September 24, 2016 — After reunion night with Mario, we arrange to have a late coffee date the following day. I’m staying with my parents — who are happy to watch my 2-year-old daughter while I went to the reunion and messed around with old friends. My time is almost up; almost time to get back to the city.
For our date, I imagine him honking and I’d run outside like a fleeing teenager. My parents seemed un-phased: experiencing decades of my life has left them shock-proof. But instead, Mario comes to the door and shakes my dad’s hand. He chats with my dad and my aunt (who had stopped by). He is forthright, humble, and I’m caught off-guard. He holds open the BMW passenger door and I get inside.
We have coffee. We drive around to all the old high school haunts and talk. The honesty in our conversations and the vulnerable nakedness of our words amaze me. He drives me by his business ventures. He drives so steadily. “When you deal with expensive six-figure cars for a living, you have to drive a certain way,” he explains, as he tells me about his auto spa partnership. This is the first time in years that I’m not terrified as a passenger. My ex-boyfriend was erratic behind the wheel, culminating in him totaling my MDX last spring. Tonight I’m relaxed.
We have more coffee — and by coffee I mean mind-blowing sex for hours standing up in his office (he physically picked me up while standing in the middle of the office – wow!) and on his desk. Afterwards we sit together on a single chair and cuddle. “This feels so comfortable, but so intense,” he says. “How do we make this into more when there’s a thousand miles between us?” We agree this was something amazing. Something you don’t find everyday. Something worth investigating.
Then I fly back to NYC the next day. At my office, a gorgeous arrangement of orchids in a modern vase awaits me. Mario and I talk on the phone every night — hours feel like minutes. On slow work days, he reads my blogs and articles, watches my divorce law videos, then we talk about it. “Let’s have the ‘dirty money conversation,'” he says one night, referring to a piece I wrote about the importance of financial honesty in marriages. What a way to melt my heart: “you want to talk about finances?” Between us, no topic is off limits; there’s no shame or situation we don’t discuss. Our pact: “Let’s keep this as honest as we can.”
My best girlfriend Emma, a fellow single mom who supported me during my divorce, and later my horrible break-up, is over for dinner. “Tell me, why would anyone get married? I will never get married again!” she sardonically enthuses. “Well, who knows what the future holds,” I say. Immediately Emma’s jaw drops and she looks at me like I just sprouted a second head. “I’m dating someone,” I sputter.
“Seriously Morghan, just last week you were swearing to me that you would ‘never get married again,’ and now you are saying ‘who knows what the future holds’?” she’s incredulous. I tell her that most of my past relationships were trying to pound a square peg in a round hole; this time it feels different. Emma is quick to dismiss this: “That’s exactly what you said about the last guy you dated and look what happened. He was a violent alcoholic. I’m afraid for you and for your judgment.” I feel like I’ve been slapped.
Emma’s comment isn’t the only critical assessment of my judgment with men. Since my horrible break-up earlier that year, my mom informs me that she is going to find my “next man.” Other guys I date, or even contemplate dating prior to the reunion, are picked apart by my mother’s relentless critical eye. I love my mom — her strength and relentless leadership skills are why I found my own inner-strength. Still, the critiques and questioning of my judgment from both these strong women hurts me spectacularly. I question myself: maybe I’m a loser at love.
Mario and I talk about it. I just got to this healthy place in my life – I just arrived here and I’m scared that I’m signing up for another round of heart-break, one that I can’t survive. “I trust your judgment and you should too,” he says simply. He’s calm. His thinking process is clear. “I want to come see your life and meet everyone, and maybe then things will make more sense.”