe he hasn’t? TBD.

Luckily I am more fluid and natural with my conversation skills than my salsa moves, so I was comfortable telling him my views on this topic. I do however, have a tendency to ramble and over talk when it’s not necessary, so I decided to keep this in mind when telling him my answer, plus we had a dinner reservation to make.

I never realized what a big talker I am until I got my current TV hosting job. Right after I received the news that I got the job, I mentioned to one of my friends how nervous I was. I explained that I wasn’t sure I could talk for three hours straight. He looked at me and without missing a beat said, ‘are you kidding me? Remember the time we drove to Palm Springs and you talked the entire way from Los Angeles? Just do that!’ Noted.

With that in mind, I swirled my wine, took a deep inhale of the liquid perfection and began to explain myself.

Me: First of all, thank you for asking. That’s so kind of you to ask in the first place. (Ok, It’s already starting to sound like a job interview answer. I must make a tone switch - stat!).

Guapo: I realize this is a very personal question.

Me: It is, but it’s also a very important question. It’s interesting that you are asking me this question now, because my answer today is different than my answer was a few years back.

Here’s some backstory for you: I didn’t grow up as the little girl looking for her prince, dreaming about my wedding day, then my 2 babies with one on the way, each 2.5 years apart. I’m just not that girl. Instead, I grew up dreaming about what I was going to contribute to society, where I was going to travel, and how far I could make it in my career. It’s not that one way of dreaming is right, and one is wrong, it’s just how I’m designed and where I have been in my life up until a few years ago.

As I got a little older, I started accomplishing said goals, such as circumnavigating the globe three times on a cruise ship, seeing many of the great wonders of the planet, chipping away at my career over 20 years, and eventually ending up hosting regularly on TV, just as I had dreamed. It wasn’t until I achieved all of these things, that I finally began to wonder if there was more to life? I’d say this happened around the age of 34 or so. I think the best way to describe what I began feeling is for me to share with you my favorite Jim Carrey quote. 'I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.'

With some time and introspection, I came to the conclusion that yes, there is more…way way way more to life than travel, career and personal goals. However, when I looked seriously at where I was, and who I was with, I realized that up until this point, I haven't met someone with whom I wanted to reproduce (sorry for the non-emotional, very scientific term).

My dad once told me, point blank - don’t reproduce with that man, (an ex) and I’ll never forget it. It was so rare hear my Dad say anything about my relationships, and with this comment being so forward, it really stuck with me…and obviously I listened.

So again, looking deep, I had to ask myself who do I want to reproduce with? What kind of man? What characteristics must he posses? It’s one thing for me to date someone, another to even marry someone, but to create life with someone and have a forever connection to that person - well, quite frankly, that kind of blows my mind.

Since it had been 34 years or so, and I had not met anyone I was willing to have children with, I was simply (yet mistakenly) interpreting that as ‘I don’t want children.’

Once I figured out this mind-shattering revelation, that I did in fact want children, I just hadn’t found the right partner, I next had to convince myself not to rush into something just because of my age and my biological clock. It’s not fair to me, the man (internal thought - please be you, please be you), the relationship, or the cutie-pie baby who would be created.

So as I sit here reminding myself to not be long winded (ha), let me say that I am so proud of the very full life I have been able to create for myself. I am now very comfortable with the idea of having children…with the right person, (internal - you, you, you) yet I am also aware that at this age, there is a possibility that it may not happen.

Of course being the prepared, type A personality that I am, I can assure you I have taken some necessary steps, which we can discuss at another time, to increase my chances of making it happen. (Insert - a pretty big sip of wine with eyes locked on his here).

So with all of that being said, I guess it also depends on the answer of my partner. I do believe this is a two-way conversation and could even potentially be an area of compromise. But I will end with, if I do get to have children, I know I’ll look back and say, I couldn’t imagine life any other way…oh, and side note: I think they would be sooooooo cute.

He remains, patient, quiet and still. He lets that diatribe sink in. I don’t think he was expecting me to bust out into a stage right, 10 minute monologue with perfect blocking, flattering lighting and impeccable pauses for dramatic effect.

Welcome to asking Elise Ivy a deep life question. I think to myself, perhaps this is the last time he goes there?

I take a sip. I smile at him. I’m not expecting him to talk right away. I know that’s a lot. I know I’M a lot.

Guapo: Wow, thank you. That was so honest, beautiful, and from the heart.

Me: And you? Would you like to tell me over dinner?

