The Return of Mr. E (Excerpt from Never Been to Vegas)
In April of 2011, I finally at long last closed the door on my long-suffering relationship with “Mr. E,” (Mystery? Get it?) my on-again, off-again love of five years…and for the first time in at least that long, I felt FREE. I felt like I had TRULY moved on. I wasn’t thinking about him anymore…I wasn’t crying over him anymore…I felt like I had finally unchained myself from him and his memory for the first, and last, time. A fact I shared in a long phone conversation with one of my best friends, Jennifer, one late July night; going on and on about how footloose and fancy free I felt to have FINALLY laid his ghost to rest and moved on with my life. She was sad and a little weepy over HER ex, her own version of Mr. E, and I assured her, unequivocally, that better days and greener pastures were ahead.
“You WILL get there!” I encouraged her. “And it’s AMAZING! If I can get there, anyone can! I’m FINALLY OVER HIM!!! And it’s SO INCREDIBLE!”
Which, as is typical in BoyLand, me throwing it out there into the universe that I was “finally over him” means I set off an internal alarm somewhere in Mr. E’s psyche, immediately prompting him to call me.
What is it they say? The minute you get over someone is the very MINUTE they come back around?
Literally the very next night after my “free as a bird” conversation with Jennifer, he called.
I happened to be taking a nap with the ringer off when he called. When I woke up to discover “One Missed Call” and his name flashed across my phone screen, I promptly dropped the phone, flicked it away from me as far to the edge of the bed as it could get without falling off, and covered it with my quilt. It was the basic Scooby Doo mentality. I thought if I hid the phone so I couldn’t see it…it couldn’t see me. HE couldn’t see me.
One night about two weeks later, just as I was getting the initial phone call out of my head, I was on the way over to a girlfriend’s house, phone in hand, as I was navigating my way there via GPS, when suddenly the screen lit up. There it was. His name again. And I was powerless to make it stop. Panicked, I looked around the car for some excuse NOT to answer the phone. I have a misguided guilt complex in that if I SEE my phone ringing, I feel terrible if I ignore the person and don’t answer their call. Short of tossing my blackberry out the window, I didn’t know what else to do but hit “Send.” So I did…and just like that, Mr. E was back in my life again.
I know the typical response to this is…”WHAT?! How could you allow him back INTO your life after you spent SO much time trying to get him OUT of your life?”
For the naysayers out there, I’d like to say this: You can’t always follow “The Rules” or the “He’s Just Not That Into You” checklists or even the advice of the most renowned love gurus when it comes to matters of the heart. I mean, c’mon….even the “Millionaire Matchmaker” herself, Patti Stanger, recently found herself UN-matched and single. Love isn’t black and white and you can’t always simplify it by trying to make it a black and white issue. The bottom line was this: I loved Mr. E. I had loved him for five long years. I had let him go and gone about my merry way. And he had come back. The very heart and soul of The Single Woman message centers around following your heart and soul above all else…and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tweeted about letting things go and seeing if they come back to you. I’m a firm believer that if God gives you another shot at love, you should take it. I’d rather put my heart on the line, risk everything, and walk away with nothing than play it safe and NOT do what every fiber of my heart was telling me to do – which was give this man another chance. At the end of my life, I want to look back with no regrets, knowing I loved hard and forgave hard and risked hard and tried hard. And at the end of it all, if I, unlike Carrie Bradshaw, DON’T walk away with my real-life “Mr. Big,” it won’t be because I was too scared to take a risk in the name of love.
So I did.
What can I say? “It wasn’t logic. It was love.”
And this time, it seemed…it wasn’t one-sided love.
This time…he had raised the stakes.
He “missed me.” He “needed me in his life.” And…for the first time in five years…
HE LOVED ME.
Yes, one September day, he said those three words I thought I’d sooner see pigs fly through the streets of downtown Nashville than ever hear him utter.
“When I called you earlier, Mandy, and I left you that voicemail…there was something I wanted to say. But, no…I can’t.”
“What?” I asked cluelessly, completely oblivious about just how hard my world was about to be rocked.
“I wanted to say…uh…no, I can’t say it.”
“What?!” I asked again, now growing a little impatient.
“I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble saying this to you.” he said. “This is silly!”
“WHAT?” I exclaimed, by now past the point of frustration. “And you should know if you don’t just say it, I’m hanging up.”
“Okay, okay. Here goes. When I was leaving you a voicemail earlier…I wanted to say…well, I wanted to tell you…that I love you.”
I couldn’t find my voice.
“I like saying that to you,” he said with a smile in his voice.
Still, I said nothing. I couldn’t speak. Was I hallucinating? Had I heard correctly? Did the man who was so petrified of the “L-word” that he put an entire country between us every time we got too close just tell me that…HE LOVES ME?!
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes!” I said, finally locating my vocal chords. “I’m still here.”
“Well, what do you have to say about THAT?!”
