While on a trip to Prague with my then boyfriend Tim, I found myself chatting up one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen.
I deliberately bumped into him on the way out of the bathroom in a dark, smoky underground bar at 2 am. I apologized for my stumble. With a charming English accent, he introduced himself as Jack.
I was speechless. I took in his chiseled face framed by soft blond hair. The contrast of his tan skin to his gleaming white teeth set perfectly set off his deep blue eyes. He was dressed in a crisp white shirt that revealed a buff body. In his distressed jeans and tan leather shoes, he oozed confidence. I could barely breathe as I took him in.
Instinctively, I grabbed his hand toward me and led him to the front door of the watering hole. Once outside, I dropped his hand and turned to stare at him.With a fluid motion, he took my hands and drew me close.The words on my lips were silenced by his mouth on mine. I swooned into him.
The kiss was intimate with a hint of danger -- the stuff cheesy romance novels were made of. But it was happening to me. And it was happening just a few feet from where my boyfriend was discussing the merits of Jaeger bombs with his new BFF, a male American exchange student he’d just met.
Wrapped in the arms of this Adonis, a man who put Armani models to shame, I felt like I was floating. After a few minutes, he gently moved his hands up to my face, pulled his mouth away, and whispered “Who are you and where did you come from?” I threw my head back and laughed, feeling giddy, tipsy and truly happy for the first time since I arrived in Prague.
I wanted to stay outside with him all night.
Reluctantly I came to my senses. Telling him I had to go to fetch my travel companion, I dug out a business card from my bag and shoved it into the back pocket of his jeans. He asked if I had a pen. Magically I produced one and watched as Jack wrote his number on a scrap piece of paper he pulled out of his wallet.
As we gazed at each other for a long few minutes, I felt dizzy with desire and passion. I memorized every line in his face, certain we’d never meet again.
I half-heartedly returned to the bar to find Tim, who hadn’t even noticed my absence.
I had been dating Tim, a 36-year-old architect living in Boston, for almost a year and a half. Not bad for a 37-year-old New York City based PR executive frequently on the road. I enjoyed spending time with him, no strings attached.
We had met one steamy July afternoon in the Hamptons. Perched on a stool drinking a Red Stripe beer, he offered to buy me a drink. His easy smile was wide across his slightly sunburnt face. Resembling the Pillsbury dough boy more than Brad Pitt, he sported the beginning of a receding hair line in his blond crew cut.
Visiting the East End on an annual fishing trip with his buddies, he was full of funny stories and good cheer. I noticed how his friends leaned in to hear his rendition of events, anticipating his infectious laughter. I found his humor charming. I was flattered by his obvious attention. When he confessed he was a fellow sports nut, I felt smitten.
Tim and I started seeing each other regularly. I loved visiting him in Boston. The colorful "Southie" bars where we caught a Red Sox or Celtics game thrilled me. Shopping on Newbury Street, hanging out in Nathaniel Hall, and walking around Harvard Square were my favorite activities after a run along the picturesque Charles River.
However, after 18 months, I felt we lacked an emotional closeness. Long distance dating has its merits -- it’s a great way to spend time with someone you like but don’t have to see every day. It often felt like we were still presenting our best selves during crammed weekends of activities, warily circling each other, waiting for the inevitable annoying habits to surface.
Eventually some of Tim’s appeal did start to wear off. A few red flags popped up. His lack of an exercise routine eventually became a turnoff as I liked to run regularly. Tim’s penchant for chewing Tobacco instead of Trident made me realize his health wasn’t a priority. His lack of communication skills left me feeling anxious and edgy.
In hopes of recapturing our initial spark, I decided to book a week-long trip to Prague and Budapest over New Year’s break. As we strolled hand in hand across the famed Charles Bridge in Prague, I felt a rush of affection as Tim stopped another tourist to take our picture. When he laid his big bear arm around my shoulder and pulled me in close for the shot, I was filled with hope.
On New Year’s Day, I was awoken early by Tim’s loud snoring. Hung over from the late night before celebrating the holiday, I contemplated the lump next to me taking up the majority of the bed and all of the blankets. My head pounding, I flashed back to the previous November when his snoring kept me awake the night before I ran the NYC marathon.
I struggled to complete the 26.2 mile race on little sleep. As I painfully dragged myself along the last stretch, Tim complained it was too cold for him to continue walking along side of me. With barely a goodbye, he turned to cut across Central Park, leaving me alone more than a mile from the finish line. I felt angry and embarrassed.
Later, I asked him why he had left, clearly upset. He dismissed me with a wave of his hand, and said I was being too emotional. I didn’t know what hurt more, my feet or my feelings.
Laying in the hotel in Prague, the doubts still lingered. Our long distance relationship had glossed over some pretty big issues. When my late night tryst with Jack went undiscovered, I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or relieved.
In the middle of Czechoslovakia, I had a revelation. What I felt in those few precious moments outside with Jack were things I did not feel for Tim. I could have saved the money I spent on the vacation and instead, bet on my instincts and believed that I deserved to experience that spine tingling passion with someone.
Realizing Tim wasn’t going to be a permanent fixture in my life, I was able to let go of all expectations and enjoy the rest of the trip. We spent the remaining three days in freezing Budapest, appreciating the sights and culture from a warm bus and hot clubs and restaurants.
After we returned to the States, Tim and I went our separate ways. When he took a train back to Boston the night we arrived at JFK airport after an 11-hour flight from Hungary, I was ready to see him go.
A few days later, I texted the Brit. He replied almost immediately. Jack wanted to come visit me in the spring!! I eventually learned he served in the Intelligence division of the British Army and had spent time stationed with military troops in Afghanistan.
As I did a victory dance around my tiny Manhattan apartment, I realized I had short changed myself. I had settled for someone who was the life of the party, not the light of my life. I'm certain I won’t have to go half way around the world to figure that out next time.