Just a Cup of Coffee…the true love story of Princess Rosebud and her tugboat man.
(This might take a while, grab your hankies, it could have been broken up into three parts, but I didn’t want to prolong the happy ending.)
Fast forward to a year later, the following September 1991.
Yes, I kept my promise; no dates and no mistakes. There was the excruciating lure of nubile and suntanned young surfers but I stood firm in my resolve in spite of the half naked, salty-skinned–oh crap. Living in Southern California is sooo like opening up a fresh box of candy. It wasn’t fair, but a deal’s a deal.
If only I could have had just a teensy-weensy bite here, a bite there–oh, SO yummy–that one has a caramel center, or that other one’s coconut-filled, or a tart juicy cherry embraced by dark chocolate, or full of Baileys Irish Cream—er–you get what I’m sayin’? I’ll just bet you do. On my towel, surveying the beach, I wanted to take a little bite out of each one, so to speak.
But….I had to go cold turkey and avoid them all. Not one lick, not one taste.
I had a goal, I had a vision; I had my list–clenched tightly in my hand–WILLPOWER–it’s all about the willpower.
Here’s where serendipity might have had a hand in the convergence of our lifepaths.
In the beginning, I THOUGHT I first laid eyes on the captain when I was hired for the marketing department of a local cruise line.
Aside…because the whole idea of me and boats is a joke. I’m not what you’d consider sea-worthy. I’d only been on a couple of boats previously and became violently seasick on both of those trips.
OK, now read this – could it be the hand of fate that brought us together? Was our eventual connection forged a decade before ?
Was it luck or serendipity?
On a romantic evening In front of the fire with a couple snifters of Courvoisier, my tugboat man and I concluded that our paths did cross, not in a prior life, but…
In the 1980s he captained a charter vessel in our local harbor–tours of the bay, dinner cruises; that kind of thing.
In between going out to sea for four to six months, he’d come back to SoCal for a break and to surf-and worked locally.
Around that same time, my mom and I took my then five-year-old son on his first boat ride, a tour of San Diego Bay.
At that time, there was really only one boat company that offered daily excursions.
It wasn’t until we had been married for probably ten years or so– looking through an old photo album–when he saw a pic of my mom and me on “his” boat — that the subject came up.
Since there were only two captains, and the time of day we were there was during his (remembered) shift, it’s highly possible that we spoke–or made eye contact. As captain, he always greets and counts the passengers while he collects boarding passes; especially because we had a child with us. Always concerned with safety, my captain.
Our ships DID, most likely, PASS in the night (day).
What would have happened if we had talked? I was married with a little boy–the timing was absolutely not right.
Did we each hold on to a momentary glance or imprint on our subconscious so that our path to romance was pre-determined?
Why did I become employed at a cruise line when I don’t even like boats?
I still have no idea.
That we met in 1991 and felt an instant connection might be interpreted as luck or serendipity.
Which do you think it is?
Back to the story: Was it merely coincidence–meaninglessly simultaneous occurance–or synchronicity? We agree that it was meant to be. We’re two peas in a pod, me and him.
We mirror each other.
One of my first marketing duties was to attend a downtown trade show. I vividly recall my ensemble–and before you get all judge-y and everything, let’s take the year into consideration–1991–please be kind.
You know you looked exactly the same.
You KNOW you did.
I wore a short split skirt (dare I say skort) of silky polyester-type material (I know, I know) imprinted with brightly colored parrots (cringe), a turquoise blazer, and four-inch-high red heels. Oh, and they were LARGE parrots. I’m five-feet-tall with very curly dark brown hair. You can imagine the style when I tell you it added five inches to my height. Nuff said–stop laughing, I have nothing to apologize for; it was the decade of big hair.
The owner of the company walked by our booth and introduced me to his senior captain. I played it cool; I’m good at that–just a quick handshake and then I turned my attention to the marketing materials like I was very, very busy.
