Through Tommy's Looking Glass
With the nitty-gritty of the deployment of the app behind us, I am on my way to meet with Jessica to discuss and editorial series I would love to write.
“I want to write pieces that feed the soul, through food and travel and relationships. Growing up on the west coast and so close to Los Angeles where everyone is so body-focused, I fear we are forgetting why we eat. Where exercise bulimia is a new eating disorder. Women who spin in classes versus have sex with their husbands. Consume vitamins and shakes versus real food. Meals made with love, not chemicals. I want to go where there is love in the food and passion within the people.”
“Valentina, you are in your testing the water’s age. Don’t you want to write about the hippest places to be? Ibiza, Iceland, Rio de Janeiro, Belize, or even Costa Rica? You are too young to be searching for redemption or the meaning of life.”
“Jess, I grew up in hippy-dippy Cali. Sitting on my bookshelf next to Goodnight Moon is The Art of Happiness. I have done more sun salutations alone over this last decade then this entire floor collectively. You have St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I have the Self-realization Center. I only have a strong Catholic mom, the rest of everyone I know is new age or Buddhist.”
“Make a life list not a bucket list?”
“Exactly! We are all forgetting to live in the moment. If we starve our bodies we starve our souls. If we don’t feed our souls we don’t truly live. I want to inspire people to nourish life.”
“Well, you deserve a vacation none the less. Maybe a few weeks in Italy will result in a lot of life lessons for you in general. You are more talented than you allow yourself to be.”
“I am glad you have that faith in me. Now if I can believe in myself as well.”
“So take the time to find self-realization and find what it will take to like yourself. To see what the rest of us see.”
I have always figured men are attracted to me visually and stay with me because I am great in bed. Aside from that, it’s hard for me to embrace what they see in me when I don’t quite see myself. Maybe Italy will take me back to my roots. Not just DNA, reconnect to the foundation of my being. Worse case I polish my Italian and learn to cook a lot of amazing food. Best case, I write a piece that I can be proud of. And a lot of space in between. Jessica is correct, in some ways I am too old. Time to be youthful and fun.
Since I will be leaving for Italy at the end of the month, I figure this week is as good a time as any to start my dating, getting to know one another period. I have never dated. It has always been one night stands or all in. Because I have been working like a dog, I am given Wednesday off. So I decide to spend it with Tommy. He wants me to show him how I spend my days. This will be interesting.
As I enter Tommy’s apartment, flashes of light blind me. Tommy is snapping away with a new camera multiple shots of me.
“You bought a new toy.”
“A classic toy. It uses film. Even found a place where I can develop the film.” This is my Tommy.
“Just say it, you are proud of me. Just as I will say you were right. Photography is my happy place. I have been over the moon since this beauty and I met yesterday.” Tommy tease, managing a great laugh out of me.
“You are always happier behind the lens.”
“I see things differently with a camera. What I want to see is New York City and how you move in it. So I think we should hop a subway, take it until we are bored with riding it then get out and walk back down.”
“So this is what you meant when you said you wanted to spend the day shadowing me? You will look like a true tourist with that thing around your neck.”
“It’s New York City babe, a man photographing a beautiful woman is a fashion photographer with his model.”
“Touché! So let’s go play!”
Tommy wants me to spend a day in NYC doing what I do while he shadows me and photographs my life. Tough for me since I do not like being the center of attention. It’s not so much the dating as I am getting attention from so many at once, I am not comfortable with all this focus on me. Maybe that is why I am having a hard time following Sylvia’s “let go and let love” them all, mentality.
Since it is my nagging that has Tommy taking photos again. I am stuck being his muse and model. It seems funny to spend a day with someone and pretend that they are not there.
One of my favorite ways to spend a day is walking through the MET with my sketch pad and finding a piece I like and “copying” it. I love to draw; however, my glitch is I am not able to take what’s in my head and translate it into charcoal. Or any other artistic medium. I can doodle and like with the app, I can design. But to create a scene from my mind’s eye, this is one of my many works in progress.
This is why I admire Tommy’s talent for photography. How he and I could look at the same scene yet once he photographs the scene his “lens” version of that scene is so different from mine. I can, however, sit down and copy a picture. This is also how I practice my sketching.
After I fulfill my creative need for the day, I have lunch on the steps and watch people. Another favorite past time of mine. Then as a way to get to know the streets of Manhattan, I will zig-zag back down to Brooklyn Heights on foot.