Chapter 32

We get to the restaurant just as the 15 minute grace period for our reservation is closing. The hostess seats us at a super cute, romantic, table for two. I always appreciate it when the table is big enough for dinner and drinks to fit nicely, yet small enough to hold hands while sitting across from one another. On several occasions, I explained to Guapo that I go to restaurants more for the ambiance than the food, as I am a sucker for fabulous decor, perfect lighting, and mood-setting music. We get settled in at our table and he reaches out his hands to hold mine. He looks at me, smiles, and says, ‘the lighting in here is perfect.’ He’s right, it really is, I thought. So do I just jump right in? Do we pick up right where we left off? I mean it’s obviously important to him, he sent four bottles of wine and waited to ask me in person, surely he’s dying to give me his answer. I finish my overthinking and just as I open my mouth to ask him, the waiter appears at our table and introduces himself. I snap out of my own thoughts to say hello to our waiter. We ask for water and a few minutes before looking at the menu. I go for it. Me: And you? Do you want kids? Guapo: I really never did. We take a beat. Me: Oh, ok. I understand where he’s coming from. Being that it took me so many years to want kids, I can completely understand the mindset he may be in. Perhaps he doesn’t want to change his lifestyle? Maybe he can’t picture it, maybe… Guapo: Until about two years ago. That’s when everything changed. I’m not sure what happened specifically, but about two years ago, I realized that having kids was the only thing in my life I had yet to accomplish. Unfortunately, two years ago, I was not with the right person. First I had to change that. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now. Me: Oh! Did you change that? Guapo: Yes. Me: Oh, thank goodness. This could have turned awkward really fast. Guapo: So I guess now that I’ve shared my answer and heard yours, it seems we might be in the exact same situation. Me: Yeah, it does seem like that. Kinda crazy, right? Guapo: Your answer was extraordinary. Me: Nah, I just talk a lot. Guapo: No really. Que Linda. I must tell you that from the bottom of my heart, I’ve never met anyone like you. Me: Ha. Well, thank you. I know I’m a bit eccentric… Guapo: I love it. Needless to say, I don’t remember what we ate that night, because I didn’t really care about the food. I do know, however, that whatever we ordered we split, because we always do, and sharing (in many ways) now seemed to be our new normal. We held hands through dinner as we individually daydreamed about what our new future could look like. This was the beginning of a whole new idea of Elise and a whole new idea of Guapo not to mention a whole new idea of Elise AND Guapo. It gave me butterflies, and I could tell it gave him a sense of calm, contentment, and gentle excitement. As we walked home through the streets of Philadelphia with our hands interlocked and our steps in sync, there were long moments of silence in which we were each savoring the seconds of this monumental evening. For us both, although with very different paths, we had at last found the person with whom we wanted to create life. This newfound comfort was something neither one of us had ever experienced but readily welcomed with our hearts front and center and arms stretched out wide.

Chapter 33

It was now a month before Guapo’s birthday and I began to brainstorm what we should do. I absolutely love celebrating birthdays so planning his was something I was very much looking forward to. He mentioned to me that he would like to go to Napa Valley, as he hasn’t been, so we put that on the list. I recommended Washington D.C and NYC since those are two amazing cities with endless ways to celebrate and easy to get to.

After much discussion and finding out that another couple wanted to come along for the festivities we settled on NYC. The plan was for Guapo to come to Philadelphia, then we would train it to NYC, spend 3 nights in the Big Apple, then come back to Philadelphia for another night or two.

I set my planning skills into action. I reached out to some of my best NYC resources and got recommendations for authentic artistic experiences, along with hot restaurants and trendy rooftop bars. I wanted to show him, and his friends who were first-time visitors to NYC, the absolute best time imaginable.

I spent days, even weeks planning and re-planning. Doing research, making reservations, then doing more research, and making new reservations. I wanted the weekend to be a mix between chill rooftop vibes during the day, stunning sunsets over the Hudson River at dusk, interesting, lux restaurants in the evening, followed by authentic late-night NYC entertainment.

I wavered between jazz or comedy, loungy or chic, underground or in the sky…when it comes to NYC, the options are endless…

I had plans A, B, and C ready to go and I kept wishing for just one more day in NYC to be able to show him everything. At last, I settled on the actual celebration plan and was so pleased with my final decision! I reached out to the other girl, ran the plan by her, sent her the websites of everything I chose, and got her blessing. We were so excited and decided to keep the plans a secret from the boys.

The weekend has finally come and Guapo arrives in Philadelphia. There he is waiting for me at the airport with his award-winning, perfectly imperfect smile, his hair freshly cut, and the perfect amount of cologne to draw me in for a heart to heart hug. I can’t believe he’s here and I am giddy like a little girl at Christmas to celebrate his birthday week!