I only allowed myself a passing glance his way, committed as I was to making a good impression on my boss. Plus, I was fully dedicated to my promise to celibacy and just because he was ADORABLE was no excuse to give in to temptation. Not even with those green-gray eyes. Not even.
Since I was on a “man diet, I transformed him (in my mind) into a rich chocolaty truffle and successfully used my powers to resist–at least on that particular day. During the next few weeks, our paths crossed many times; at the office with brief hellos in the hallway, and with overt scrutiny during cruises when I accompanied some of the charters. (When I wasn’t stuck with my head in the toilet. I told you the truth, I’m not a natural seawoman.)
As much as I tried to deny it–I can’t lie–there were those familiar little tingles, goose bumps even, delicious frissons of attraction. On one hand I was fighting it with all I had, yet on the other hand I spent more time in the office than I really needed to. A little extra makeup, perfume, a few new outfits–you know how it is. OK OK, I admit it! A smile from him did something to my insides, that fluttery butterfly sensation I willed myself to ignore.
I carried The List in my handbag and referred to it in moments of weakness, and for a while I was able to avoid temptation.
Here comes the good part, y’all.
In mid-November, I met with a client at one of the boats to plan a large corporate event. As we walked up the gangway, I discovered the captain was on board in the wheelhouse. I had no idea he would be there, and resolved to ignore him, except that everyone always wants to meet a captain, (too much Love Boat) so I was forced to be polite and make the introductions.
Here’s where it all went wrong-or right-depending on your point of view.
After my meeting ended, I did not immediately leave. I stalled, meandering around the small area of shops located near the harbor. I was so mad at ME; I tried to talk myself into leaving by going over The List and telling myself that I should be writing up the event details.
Just GO, I said to myself! But guess who didn’t listen? I found myself furtively looking around to see if the captain was still there. Since the whole chocolate visualization thing didn’t seem to be working anymore, I turned him into as a gooey, cheesy, spicy pizza and I used all my willpower to stand firm–to stay focused–recounting all the reasons why that delicious piece of heaven is not worth the calories.
I swear to you, I had every good intention of leaving and driving to the corporate office, I really did, but cosmic forces had grabbed hold of my good sense.
I was powerless. The hand of fate had me in her grip–and that chicka had been working out with the heavy weights.
Finally, I could find no further excuse to drag my feet and delay the inevitable departure.
I very reluctantly and slowly walked to my car, parked in front of a coffee shop, and as if by magic, the captain appeared.
I was trying to act all cool and nonchalant in spite of the fact that my heart was racing.
“Where are you going? Why didn’t you say goodbye? “What’s up?” “How about buying a co-worker a cup of coffee?”
I demurred, saying I had to go, I had another appointment (not true); uh, I don’t buy guys coffee, and he kept badgering me,
“C’mon, don’t be stuck up, don’t you have fifty cents for a cup of coffee?”
(That was before six-dollar lattes and Starbucks on every corner.)
“You don’t want me to think you’re a snob, do you?”
That did it.
Of course you understand why I wouldn’t want him to think any of those things, right? RIGHT? It was a matter of pride; once he turned on his charm, I was hooked. I unearthed a few quarters from the bottom of my handbag.
Yes, I bought the coffee. It’s something I can’t believe myself.
My other credo had always been, “Princesses don’t pay. Men pay.” But buy the coffee I did.
Honestly, I was borderline pathetic. Not even borderline. I was hanging on to the cliff with my fingertips.
It’s like sparks were flying off his body. I made every excuse in the book to lean over and oops, accidentally brush his arm and cop a sniff. He smelled heavenly.
It’s that damn pheromone thing. I was–still am-hopelessly–magically attracted. He’s irresistible. And he knows it.
We took our coffee outside and sat at a cement patio table. It was one of those perfect SoCal November days–balmy even. For a few moments we said nothing as we sipped from our coffee and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
Red lights flashed on and off in my head.
DANGER AHEAD! STOP THE MISSION! RUN!
Less than a foot away from me he straddled the half-moon shaped concrete bench. His thighs were encased in soft worn jeans and my thoughts were heading into hazardous waters.
