December 2005. Primo and I have been dating less than two months. We met at our 20-year college reunion. We did not know each other in college, although we had a mutual friend, Sam, Primo's roommate and best friend, who worked with me at the faculty club. Our paths did not cross in college because I had a boyfriend and Primo had beer.
When I meet Primo at the reunion at the beginning of November, I have just been laid off from my job of eight years. I am unemployed. Unmarried. Childless.
I have nothing.
I went to Morocco to see my friends Norah and Henry. While I was there, I met a Moroccan millionaire with a PhD in economics who was an advisor to the World Bank. He hit on me hard. Too hard, but I was blinded by the glamor of it all. He was rich and good-looking in a Gomez Addams sort of way. Indeed, that is what we shall call him: Gomez. He pursued me hard and I, flattered and unaccustomed to how Arab men do business, fell for it. We even met for a week in Paris.
Granted, this trip to Paris consisted of Gomez drinking a bottle of wine at lunch, changing into his Frette pajamas* and napping all afternoon, then drinking another bottle of wine at supper and going to sleep. All of this in his cousin's tiny apartment. Oh, sure, we might go out. To The Gap. Or to his bank. Maybe to the Ferrari dealer where he and the salesman talked about cars. We did go to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré one morning so he could shop. That's a very fancy, expensive street. He bought a sport coat. Just like the one he was already wearing. For $1,200. Cash.
That's as much as I paid for my first car.
But this was not my idea of a good time in Paris.
Still, I was stuck at the reunion. Unemployed,** unmarried, childless.
Tell me you wouldn't have bragged about your rich Moroccan boyfriend. Oh yes you would have. Don't lie to me.
Then I meet Primo.
Sam and his wife walk in the door with Primo and I wave at them.
Primo waves back.
"Oh," I say, with my infinite tact. "I wasn't waving at you. I was waving at Sam and Nadine."
Yes, I find Primo the next day to apologize. I mean, how tacky was I? How rude was I? My mother did raise me better than that, so don't blame her.
We talk the rest of the evening. I think he's cute and interesting, but he lives 500 miles away from me. Oh well.
He knows I have a Rich Moroccan Boyfriend. Everyone does. I've been bragging, remember?
He gets my email from Sam and emails me on Monday, two days after we meet.
Soon, we're emailing every day.
Yes, I am still officially dating the Rich Moroccan Boyfriend.
Who, conveniently, lives on another continent, so our relationship consists of skype calls to my office. (Gomez does not email.) As I no longer have an office because my loser boss let someone kick us out of our 8th floor HQ offices into cubicles in a converted warehouse, I have to speak French*** so my colleagues don't overhear me, which means I don't have a lot to say to Gomez. Gomez doesn't care because Gomez really is not that interested in what I think.
In the meantime, Primo, who is a fabulous writer and full of things to say, emails me almost constantly.
He arranges a long layover in my city so he can have lunch with me. Changes a flight so he can have a long layover on the way back. Spends a weekend with me in December. Flies me to see him. The Millionaire didn't pay for my ticket to Paris. Just saying.
I realize I have broken up with Gomez. Gomez doesn't know this but we have not spoken in three weeks. Maybe he's figured it out. Maybe he should email once in a while.
My sister and I go to my mom's for Christmas. I hand my mom, who lived in Saudi Arabia for five years, a note. "This is your Christmas present," I say.
The note says,
Dear Mom: I've broken up with the Muslim and am dating a nice Lutheran boy. Love, That Woman.
"Oh!" she says. "Well. That's nice." She smiles, puts the note down, gives me a hug. That's it. She wants to know about Primo, but she doesn't say anything like, Whew! is she relieved I'm not dating a Muslim any more because she saw how much drama there could be after living in Saudi Arabia all that time and seeing what happens when there are those cultural and religious clashes.
I know she's excited, though, because when her friend Pat comes over later, the first thing she does is hand the note to her. Pat, a Catholic lady, reads it and says, "Oh! We know a lot of nice Lutherans, don't we!"
I tell this story when Doris and Sly are here. "Didn't you say anything to her when she was dating the Moroccan?" Doris asks my mom.
I did not tell anyone in my family about Sly and Doris threatening not to come to the wedding. I didn't want to poison the atmosphere. My mother's answer was completely unprompted.
"No," my mom says. "I always thought it best not to interfere in my children's love lives."
Doris hesitates, takes a breath. "That's probably a good idea."
* I had never heard of this brand before but upon subsequent research I discovered it is fancy.
** I've been told about the layoff, but it doesn't happen until December 31, so I am still working.
*** My French doesn't march much these days and it didn't then, either.