The trek can take all day depending on the amount of window shopping to be enjoyed or how many wine breaks can pique my interest. A few times I have had to hail a taxi because the wine stops were aplenty. Now I know the streets as well if not better than most taxi drivers. It’s also the best way to work off all the great food and drinks I consume daily here. Very French. Maybe that is my problem, I should have been French.
The Parisians stay gorgeous because they mix their indulgences. Walking home and having amazing sex after a fabulous night of eating and drinking will surely burn off the needed amount of calories.
At first, it is hard not to pose or be self-conscious of Tommy taking photos of me.
“Just pretend I am not here.” He keeps telling me.
Yet he is rather hard to miss. Once I am halfway through my first sketch I feel myself exhale. Amazing how long one can hold their breath without realizing it.
“Shall we get lunch?” I ask my shadow after completing my first sketch.
“I am not here.”
“So I am eating alone while you photograph me shoving my face?”
“I am capturing the day in general. Not solely you.”
“Well excuse me!” I smile and sass him in response.
It’s a New York hotdog kind of day. Especially since I didn’t get to enjoy any of the hotdog I meant to share with Nate a few days ago. I shiver at the memory.
“You aren’t seriously going to eat that, are you?”
“I thought you weren’t here.”
“Okay. I am just shocked. You are Queen of nothing in a can, box, or jar as I recall. Plus aren’t you about to write a piece to re-inspire organic living? You don’t get much farther away from organic living than hot dogs.”
“Well there is a lot of things different about me and liberal eating is one of them. Everything in moderation, 80/20 rule. Except for champagne of course.”
“Champagne makes you feel like it’s Sunday and better days are just around the corner.” You used to say.
It’s one of my favorite quotes from Marlene Dietrich. It’s what I would say to Tommy when opening a bottle first thing Sunday morning. Whenever I feel blue champagne makes it all better.
“I used to make fun of your silly quotes and cliches and now I realize that they are your way of stating who you are.” Tommy goes from calling me out and tunning in on me.
This makes me smile. Maybe Tommy can get to know and understand me.
“Funny, I just realize that I give Stella such a hard time about her silly quotes, now I realize it runs in the family.”
“I still can’t believe you are eating a hot dog. It’s made out of lips and ass.” Tommy laughs at me
“Last I recall you love lips and ass.”
“And legs and tits.” He winks.
“Okay, how is it everything leads to sex?”
“You are kidding me, right? Look around you. Everything is designed to make us think of sex. The Chrysler Building looks like a giant dildo. You are eating a sausage wrapped in a bun.”
“Good thing I just finished the last bite before that remark.”
“Don’t play yourself, I recall you loving my sausage between your buns.”
“And on that note.” I toss my wrapper in the trash. “Two points!”
“It’s all your fault. I wouldn’t have sex in my mind if you weren’t holding out on me.”
“Don’t play yourself. The more sex you get the more you want. You were born with sex tattooed on your brain.”
“I am a guy.”
“You are a man living in the twenty-first century. Not a caveman.”
“The wheel, fire, and sex are all we men have. Leave us be.”
“You are the hottest dork I know.” I laugh with him.
After my toxic lunch, I do feel a twinge of guilt since I am about to embark on a quest to take down the fast food industry one article at a time. Or at least educate the general public there are safer options. Starvation is not the answer, eating right and balancing that with moderate physical movement and simple joy makes for a healthier version of us all. Not escaping life to the gym, using the treadmill as a replacement cardiovascular instrument versus sex with their husbands, anyone really, even themselves. It would be better than pounding for hours on a conveyer belt or a fake bicycle.
I realize also that Tommy at times can make me see the sides of me I don’t like. Like this hypocrite that just ate the hotdog. Moments like this I wish he would have kept his comments to himself. The part I own is I don’t have the balls to say anything to him. Is it because I have a lot of critics in my family. It is all so ingrained in my upbringing that I don’t even see it when it’s happening. And by the time I realize it, it’s too late to say anything. At least this is what I tell my stay away from any confrontation side.
“Ready to get moving again?” Tommy snaps me out f my mental discussion with me.
He and I begin our walk-about down Fifth Avenue.
“Let’s cut through the park to the westside. I want to capture you in the park.”
We move from photos in motion to posed photos at designed tourist picture opportunity spots, like the Balto statue, the boathouse, and one of my favorites, the Alice in Wonderland statues. I would mentally shrink myself down to a mini-me size and play around the statues. I wonder what it is like to be a kid growing up in this urban jungle versus the mass open space I grew up in.