“I don’t know what to say about that,” I stammered. “That was about the last thing in the world I ever expected to hear you say.”
He laughed affectionately. “And that’s WHY I love you,” he said, leaving me once again shaking my head, still having trouble believing that the moment I had wished for, hoped, for, PRAYED for, for so long had finally dropped into my lap…and completely out of nowhere.
“Well,” I said, smiling now, too. “Not that I haven’t made it abundantly clear over the last several hundred years or so…but…I love you, too.”
“I like the way it sounds, hearing you say that,” he responded.
“I do, too,” I said, thinking that something about this moment, unlike all the moments of uncertainty before, felt so RIGHT. So real. So special. It was as though we were FINALLY in the same place, at the same time…and though we couldn’t have been any further apart physically, with him on the opposite side of the country in California, I had never felt so close to him.
From that day forward, we started talking on the phone every few days, sometimes saying those three words to one another, sometimes not.
“You make my eyes spin upside down,” he texted me one day, expressing his feelings for me in the creative, completely original, slightly goofy way that he was famous for.
We started to talk more about the future than we ever had before. For the first time ever, he expressed to me how he wanted to get married and have kids, and the person he pictured experiencing all of this with…was ME. “You’re the light at the end of the tunnel for me, Mandy,” he said. “You feel like coming HOME.”
As a longtime fan of the song “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk, this sentiment hit me especially hard. Completely unbeknownst to him, I had always wanted to dance to this song at my wedding, and now here he was, the man of my dreams, repeating back to me the beautiful lyrics of what was such a special song to me. I felt the hands of fate at work in my life, writing a far more beautiful love story than I ever could have imagined.
And…as fate would have it…the last weekend in September, just two weeks after I re-did my Vision Board, pasting a picture of the Statue of Liberty on it with the declaration: “I will move to New York City,” the opportunity for me to travel to the Big Apple presented itself.
The very same weekend Mr. E would be in NYC on business.
There were other reasons for me to be in New York that weekend, but being as that Mr. E lived in LA at the time and I myself hadn’t traveled to NYC in six years, this seemed like much more than coincidence at work.
This felt like a defining moment in our relationship.
It just felt like it was TIME. Time to step up to the plate. Time to be completely spontaneous and take a chance. Time to stop playing it so safe in my life for once and not just go out on a limb, but to dance on it.
It felt like now or never.
And what better place to come to this relationship crossroads than in the very city where our fictional counterparts, Carrie and Big, found their Happily Ever After?
This was a VERY spur of the moment, spontaneous trip. My friend Whitney and I literally planned it in about three days. It seemed the universe was aligning to work out every last detail, down to the place we would stay – with Whitney’s uncle, in his fabulous apartment on Lexington Avenue, FOR FREE.
The night before the trip, however…I started to get cold feet. I started to doubt myself. I started to give in a little to the fear that I was, once again, the one going the distance and making it happen with him, while he wasn’t really being required to make much of an effort to see me at all. All thoughts I expressed to him in the late night hours the night before Whitney and I were to set out on our adventure.
“I don’t know,” I told him. “I just feel like I need to SEE more from you. I need to not just HEAR you say that you love me, but I need to SEE it in action.”
“You need me to PROVE my love to you, is what you’re saying?” he asked.
“Well…yes.” I said. “I mean, it’s been FIVE years. I feel like it’s time for you to really step up and make the grand gesture. THIS is the point in the movie when the guy is supposed to make the grand gesture. Basically, if you were Matthew McConaughey and I was Kate Hudson, you would be chasing me to the airport RIGHT NOW!”
He laughed. “I can do that. I hear what you’re saying. And I can do that.”
The confidence in his voice took me by surprise a bit, I can’t lie. He was actually READY for this. He was calm, cool, collected, and completely ready to step up and take my breath away. Which left just one final question.
“I need to ask you something,” I said seriously. “And I need you to answer me straight, with a yes or a no. No deflecting, just a yes or no answer. Can you do that?”
“Yes,” he said, just as seriously.
I took a deep breath.
“I know you say you love me…and obviously I love you, too…both as a friend, and as more…”
“But…” I paused. “Are you…IN love with me?”
It was a bold question, I knew. And the answer had the potential to break my heart OR usher in a new start…a new chapter in the saga of me and Mr. E that had never been explored. But I had to know, either way. I had to know before I took the leap and ventured all the way to NYC that he was going to be there to catch me, not just with words, but with actions.
“I would have to say…YES.” He replied, a big smile in his voice. “Now what do you think about THAT?”
At 3:00 a.m. the next morning, I left for New York City. I didn’t know exactly what was AHEAD of me, but I knew in my heart what I was leaving BEHIND me…
Fear. Safety. Security. Everything that had come before.
And I didn’t look back.
***If you want to read more, grab your copy of I’ve Never Been to Vegas But My Luggage Has!***