I had begun my journey to the Dominican Republic at 6 AM that morning. It was now 4:00 in the afternoon. Trying to make new friends and mix with the locals, I took a ride with a man and his girlfriend from the airport. But they segued to his moms house for lunch. As I nervously chomped down a typical local lunch, I listened to my boyfriend tell me over the cell phone that I was absolutely crazy.
I chalked up my behavior to not being accustomed to having to think of someone else when traveling. But that was crap. I was less than an hour off the plane and already creating a contingency plan in case R decided he no longer wanted me, and kicked me out on the curb. My insecurities were in rare form.
After a fear filled lunch and several refusals for a tour of the city, I convinced my new friends that I really needed to check in to the hotel, so they drove me through the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo and dropped me at the gorgeous Sofitel.
“I am a guest in room 415.”
The hotel concierge looked me over, grabbed an envelope from under the desk and handed it to me with a smile.
“Welcome Mrs. Mcgloughlin.”
“It’s Ms. Schmo, thank you.”
We both blushed. I shamefully wandered off to let the hotel staff marinate with the idea that room 415 had an unmarried couple shacking up. Any shame I felt was washed away when I arrived in the room. White sheets, wicker furniture, cool tile beneath my toes, a mosquito net floating above the bed, the room was perfect. Tucked in the back corner of the hotel, it overlooked the pool and a slivers view of the DR harbor. It was also next door to my boyfriend's boss.
R had been working for Bob for almost a year. His line of work meant that he had to constantly be available to his boss. No matter what time of night. No matter what state of naked disarray.
I unpacked and waited in the bar next to the pool. I hadn't seen him in a week and I wanted to just grip him when he came around the corner. Something about his stare always made me want to lay him down on the tile floor and show him what I feared would scare him if I ever said out loud. Before long, Bob walked abruptly around the corner to find us wrapped up in conversation, R's hand on the small of my back.
He saw Bob and sat up straight. “Bob, this is Jane.”
Bob looked at me and back at R. He offered the tips of his fingers for me to shake and lifted one corner of his mouth. Who the hell is this girl and why are you introducing us? He didn't have to say it. I could feel it.
R and Bob disappeared for about an hour. Upon their return, Bob's expression had softened. Now he looked me in the eye and firmly shook my hand. R had cleared up the mystery for Bob and must have explained that he did not just meet me poolside that afternoon.
I just wish R could clear up the mystery for me.
The DR was a last ditch effort to save our relationship. I had sort of given him an ultimatum. Either he takes some time getting to know me or he let's me go. Neither of us was sure where this thing was going. It had been an intense three months but with all the traveling he had been doing for the film, we rarely saw one another. I had to know if we could co-exist in the same space for longer than five hours.
Later that night, a group of us lounged poolside making jokes. Bob drank a martini while the group tip-toed around him. Cognizant of my boyfriends boss but completely unfamiliar with Hollywood rules or the job related worries of those around me, I spoke with absolute candor. A few times I saw R cringe, felt him squeeze my leg under the table and watched him open one eye to see if I had offended his boss.
Bob just chuckled. And as he got up to leave, he leaned over to R, "Why don't you bring your 'friend' along with us tomorrow night"
The next night, R faked displeasure at having to go to dinner with his boss. But I knew this was one of the perks of the job that he secretly loved. R loved his industry and loved his job, but he was affected by the disease of workaholism. He was perpetually stressed out and nervous; paced back and forth on his cell phone and sweat under pressure. I wanted to help him relax but my efforts fell like trees in Thoreau's woods, with no one around to hear them. His mind was elsewhere.
Matt and his wife Luci waited outside the hotel with me while we waited for the car. R looked at his watch and back into the hotel lobby, sighing deeply. I ignored him. Instead I chatted with Matt and Luci and watched as they swayed back and forth into the curves of one another's body. Newlywed bliss.
When the car arrived, we jumped in to the back seat and hollered out the door for R. He shook his head. “There isn’t enough room.”
Matt grabbed Luci and pulled her on his lap. “There is now. Get in!”
I squeezed up close to Matt, Luci wrapped her legs over mine, and R reluctantly moved in after me. He was sweating.
Our Range Rover with the tinted windows, two guards in front and a car of guards behind us, set off to drive the five blocks to Bellini's. A labyrinth of one way streets in the Zona Colonial meant the trip took twenty five minutes. We made the best of the time.
"I'm teaching Matt Spanish." Luci said, pushing Matt's hair to the side of his face and gently holding his gaze.
He looked back at her and squeezed her closer.
“I’m an actor, what do I know?”
Couple talk normally grosses me out. But Luci was pregnant, holding her hand permanently upon her pregnant belly. And how can you be grossed out by a pregnant woman and her doting husband?
Especially if it is Luci. Radiant Luci hid behind her long brown hair when she answered my rapid fire questions. They complimented one another. Matt made jokes. Luci focused him. She didn’t defer to Matt, but she let him direct the conversation. A sharp contrast to my own demeanor. In fact, R rarely got a word in edgewise. He had stopped trying by our second date.
At the restaurant, Matt engaged the right side of the table in political debate. I wanted to chime in but they were a close circle of friends. Regardless of the merit of my two cents, it fell on deaf ears unless I was brought into the conversation by someone on the inside. And my usher sat quietly at the end of the table sipping wine.
I pushed out of the men's political discussion and leaned across the back of Matt's chair to talk to Luci about our previous lives as waitresses. After awhile, Matt leaned back and asked about my past State Department work.
"I want to hear this too." And R scooted his chair a little closer.
Had I never told these stories to R? Had he never asked?
I bored Matt with too many details. His focus made me nervous. R didn't look at me anymore when we talked and I was unaccustomed. Usually, I would speak and R would scroll through his messages. He only fixed me with a stare when we were having sex.
Matt pushed his chair back so his wife could lean on his shoulder and they could both look at me and listen. I choked under the heat of their attention and quickly turned the conversation back to travel and wine. R loved to talk about wine. And apparently, so did Matt.
"I've got a few cases of Barolo at my place in The City. You two should come over after we get back."
He placed his hand in his wife's lap and looked over at me. "We live close to you, actually."
R and I exchanged knowing glances. We were invited to dinner in the DR, but we knew we were never going to dinner at Matt's NYC loft. At least not together.
Matt didn't let go of Luci's hand for the rest of the meal. When he ate, he switched over the fork so the other could caress her fingers. If he had two hands free, he used one to rub her back. When he got up to go to the bathroom, he didn’t leave the table without kissing her forehead. He placed his hands in hers, wherever her hands were resting. It was the small sign of a man willing to bend to make her happy. And I noticed.
As the dinner finished and Bob and Matt fought over the bill, I tried to steal a moment with R outside. But I arrived too late, he had already begun his nervous dance. He juggled two cell phones making logistic arrangements to get everyone back to the hotel. R didn't see Bob approaching from across the courtyard amidst snapping camera flashes.
Bob grabbed the top of my arm and leaned in gently.
“I like you. You have a nice sense of humor.”
He let go of my arm and then sort of pat my hand.
“You’re a good girl.” He said, before the restaurant owner asked him to pose for a few photos.
I smiled. He had noticed.