One of the most soothing things I enjoy doing is renting the toy boats to play in the pond with. It reminds me of our boat trips in Sausalito when we would sneak his parent's sailboat and cruise me around the bay. Tommy halts his snapping to join me playing with the boats. This is more fun with a playmate. My jaws and belly hurt from laughing. Tommy is gorgeous with is hair tossed and all of his teeth gleaming in the sunlight.
“I like the way you spend your day off.”
“I see why you took a liking to this city when you were an intern here. This city makes your possibilities feel endless.”
“Tommy we are in our early twenties. We have the rest of our lives to be serious. Our twenties are about self-exploration.” Yeah, I did just steal that from Jessica.
“Our thirties and forties can be sacrificing for the sake of our future family,” I added that part myself.
“Sorry, I did not mean for the conversation to go there. I am only saying that I get it. That I understand you were not abandoning me back in San Francisco, you were trying to broaden our lives.”
“I am sorry too. It is hard to start from square one when I have some muscle memory to work against.”
“Well, one muscle memory I am sure we can agree on is wine. I hear the Boat Basin Cafe on W 79th has a great view, wine, and good food. Shall we head that way?”
“Sounds great. And the bonus, it’s a place I have not been yet.”
We walk across the park chatting away. Some of our conversations cover familiar grounds. Excitingly enough there is a lot of new parts of each other we manage to discover along the way.
“While my dad was in the hospital, my mother and I spent hours together. I realized that she and I never had alone time since probably grade school. Did you know my mother wanted to be a dancer? Her parents told her that the only reason she was attending college was to catch a great husband. So she figured if that is the case then she would study liberal arts and dance. If she was going to school just to go she wanted at least to spend her days doing what she loves.”
Looking at Tommy’s mom you would never guess her a dancer type, aside from her lean body and perfect posture. The MRS degree part I see clearly. It is amazing the difference between our lives and the lives of our parents. As I am sure my children will find me prehistoric in my beliefs.
“I am sorry that your parents and I didn’t get the chance to get to know each other better, but it was obvious they didn’t have any intentions of it.”
“I am sorry.”
“Okay if we are going to do this, no more apologies. We are both adults. No decision was made under duress. I am only stating my conscious realization of what happened to us. To couples in general, really. Look at your mom. I wonder who she would have been.”
“She confessed that she wonders too. That is why she pushed me to come to find you. She didn’t want my dad’s life to take over mine as it has hers. She feels guilty for looking a gift horse in the mouth, she is grateful for my father’s love and devotion. It just comes at a high price.”
Even in his mother’s revelation, it’s all about Tommy. No part of this conversation has him admitting that his parents are excited to have us back together.
“Tommy, I need to be honest with you. I am not sure if I am ready to be with anyone but me right now. I know it’s rather selfish of me. Eventually, I will be ready to give up parts of me to blend into a family. For now, I need to find those pieces and parts first.”
“I know Valentina. And I want to be patient for you in this process. It is just hard not being able to hold you and kiss you and hardest is not being able to make love to you.”
“Trust me, it is hard for me too. But sex has been a big part of you and me and I want to make sure it isn’t the only part. ”
“Truth hurts. Look, you may decide that the Valentina I become isn’t the one you want either.”
“Never. I lost you once already. I can’t do that again. I know I will love every minute of getting to know you. And I promise to pay better attention this time.”
“No promises means no expectations which equals no disappointments. Let’s just be.”
“Ok...I promise!” Tommy winks at me.
“Funny!” I miss laughing with Tommy. “Thanks for sharing with me about your parents.”
“Thanks for sharing your amazing city with me. I see how you vibe here. It’s as if the lights of this city and the light in you function as one. I could never sleep again and it wouldn’t matter as long as we are awake together.”
Dating is fun, shhh, let’s keep the secret between us, I smile to myself.
As Tommy and I make our way back to his apartment the familiar sensations of the days we would span together in Sausilito oozes in. Infusing sweet love into my bloodstream. As my pulse pushes awareness to my heart, my being gushes joy. I beam.
Tommy offers to walk me home but I am not ready to share Brooklyn with him. He injected himself into my Manhattan against my will. Harmonizing with my friends and me. Consonant and at ease with the cities rhythm. As beautiful as it all is, I covet Brooklyn.