We get to the house and I have some small gifts ready for him. A few shirts that I know will make him look irresistible, and an IOU promise to make him custom bean bag seats for his boat.

We eat some late-night snacks, cheers to a fabulous weekend with friends, and hit the hay as we have an early train to catch in the morning.

The following day, we wake up before our alarm out of sheer excitement and catch the Amtrak train to NYC. Guapo keeps pressing me to share the celebration plans. He has no idea what I have up my sleeve and I tell him to ‘trust me - it’s all under control.’ I promise him, beautiful views, amazing food, and an authentic NYC experience like never before. I tell him I ran the plan by the other girl and we think we nailed it.

As we sit on the Amtrak train, I get butterflies in my stomach. I love riding on trains. For some reason, they’ve always had a magical quality for me. Maybe it’s because where I grew up train rides were only offered in far off lands? Perhaps it’s because it symbolizes exploration, or quite possibly because the closest I got to riding the train as a child was through a whimsical daydream as I read the Polar Express.

Regardless, this was the first time in all of my travels, that I was able to sit on the train and hold hands with the man I love. (Oops, I hope that wasn’t out loud. He doesn’t know that I love him yet).

I show him the sites as we make our 1 hour 20 min train ride from Philly to NYC. As I spot NYC in the distance, I bounce up and down in my seat and say, ‘Look! There's the city! OMG, we are going to have the best time. NYC is EVERYTHING.’

He smiles as we get closer and closer to Penn Station. His deep, dark, intense eyes, widen as he notices the sparkle coming off the Hudson River. Although we’ve been to NYC many times, we can’t help but be awestruck by the buildings, each one bigger than the next, and the architectural feats of the NYC bridges.

We squeeze each other's hand a little tighter. ‘Wow.’ He says. I smile and bat my eyelashes. I just know this is the right place to celebrate.

First things first - we must check into the hotel, drop our things, freshen up, and then go meet his friends. I’ve seen these friends on FaceTime and enjoyed lots of pictures of them, but I’m very excited to meet them in person for the first time.

We take the elevator way up, open the door to our hotel room and we love it! The view is intense. The sun is shining and it’s lighting up the room. I stand right up next to the window, pressed against the glass, looking out at all the possibility this city has to offer, and I take a deep breath. I can’t believe I’m in my favorite city in the world, with my dream guy and we are about to celebrate him. This is bliss.


For about the last decade, I have been making vision boards in order to be able to physically ‘see’ my dreams and make them a reality. Sometimes the ideas on the board happen really quickly and other times it can take months or even years to materialize. Over the years, my goals and dreams have changed as they were achieved. For example, I kept my current job on my vision board for 3 years. When it came to fruition, I tweaked it to make it more specific to align with my new aspiration.

One of the images which has remained unchanged and has been included on every single one of my boards is a black and white photo of a woman (represents me) being lifted up as she wraps her legs around a dark, handsome man (represents my ideal), while they engage in a passionate kiss in NYC. In the photo, the woman is physically wrapped around her dream man and they are in a world of their own juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of the NYC streets. The photo isn't on my board as a literal translation. It's on my board to represent the visceral feeling I wish to have when with my dream man.


As I looked out over the busy city, I was reminded of the photo I have looked at almost every day for 8 years. I got a little emotional. I could feel my stomach do a flip and my heart take an extra flutter. I pursed my lips to hold back tears and just then Guapo hugged me from behind. With his chin resting on my shoulder, he soaked in the view and said, ‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ I replied, ‘Yes, it’s really very special.’ If only he knew just how special.

We head over to a hip restaurant with a fun, relaxed bar area to go meet his friends. We get there before them, so I tell Guapo that I’m going to run to the ladies, wash my hands, and put on a little lip gloss. When I return to the bar, they have arrived. We smile, reach out our arms, and embrace as if we are old friends. The guy says, ‘whoa, you’re so short! TV is very deceiving.’ It was the perfect ice breaker. We get a good laugh and I let them know it's not the first time I’ve heard that.

The four of us enjoy connecting, laughing, storytelling and getting to know each other. I’m enjoying watching Guapo smile from ear to ear. Three of his favorite people all coming together in a fabulous city to celebrate him. This is life! This is what it’s about.

We finish up and decide it’s time to get ready for our big night out. We all head back to the hotel, get ready and meet on the rooftop for a pre-dinner drink. The air is crisp, Fall has arrived and it’s just chilly enough to have the excuse to cuddle up a little closer to Guapo. We watch as the sun sets, and our celebratory night begins.

