Love, Loss + Luggage: Travel as Prozac - Part 1
Special Guest Contributor
La Jolla, 2005
“I’m Alberto,” says the man, shaking my hand.
This man—shaved head, statement glasses, sport jacket, jeans—has charisma from here to Sunday.
And it’s only Tuesday.
It would’ve been just any Tuesday if I hadn’t been in New York on business. If my cousin hadn’t cancelled for a party I was hosting and sent a proxy. If the proxy hadn’t brought me to Soho House and introduced me to Alberto.
Instead, a Tuesday in May 2005 became The Night We Met.
Alberto and I ordered the same bottle of beer and sat in the billiard room, trading industry stories. He was in advertising and I was in PR so we discussed branding and favorite campaigns and partnerships. He was charming and eloquent and had a laugh that made me want to hear it again.
We spent the next hour ignoring everyone else until the proxy, Dave, interrupted to take us to a Brazilian club downtown. On the street, Dave and his boss tried for a cab as Alberto and I leaned against a shop window, shoulders touching. When they shouted for us, we started toward them.
A few steps away, I halted.
“Or,” I smiled, “we could just go to your place?”
Alberto raised his hand and shouted “Taxi!”
We dashed into our own cab, found each other’s lips and didn’t come up for air until we reached his Chelsea building.
Once upstairs, we did not come up for air for three days.
As I was leaving for the airport, I wrote him into my memory as the best three-night stand I’d ever had.
But when my car pulled away from his building, he blew me a kiss that made me wonder if that’s all it was: how many three-night stands hand you their credit card 12 hours after meeting you and tell you to call the airline and extend your trip? How many carry your suitcase downstairs at six in the morning and see you off? Text you twice before you reach LaGuardia and twice more before you land at LAX? Send you a flower arrangement the size of a billboard a day later?
Alberto knew this was not a three-nightstand, and, soon enough, I did too.
Over the next two months, we talked daily and had two whirlwind, weeklong dates. He met my best friends and my boss. I was introduced to his business partner and had dinner with his childhood friends in Washington D.C.
On our fourth date, I introduced him to my parents in California. He seized his moment after dinner, as soon as he was alone with my Dad.
When I rejoined them, the conversation stopped.
“So,” I asked, awkwardly, “does everybody still like everybody?”
“We do,” my Dad said. “In fact, we were just discussing how much we both…love you.”
“Really,” I said, looking from my Dad to Alberto and back.
“Therresa,” my father paused for a long moment, “Alberto would like to marry you. And he’s asked for my blessing.”
“And…did you give it?”
“Indeed I did,” said Dad.
After hugging my father, I wrapped my arms and lips around Alberto.
“Did he really just say my lines?” Alberto whispered once my dad left the room.
“Yes,” I whispered back, “but that was just the dress rehearsal. This is the real performance.”
He took the cue, dropped to one knee, and opened a red box that held a platinum ring with a sparkly diamond.
“Tré Therresa Claire Miller, will you marry me?”
“Yes, my darling. A million times, yes.”
San Diego, 2005We exchanged vows six weeks later in San Diego, surrounded by a jazz trio and 20 of our most immediate friends and family. A few days after the wedding, we champagne-toasted the first of many flights together and headed to New York. We unwrapped wedding gifts and unpacked boxes from my West Hollywood home, forging the mixed marriage of a 30-year-old blonde publicist from California and a 38-year-old Cuban who owned a Hispanic ad agency in New York.
I learned to cook beyond my five-dish repertoire. He learned to stay up past midnight on weekends. I trained myself to fall asleep to his snoring and he would nod off to the sound of my keystrokes. He showed me his favorite bike paths and I introduced him to crosswords over brunch. We established traditions: Connecticut for Memorial Day, Lake Winnipesaukee for Fourth of July, Jersey for Thanksgiving, Quebec or Miami over the holidays.
Key West, 2007Three years later, I’d pulled off a surprise 40th birthday weekend for him and a dozen of our friends. His agency recorded the best numbers of its nine-year history. I’d landed a senior position at a PR firm and we started saving for a house in Connecticut. Planning Paris for our five-year anniversary. Discussing kids.
On a Friday in March 2009, I’d left work to accompany Alberto for his annual physical, where the doctor performed an EKG and routine blood work. Alberto received a clean bill of health, and on our way to lunch afterward, he sent his sister and business partner a typically dramatic text message: “Looks like I'll live after all!”
Two days later, I awake to a Sunday morning in which Alberto is not snoring.
When I reach for him, his skin is freezing.
My eyes flutter open.
I see his yellow face.
And lavender lips.
I grab my cell and dial 911.
“My name is Harmony, what is your emergency?”...
(To be continued on Monday August 8th.)
Tré Miller Rodríguez lives in Manhattan and recently completed her first book, “The White Elephant in the Room: Memoirs of a 30-Something Widow.” To read excerpts of her memoir, please visit her blog at WhiteElephantIntheRoom.com