Monday, March 24, 2008

V&C: A Love Story

I was doing entirely too much in NYC. I tried to see all my friends during this one weekend, and I wasn’t quite successful. But someone that I couldn’t miss seeing was my homegirl Valentina. She is one of those Latin beauties who makes you question your beloved God because surely he could not be a “fair” God if he makes some people look like Valentina and other people look… well… NOT like Valentina. The only thing that makes her stunning outer beauty acceptable is the fact that she is just as beautiful – if not more – on the inside.

Valentina and I met when she was in sixth grade and I was in seventh. I am not really sure how we were introduced, but we became fast friends. We would pass handwritten notes to each other between classes. This was before the days of cell phones and text messages, so I was a champion note-writer instead. We would then go home and talk on the phone for hours. We had sleepovers and dinners and brunches with each other’s families. Her older sister and my older brother had mutual friends and we secretly hoped that they would marry each other so we could be sisters (that didn’t happen, but we’re both happy with the way that things actually turned out – and besides, we ARE sisters!).

The first time I ever got dumped, Valentina relayed the message. My boyfriend was a 13-year-old Casanova who had dated half the girls in the class. School ended and we were in love. One month later, he had met someone new in summer camp and decided that I was old news. Instead of breaking the news to me himself, he called Valentina to tell her about his new woman and left her with the task of informing her best friend that her boyfriend had moved on. She broke the news as gently as she could and I was happier to have heard it from her… even now looking back on it I’m sure that I wouldn’t have been able to take hearing Chase tell me himself that he was no longer interested. After that painful breakup conversation with Valentina, I cried for days and obsessed about Chase for months! And Valentina listened patiently just like a good girlfriend does. Never complaining and never telling me that I needed to really let Chase go because he had definitely moved on.

We remained friends even through the first part of high school, but then we lost touch. Senior year, I attended her 18th birthday party in her parents’ living room and it seemed like we were worlds apart. By college, we had completely lost touch, although I wondered many times over the years what had happened to her. When I turned 25 years old, my friends arranged a wonderful surprise party for me. I hadn’t had a surprise party since I’d turned 14 and Valentina and my bestie planned a party for me at my parents house (which, by the way, Chase attended and by the end of which, we were back together – STRONG). But this party was unparalleled. I was truly surprised, and had the time of my life, but my bestie promised me that my surprise wasn’t over. I couldn’t even imagine what else she could do to make my birthday any better.

My bestie called me Saturday night – after the surprise party – and told me to dress nicely because we were going to brunch and that there would be a surprise waiting for me. Based on her words, the surpise was a “who” and not a “what”. I couldn’t even imagine who or what the surprise would be! Boy was I surprised when we pulled up to Valentina’s parents’ house. When we got there, it was awkward for about the first 5 seconds and then we were giggling and gabbing like we had seen each other just the other day. In reality, about 5 years had passed. But that’s the way it is when your friendship is genuine. When you get together it’s like no time has passed at all and you pick up right where you left off.

I found out that Valentina had moved to New York. She and her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Chad, had broken up and this time it seemed like he wasn’t coming back, so she packed up her things and moved in with her sister in the City. She had been living downtown in the Financial District and had lost her apartment on 9/11. Thank God she and her sister were both safe, but she – along with most other New Yorkers – was forever scarred by the memory of that day. After 9/11, Chad decided to move to NY to be closer to her, and during my birthday brunch she shared her deep love for Chad and told us that her hope was that they could marry and build a family together in the City. They had been together for approximately six years at the time, but it had been a fragmented relationship, so who knew what the future held for them.

Now, Valentina is a true romantic at heart. She sees the good in everything and everyone and her inner joy radiates throughout her. She is just one of those people that you only want to see succeed and be happy in life because she deserves it! And she genuinely wants the same for everyone that she knows and loves. So, because of that, I wanted nothing more than to see her dreams realized. I wouldn’t have to wait long because in July of that same year, Chad proposed at the top of a mountain during a European vacation. Valentina came home with a ring that was radiant enough to match her glow.

A few weeks later, Valentina came home for a visit. Chad, who is also from DC didn’t come along because he had work commitments. We were sitting in the middle of a posh restaurant in Georgetown, drinking wine and talking loudly. During a lull in conversation, we all decided to do a cell phone check and Valentina noticed that she had missed Chad’s call. She looked at the phone and blushed.