My goal for dinner was to go somewhere super chic. I wanted the ambiance to be on point. I was looking for sophistication paired with vibrant energy and a unique ‘only in NYC’ vibe. I wanted the lights down low and the music to set the tone. I wanted drinks and apps to start flowing right as we sat down and I wanted the birthday boy to sit back, relax, and enjoy every single second as we celebrated and honored him.

The restaurant delivered. It was a unique experience. So far so good. I gave myself a little pat on the back.

One of the major factors to take into consideration when planning an NYC weekend is geography. There is so much to do, but it’s key to figure out your neighborhood and travel time between activities. A good rule of thumb is to pad a few extra minutes into your itinerary because the traffic is always bad and everything always seems to be just a little further than imagined. For this reason, I had arranged for someone to stand in line for us for our next activity. I pre-bought tickets, but in order to sit in the very limited premium front-row seats, we had to be first in line. The last thing I wanted to do was rush the dinner experience, so the stand-in was integral to being able to have a relaxed stress-free dinner as she secured our place in line.

We walk the 3 blocks from dinner to our show and the guys are begging us to tell them what is happening next. I ask the girl if I can spill the beans and she says, ‘go for it.’

I say through laughter, we are going to an underground variety show. This is one of the longest-running shows in NYC and now you will be introduced to the very cool, funky, late-night underground NYC scene. I wanted something really unique for tonight. I wanted a show and an evening to remember, so here goes nothing! I tell them that I’m nervous because I haven’t pre-screened this show, but the reviews are amazing. There will be fire dancers, comedy acts, burlesque dancing, acting, and poetry. It’s a wild free-for-all and we are about to see some real underground art. The kind of art you can only find through loads of research and a bit of curiosity. So hold on everyone, we’re going for a ride!

We easily secure the premium seats because our line holder was on point. We get settled in and I’m excited and nervous as this decision is riding on my back. Will this be like Cirque du Soleil? Will the comedy be good? How much fire is really in the show, we are underground, after all.

The four of us, wait anxiously in our front-row seats, when just then a cocktail waitress in a bustier with her girls up to her chin, and basically dental floss as bottoms, walks up to take our drink order. The four of us freeze, try to make extreme eye contact and only eye contact with her, order our drinks and hold it together until she walks away. Slowly we turn our focus off what just happened and on to each other. We all glance at one another waiting for someone in the group to break. I bite. ‘Well, I wasn’t expecting that, but I hope the drinks are good!’ We laugh and roll with it.

With drinks in hand, smiles on our faces, and enjoying our premium seats; I look behind me to see that the place is filled to the brim. I couldn’t get out of my seat if I wanted to, because there are so many people packed in the room. All seats are taken and the standing room only section is bursting at the seams. Elbow room is non-existent and I'm even more grateful now for our seats. The lights go down. A spotlight appears on the stage and poof, the MC for the evening is revealed! OK, I think. This is more what I was expecting. I sip my drink, settle in, and Guapo grabs my hand. He whispers, in my ear, ‘thank you.’

The MC begins his attempt at comedy, I quickly realize this is not anywhere close to a Cirque du Soleil performance, but I’m going to set those expectations to the side and enjoy this show for exactly what it is.

Just then a man comes running through the crowd and jumps on stage…NAKED. Not, like covered tastefully, or even covered a little bit. Not in a cool, artistic way…stark naked with his you know what flying all over the place. My jaw drops, I squirm a little in my seat. Guapo and his friend look as though they are turning green. The other girl and I are in partial disbelief and partial hysteria. I can’t look at it and I can’t not look at it. We are in the front row and I'm staring at this man from a very intrusive angle. I am paralyzed. This was very clearly NOT in the reviews. Nowhere in the reviews did it say you will see a man's private parts within the first 3 minutes of the show or at any time for that matter. But very clearly right in front of me was a man dancing around and swinging his goods. A shimmer of panic runs through my body. What have I gotten us into?

After about 5 min of the naked man act, (and for the record, the longest 5 minutes of my life), the curtain goes down as does my vodka soda. We order another round of drinks, because at this point what are we supposed to do? Ok, it's time to reset my attitude. I am releasing expectations and I am here to enjoy this show for what it is, and not what I thought it would be. I have now created a personal mantra in order to endure this show.

The next act comes on stage. It’s two girls in biker chick outfits. There are fake motorcycle revs coming out of the speaker system, and one of the girls flings off her top as the rev gets louder. I begin to set my mantra aside and instead of, ENJOY the show for what it is, I start to SEE the show for exactly what it is. Act by act, I start to put the pieces together, and then like a confetti explosion, POW, I blurt it out. ‘OH MY G-D, we are at a strip club!’

