When morning dawned, and the memories of the previous night flooded into my consciousness, I was at a loss. How was I supposed to tell Mario that I was confused by what had actually happened? He had been so…joyous. I wasn’t sure how I could explain it without sounding like I was backtracking. I knew that I was developing strong feelings for Mario. It was possible that I was even falling in love. And I wanted to continue. But I wasn’t yet ready to make the level of commitment it seemed like Mario had asked for.
I was in trouble.
I should have talked to Mario that morning. But I didn’t know how to approach the subject in a way that wouldn’t hurt him. I was especially sensitive because it was Mario’s birthday weekend. I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything that would mar his special day.
Friday passed. We spent a glorious day touring historical sites, stopping to give Mario his first taste of American BBQ, and finally making it down to New York City. Though the level of emotional intimacy had increased, no mention was made of the previous night’s conversation.
Saturday arrived. Mario’s birthday.
Mario was like a little kid. For a man who had never before seen a skyscraper, New York was like a completely different world. Our hotel was down in the financial district and the plan was to spend the morning touring that area of the city – Wall Street, Ground Zero, and down to the base of the island to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Everything was going smoothly until we arrived at Liberty Park. We passed a street hawker who was promoting a helicopter tour and Mario decided that this is what he wanted to do for his birthday: a helicopter tour of NYC.
We went down to the office to sign up for the tour and were informed that we had about a 90 minute wait. Mario was still game, so we put our names on the list and headed back out to walk around and take some photos to pass the time. As we were standing by the Hudson, staring out at the Statue of Liberty, my phone chimed. I had a text message.
I stared at my phone in shock. After my return, Allen had tried for awhile to start things back up. When I had continually held him at arms length, he had finally resigned himself to being firmly in the “friend zone.” When I had eventually informed him that I was seeing someone he had not been happy, and though he had wished me the best, he hadn’t let go.
After a moment, I broke from my stupor and tried to nonchalantly put my phone away. Mario knew about Allen. Mario did not like Allen. He was convinced that Allen was trying to win me back and though he believed me when I said I was not encouraging Allen in any way, he was not thrilled with Allen’s actions. This would not be a good birthday surprise.
I was not nonchalant enough. Mario noticed something was off and asked me who had sent me the message. I hesitated. I didn’t want to lie to him or hide anything from him. But I knew that it would upset him to learn that Allen had reached out. That hesitation was my undoing. Now Mario knew something was wrong.
So I told the truth. And, as expected, Mario did not take the news well. Annoyed by the situation, angry at Allen for not leaving me alone, and feeling powerless to do anything about it, Mario’s perfect birthday started to slip away in a cloud of frustration.
It was a tense few minutes as Mario fumed over Allen’s intentions but as I worked to defuse the situation, assuring him that Allen was acting on his own accord and that his attention was not wanted, reason prevailed. We both managed to let the incident go, choosing to focus on the possibilities of the day, including the upcoming helicopter ride.
It did not disappoint. As we soared above the New York City skyline, my heart raced. As someone who loved to continuously try new experiences, I loved that Mario and I brought out each other’s adventurous side. I wanted to go through life with someone who was willing to explore the world and all of life’s opportunities with me. Throughout this trip Mario had shown that he would not only support my curiosity and wanderlust, he would both encourage me and, more importantly, join me.
When we finally landed, Mario and I were both in a euphoric state of mind. We started to wander back to the hotel to get ready for dinner (a venture into New York’s Little Italy for some homestyle birthday cooking), content with all that we had done and looking forward to the evening ahead of us. While we were walking, Mario became distracted by a store just around the corner from our hotel. As he pulled me through the doors, my heart started to pound.
It was Tiffanys.
And Mario pulled me straight to the ring section.