I never played with Barbie dolls, or any dolls for that matter. I preferred stuffed animals, tucking them in to the play crib next to my bed, choosing the frog “prince” as my bed buddy, a habit I apparently only temporarily outgrew. Decades later, my “ex” began traveling with the only gay male in America who never warmed up to me –and I started collecting frogs. Frog mugs, frog rugs and frog lamps provided a certain amount of comfort but weren’t enough to dissipate the “lonely tumor” that eventually colored my self-image in shades of gray.
But now my life is all mine and I’m suddenly aware of all the frogs hanging out in my living space . . . Peering out from glass cupboards, sitting on shelves, wrapped around towel racks, perched on the headboard above my bed . . . I’m being invaded by stuffed creatures in various shades of green! These collectables stand out not so much as they were consciously intended (whimsical ornaments lightening up an otherwise sophisticated life style) but as bright neon reminders of a lonely time, embarrassingly overdone. It’s time to say good-bye to (at least some of) the froggies . . .
Surfer Dude and I had been exchanging emails and photos of life here and life there since he left at the end of May . . . I knew he had an offer from friends, to spend a few weeks in the middle of the summer in their palatial home in Hawaii. The offer actually came up before he left and he asked me then if I’d mind if he went there instead of coming back to NYC, where he still had another month left on his sublet. “Let’s see . . . Hawaii or Manhattan in the dog days of summer?? Hawaii, Manhattan . . . that’s not even a question!” I cried, somewhat envious of his opportunity. Of course I never imagined missing him as much as I did either and so, when I got “the” email late-June, asking if he could stay with me for a few days on his way west in mid-July, my “hit reply” was a resounding “YES!!!” surrounded by more words like “forever” and “absolutely” with Oleta Adams’ song “Get Here” attached to bring home the point.
Stopping first in D.C., I had only a vague idea of when he would actually arrive at my doorstep but the moment his plane touched down on U. S. soil, my molecules reacted . . . minutes later, I got the confirming text message. I launched into my morning exercise routine with renewed vigor, called “La Salon” to fix my roots, and risked skin cancer to perfect my tan lines. I had no idea what to expect but between my glamour prep and the “kissy” weekend with Bond, James, I was certainly more prepared for love and loving than when he left in spring.
The next day, he sent an email; anxious to see you again; may get to you a day early. Two days later, a text: I’m on my way.
I called Karen . . . “What do I wear?? . . . I was thinking about a man’s big shirt, commando . . .” “No(!)” she cautioned, “too intimate, you haven’t seen him for a while”. . . “flannel pj bottoms with an oversized T-shirt??”. . . “No, not sexy enough”. . . “skirt”. . . “why??” “Jeans . . . ok, white jeans and white shirt a la Diane Keaton . . . summer casual . . . good.” Done. He buzzed. I panicked.
He looked great. His longish hair was shorter –- he noted mine was longer . . . I poked him a couple of times, gently, with my index finger, to see if he was real . . . we embraced.
And thus began four days of strolling and as many nights of partying up on the rooftops of Manhattan with me still poking him from time to time, just to be sure I wasn’t imagining him . . . I wasn’t (imagining), he was (right there) and I wore my heart on my sleeve. We biked to old haunts, barbequed with friends, caught an outdoor movie in Bryant Park, made breakfast, made lunch, shared a glass of wine on the top of the Strand Hotel and carried my sofa bed mattress up to the roof where we made passionate love under the stars, sipping tea at dawn and crawling back under the sheets until the morning heat woke us up –again . . . We connected in old ways and new; there was an ease about it — he seemed freer, more open, unguarded . . . We had magic; it was magic. He didn’t want to leave when he left –- he texted me from the cab, from the airport . . .
But he did leave, and even if I didn’t lose him to the land of incredible turtles and amazing dolphins, I began to feel the distance. He wrote just about every day. Short messages, about the turtles or the dolphins or the shear beauty of the ocean — he could see it all from the Villa. He just couldn’t see me from there.
Mon Surfer Dude seems to move through his life as it unfolds . . . a believer in parallel universes, he’s able to imagine living simultaneous lives and every now and then, he dabbles in one. I can only catch glimpses of his life when I’m with him, albeit colorful ones. When he takes my hand, when he touches me — I see in him everything I’ve ever wanted from a man, a partner, a lover. And yet, as good as it was in the little time we had, we didn’t make a plan for a next time. There will be a next time; I think we both know that. But his work, mine –- it’s easy to drift . . . and we may. As part of my own journey, I need to make my plans without him — live my life as it unfolds and trust que sera sera.
So I’m looking around at the frogs I didn’t toss out with the old . . .“Frog-y” to be specific. He’s the little guy I picked up at an airport a few years ago when I was flying off to somewhere and didn’t want to fly by myself. He’s kept me company on a few trips since but mostly he sits on top of my bed pillows, soft and green with a silly grin, reminding me I’m not alone.
You certainly have to kiss a few frogs to find the one who would be “prince” . . . and then the prince guy turns out to be a brilliant dude who lives far away — and you know you’ll be puckering up all over again. Or maybe the whole “prince thing” is overrated and it’s really the cobbler or the Indian Chief we need to ride the waves of our lives with.
NOTE TO SELF: Time for a scoop of vanilla with hot fudge . . .