The guys nearly spray their drinks out of their nostrils. I. AM. MORTIFIED. I literally met Guapo’s friends 3 hours prior and now I am the reason we are sitting front row at a strip club. Mind you, we weren’t TECHNICALLY at a strip club, we were at an artistic underground variety show...NYC's longest-running variety show dammit. Napa Valley is looking like it would have been the better choice at this very moment.

Authentic NYC underground art experience - check. Completed and not to be repeated.

I frantically look around. There is no place for us to go. We are jammed in like sardines and we are in the front row, so leaving would be the ultimate disrespect to the artists and the others trying to enjoy the show. So as a group we decide that we are in it for the long haul.

After each vignette, I breathe a sigh of relief that we are one step closer to leaving this situation, and NEVER, EVER discussing it. Just when I thought we were at the finale, and I could relax, the MC says over the microphone, ‘I understand we have some birthdays in the house tonight. ’OH, SHIT! I mentioned Guapo’s birthday when I bought the tickets.

The MC declares, ‘Would the following birthday boys, please come up onto the stage…’

As my hands lift to cover my face, Guapo ascends up the stairs and onto the stage under the bright lights to join the MC and a gaggle of scantily clad girls. I. AM. DEAD.

Chapter 34

With my hands covering my face and hiding my eyes, I tentatively peek through my fingers to see what’s happening on stage. Our friends are laughing and telling me to film Guapo, and I just can’t. My mind is racing with 1. WOW, what a good sport, 2. Is he going to be upset with me after this? I mean this is 100% my doing. 3. Am I about to see something that will be burned into my memory forever? 4. Are they going to take off his clothes? 5. Is he going to get really embarrassed in front of all these people?

I was so nervous. I might have blacked out for a second because my memory of the on-stage antics is a bit fuzzy. I know there were moments of dancing and laughing and girl’s clothes flying and all of that is a blur…however, I am quite clear on what happened next.

Guapo and the other birthday guy were on stage with girls dancing around them. The MC was revving up the crowd. For what? I don’t know, honestly, I didn’t want to know. The other birthday guy had enough and walked off the stage. Just when I thought it was coming to an end, the girls formed a bridge with their hands. They stood in two parallel lines and reached their arms up overhead and connected hands with the girl across from them. They tell Guapo (the only birthday boy left on stage) to walk through the bridge. Without missing a beat, Guapo strikes a pose, throws off his sports jacket, takes a running start, and does a Tom Cruise like slide on his knees and coasts all the way through the bridge of girls to the opposite side of the stage. Time begins to slow down and I watch his slide in slow motion. His face full of glee, his hair blowing back, I catch glimpses of his ecstasy through the fishnet covered legs of the girls on stage. He seamlessly coasts all the way through the bridge. Time comes back to real speed and Guapo with his typical calm, cool, demeanor, simply stands up, smiles his perfectly imperfect smile as a little sparkle reflects off his bright white teeth, high fives some audience members and returns to his seat. Not a drop of sweat, not a hair out of place, not a wrinkle on his dress pants.

What. is. going. on? Where am I? If this isn’t the Twilight zone, I don’t know what is?

He is laughing and smiling, I am jumping out of my skin, uncomfortable. The guys fist bump and I just keep the words, ‘I’m so sorry,’ on repeat.

At last, it’s time to go. I’m not sure I’ve ever had more of a rollercoaster of emotions in one hour than I did during that show. I’m physically exhausted. I feel I was personally put through the wringer, when in reality all I did was sit there and repeat a mantra. As we get up to collect Guapo’s jacket and leave the ‘theater’ the MC says, ‘everyone is welcome to stay for the late-late night show!’ Guapo and his friend make a joke about staying and I turn around to Guapo, lovingly grab his face, and say,’ just for the record, I do not condone you attending establishments like this.’ He laughs and says, ‘you’re the one who took me and my friends to a strip club!’ Touche.

The rest of the evening and pretty much the rest of the NYC trip consisted of moments of rehashing that show and Guapo’s grand finale slide.

Our NYC portion of the trip finally comes to an end. We get back on the train and head to Philadelphia. As I watch the city of possibility get smaller and smaller in my rearview, I laugh to myself thinking - NYC never disappoints. Although this time NYC might have given me a bit more than I bargained, I can rest assured that this birthday was indeed a memorable one…and that was the goal.

NYC -1, Elise - 0.

We sit close to each other holding hands on the train. We are quiet. Perhaps were exhausted. Maybe we’re reflecting on the trip, or maybe Guapo is reliving his Tom Cruise moment. We glance at each other and smile. I say quietly to him… ’there’s more.’