His hair was wet and looked like he just had showered.
“What are you doing here? Did you know I was going to be here?”
“No, I didn’t, I had to update the logs, and I surfed a bit earlier.”
Ah, that’s where the wet hair came from.
“So…you’re a surfer?”
That is most definitely NOT on my list.
“I like to think I am.”
Scintillating conversation, huh? I thought that was a bit arrogant, a bit–AHEM–cocky.
Later I learned that he had spent much of his youth in Kauai and he really was/is a great surfer, but I didn’t know much about him — only what I was feeling.
As the conversation unfolded and we chatted–he told me where he lived and where he had gone to college, and–those thighs, oh wait–no, not that–of course I meant what kind of music he liked and that he loves animals–I found myself listening to his voice but not hearing the words.
This is where it gets weird.
And pinky-swear, it’s all true, it all happened exactly like this. It was REAL.
He looked at me and smiled.
I felt lit from within.
My heart melted. (Even now, his smiles affect me the same way.)
I sighed. He sighed. I sighed again.
That was IT.
Everything became quiet and a calm-before-the-storm sensation enveloped me. I placed my hands on the bench because I was suddenly lightheaded–I needed support because I felt like the ground beneath shifted; waves that triggered that falling phenomenon just before you completely succumb to sleep–like a hypnagogic myoclonic twitch.
Faintly, I sensed the planets tumble into position, the click… click… click… of stars aligning in the heavens; the sun, moon, Venus, and Mars at that moment were singing in the universe.
Did we just have an earthquake? I jumped off the bench like it was on fire. I ran to my car, unable to deal with the intensity of the moment. He was right behind me. He was so annoying!
“Where ya goin’? We should go out sometime.”
I was having a hard time breathing and fumbled with my keys as I unlocked the car. I leaned against the door for support and turned to him,
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not known for being subtle.
“I have to work a charter later, I’ll give you a call.”
And with that, I drove off.
Of course, I never went back to work. Who could blame me?
I raced home and power-called all my girlfriends.
I was in panic mode.
I reported every detail to one friend after another. I needed advice, I needed explanations. I needed to be talked down. But no one had experienced anything comparable. No one knew what to do.
I was on this voyage alone; no rules to follow. I was in uncharted waters.
That evening I did what we are warned not to do, what mothers counsel daughters against.
I was nervous and jumping out of my skin, but also determined to be 100% honest (also on my list). How else would I know if he was “the one”? I called and left a message on his voicemail. Remember way back when we used voicemail?
“Hi, can you give me a call when you hear this message? There’s something I need to ask you.”
He called a couple hours later. I was on my bed, reading a magazine, pretending I was not waiting for the call…dreading the call.
“Hi there, it’s me. I got your message, but I was planning to call you anyway. What’s up?”
I took a deep breath and decided it was now or never–I needed to go for it…take that chance. DO it.
”Uhh, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened at the harbor…I never felt anything like that EVER, and I think… I think…”
I took a deep breath and the words tumbled out,
“I mean, I really need to know.”
[Pause] [More pause]
Oh boy. In that single, painful, heartstopping moment I wished I could hit delete and erase the last five minutes.
Palms sweaty, heart pounding, OMG, I am a total f-ing idiot–what have I just said–I’m insane, he’ll think I’m a freak or I’m exhibiting psycho pre-stalker tendencies–and then, finally, it seemed like hours of silence had gone by–I was gonna hang up and hide under my bed if he didn’t say something–he said,
“Umm, no, it’s not just you. I’m feeling the same exact way. Something happened to me today too, and I can’t explain it either. How about us going on a real date and let’s talk about it?”
I released the breath I hadn’t been aware I was still holding. That last planet locked into position.
I discovered my soul mate, my tugboat man.
There’s lots more to this story; some twists and turns and ups and downs, but the thread that ties it all together is how we found each other and fell in love.
Today: I wait for him to come home. And wait. And wait. And remind myself, “Don’t count the miles, count the I-love-yous”
Christina Perri, “Miles”