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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?