“Aww! He called!” she gushed, sounding genuinely surprised that he had reached out to her.

“Um, sweetie,” I said. “He’s been calling you for six years now. And you’re still surprised?”

“Not surprised, just grateful,” she said, dialing his number.

Wow. Just… wow. During this time, I was with Mr. Ex. And even then, though I thought I loved him dearly, I watched Valentina giggle like a schoolgirl as she talked to Chad on her cell phone and thought – I want THAT. I don’t know what THAT is, but I want it.

Of course, when Valentina and Chad got married a year later on the beach in the Caribbean, I was there front and center. After the ceremony, I went back to my room to nurse my mosquito bites before the reception and I placed a call to Mr. Ex. I told him about how beautiful the ceremony was and how I was looking very forward to the reception. I told him how Valentina had seemed perfectly calm and how exchanging vows seemed like the most natural thing to her and Chad. No nervousness, no anxiety. And then I thought about a possible marriage to Mr. Ex and I started hyperventilating. No joke. Panic-stricken, I ran to the bathroom and started wretching over the toilet. WTF?! This was the man I supposedly loved and the thought of marrying him brought me to my knees over the toilet bowl?? Not the reaction I expected. And maybe I was also surprised because I had imagined our wedding before and never had such a violent reaction.

But I think seeing how great Valentina and Chad were together made me recognize that what Mr. Ex and I had was not healthy. I thought of how his ghetto-psycho-mental case of a mother would interact with my own calm and prim mother. I wondered how his drug-dealing friends would get along with my very judgmental girlfriends and overprotective guy friends. It hit me that we were not at all compatible.

Without going into too much detail, I will share that Mr. Ex and I called it quits not long after I returned from that trip. I had seen with my own eyes the kind of love that I dreamed about and that was enough to make me want to stop accepting the crap that I was settling for with Mr. Ex. And typically, I am a jealous person. I can’t even lie. It’s one of those vices that I am trying to work on. But, I couldn’t even hate on Valentina and her hubby. If anybody deserved to find love, she did. She and Chad just inspired me to find real, true, genuine love. And for that, I will always be thankful.

Last Sunday, Valentina and her husband hosted a brunch in me and my BFF’s honor at their new apartment in Queens. Their place was charming, and modern, and adorable, and I immediately felt at home there. They’ve been married for two years now, which I guess is considered newlywed in some circles, but to me, I think that’s a fair amount of time to live as man and wife. I think the honeymoon could probably be over at this point. But in their case, they are still as in love as they were eight years ago.

I watched their interaction as they moved around the small kitchen preparing brunch for their friends. Though I don’t make it to the City often enough, I get the feeling that they regularly host people in their home. I realized that they compliment each other perfectly. And even though I’m sure life is not all peaches and cream for them, I think they are really in it for the long haul. This isn’t some fly-by-night romance. This is a love that’s eight years in the making. I mean, let’s keep it real. Who still gets excited by a phone call from the man they love SIX YEARS LATER? That’s some deep ish.

As Valentina poured us mimosas and whipped up torta, we laughed and talked about the old days and caught up with each other about new things that are happening with us and our families. Every now and then, she and Chad would take a break to give each other a casual kiss, or stare longingly at each other with a look that basically said “I can’t wait to get these people out of here so that we can be alone again.” Oh, that look! That’s what I want. To be totally comfortable with someone else. To know that being together might not always be easy, but being apart is impossible.

But just like everyone is not blessed with Valentina’s looks, everyone certainly will NOT be blessed with her luck in love. I am, however, hopeful that one day soon all this back-and-forth, rollercoaster-ride, bullshit that I have been calling “relationships” will be over and I will be settled in with one spectacular person who does not “complete me” a la Jerry Maguire, but instead complements the already complete me.

If that makes sense…

I am not looking for Mr. Perfect, just Mr. Perfect-for-Me.

But I won’t look for him. I hear that looking for love is the worst thing you can do. But just because I’m no longer looking doesn’t mean I will stop longing for it.

Until I find him, I will remind myself that there are people like Asia and Jack and Valentina and Chad. Some people really do find true love.

And I'll find it, too. Maybe…

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