Thursday, February 11, 2010
A Valentine to MY TOMMY
I’m sitting in the Starbucks where I first met MY TOMMY. It’s not the same date, I’m not sitting at the same table. They are not playing the same music and I’m not drinking the same kind of coffee. Hardly anything is the same as it was that day.
When I sat down in Starbucks that day, over six years ago, I didn’t know that the man I was meeting would become MY TOMMY. All I knew was that I was supposed to meet a man named Tom around 2pm after a meeting I had at work. But it was only a little after noon and I was already sitting in Starbucks. My friend, Joanne, had lost her battle with cancer the night before and I had found out on the bus ride to the subway when I called her family. It wasn’t unexpected. I had been there through her illness, at her bedside in the hospital and at home, even as she was given her last rites. After finding out she had died, I didn’t think I could handle the meeting so I went to Starbucks early instead. I would have canceled the date with Tom but he was traveling a long distance and he didn’t have a cell phone. If he had, he might have never become MY TOMMY but he didn’t and so we met and he changed everything.
He looked at me with sparkly blue eyes and told me he didn’t like being called Tommy but it was different when I said it. We walked through the city and we talked and talked. He listened to stories about Joanne - all our adventures together, the trouble we got into, the fun we had, the trip we took, the way she got me to try new things and take chances and the way I sometimes had to play the big sister and keep her out of trouble. I laughed more than I cried. Tom buffered the pain of my loss with his presence and he comforted me. He made me feel less alone. I looked into those sparkly blue eyes of his and began to focus on a future rather than just dwell on the past.
Tom lavished attention on me. He was affectionate, adventurous, gentle but passionate. He was understanding, thoughtful, smart and funny. I laughed more than I ever had before. I started to look forward to things.
Time together always felt too short. It was precious, special, cherished and we struggled to fit 7 days worth of togetherness into the 3 short days we had. Saying goodbye was painful, as if it were forever rather than just 4 days, as if we would have no contact rather than the multitudes of e-mails, phone calls and text messages (he finally got a cell phone) that began the moment he drove away, writing to me that the car “was going in the wrong direction.” Saying goodbye looked like something out of a 40s war movie, taking 20 minutes minimum, drawing it out as long as we could. Reuniting was too powerful and frantic – we didn’t waste time or energy on words. We had found something, finally, that some people spend their lifetimes searching for and never find. Tom had become MY TOMMY.
MY TOMMY gave me flowers every week and drove me to work and that was nice but the least of what MY TOMMY gave to me. MY TOMMY restored my faith in love, trust and hope. He brought laughter into my life. His arms were a haven, a refuge from the chaos that had always been my life. He was fun and playful. We had private 4:00 pm phone calls and secret games. We made other people sick with our lovey-dovey behavior. Months into our relationship, people thought we had just met. MY TOMMY gave me something I didn’t think existed. He made me redefine my life, change my mind about love, loyalty and commitment. He made me feel safe and secure for the first time in my life. MY TOMMY promised me he would be MY TOMMY forever. I swore I would love him forever because no matter what, I told him (especially after an argument), “that never changes.”
Over six years have gone by and almost everything is different. I can barely recognize anything about myself or my life from what it was. What hasn’t changed? I still love MY TOMMY. That never changes.
But I’m sitting alone at the table. Maybe MY TOMMY is at a different Starbucks.