Sometimes you think a guy might be a piece of shit, and then you find out … well, would I be a lady if I spoiled the story out the gate?
In 2013, I fell in love and ghosted this website, my life, (which at the time were one in the same), and moved to an island without telling anyone. (Family knew, but that was it.) I had discovered a handful of months prior how unhappy I was, and since my ultimate goal was to find a lover to talk nerdy to me – in my mind, I succeeded!
(As most of you know) I then moved to the island with said gentleman, but by the end of November that year, we had broken up. Never one to go down without a fight, I negotiated the terms for a solid month and some change. After all, it was like this person was telling me my arm didn’t exist. It was (in my mind) like oh no, this isn’t possible, let’s strategize steps a) b) c).
He gave me a gift at that time, I just didn’t/couldn’t see it. What I did begin to see was the reality that I had to get my shit back together, and at 29 reinvent myself (yet again … only this time as a person, not a persona).
<tangent> Remember that morning after I was placed in a mental institution on the 5150? I had to pick myself up by my bootstraps (even though I wasn’t allowed to keep the laces).
Losing everything I owned in a cockroach infestation? That sucked. Had one box left to represent 27 years, but looking back, had it not been for that life experience I wouldn’t have “given up everything I owned” to live in the corporate sponsored Ford Fiesta.
Your perspective is like prescription lenses. Your sight is the result of a series of choices you have made that have framed your reality. I didn’t pick these experiences, but I was at all times consciously aware that I had a choice … do I choose to “learn from these experiences” (whatever that means), or do I allow myself to be blinded by my own misery. </tangent>
I spent a month and some change feeling scared, lonely, and constantly wondered what was next. (I got my own place in town not to remain close to him, but because I liked the person I was becoming in that space.)
Then one day, my neighbor knocked on my door and very seriously asked if I was “alright?”
Confused, I paused for a moment, then remembered the night before (and the 30 more nights before that) I listened to “Nobody wants to be lonely” on repeat over and over and over (I was also using an apple TV with bose surround sound.)https://www.youtube.com/embed/KUmrNavXsd0?wmode=opaque
Don’t judge, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of.
I thanked him for the concern, and realized that being called out made me want to change my tune. I can keep doing the same thing over and over (which is the definition of insanity), or I can take action.
The next day I woke up and said “one foot in front of the other, Friel, you can do this. If not, well, fake it until you make it.”
Previous iterations of reinvention occurred in familiar territory, island life was all new to me. Also, now that I was becoming more honest with myself in terms of my emotions, I wasn’t sure how happy tech was “actually” making me. After all, I had reached all of these goals I had wanted to accomplish, and still felt empty.
I then typed up a resume and immediately deleted it. I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to believe half of what was on there. Have you read my LinkedIn profile? Nothing has ever been normal (and I still to this day don’t have a resume).
Fortunately, while having lunch with my parents in Miami one day, my father said the founder of his company (who happens to have previously been Pablo Escobar’s surgeon) could possibly point me in the right direction.
DONE! I said, as we had our first of many dinners.
I would sit and listen, wanting to understand his world. He’s a 33 degree Cuban born mason who was against the embargo being lifted (he actually told me before it was going to happen, and I equally connected the dots once the Carlyle group started buying up properties on the island for their ports).
Any who, I knew I could help him with my entertainment connections back in Los Angeles, but LA was the last place I wanted to go back to.
“I have someone for you to meet,” he said.
Never one to ask a lot of questions with someone I trust, I just said DONE!
I then met one of his friends (who happened to be involved with local politicians).
THAT’S IT! I said. I can help with digital on one of the campaigns, or speech writing – I don’t care, I’ve scrubbed floors before!! I can do that!! I just know I want to stay here, and need to find work to support myself. (I had previously done work with the #Tech4Obama campaign, and even quietly helped the governor of a neighboring state with his re-election.)
How did you get here, she asked, and why the Keys?
Tale as old as time, I said laughing, “it was all because of a guy.”
Here, she said grabbing a piece of paper. I want you to meet my nephew.
I smiled immediately knowing that if her nephew was single she was going to try and set us up.
I looked down, and saw that it was the address of a harbor in Ft. Lauderdale.
“He’s a fishing captain,” she said.
I tried to hold back my excitement and love of fishing (and the sea in general).
“He’s looking for someone to help with his marketing for the charters on his boat,” she said.
I immediately drove over to the address, and eventually found the ship.
Hi, I said waving from the dock. My name is Jen Friel, I just met your aunt. His deckhand started laughing as I wondered if my suspicions were about to ring true.
Sure, come on in, he said inviting me to take off my shoes and tour the boat.
If someone had to play him in a movie it would be Eric Dane’s tanner cousin from South Africa (+1 for the accent, swoon!). He had a squint in his eye that could mean 1) he’s been in the sun for too long, or 2) he was attempting to be aloof.
Focusing on my own bottom lines (and not his), I asked if he could tell me more about his world. I grew up fishing, I admitted, but know nothing about commercial fishing and the business models of charters; I want to learn.
Why don’t you come by at 4:30 tomorrow morning. I have a charter, and we’re going out to catch tuna.
Done, I said shaking his hand as I grabbed my shoes choosing to stay at my parents house that evening (to be closer to the boat). The next morning, I grabbed a cooler and some beer from my parent’s house. (I wasn’t sure the laws in Miami in terms of purchasing alcohol at that early of an hour, and I wanted to “win” the crew over by bringing something I knew they’d enjoy.)
The charter guests arrived around 5 am, as I watched the crew sprint into action from the top deck. I have a lot of respect for not only the ocean but the discipline it takes to run a boat.
As we pulled out of the harbor, the captain sat down next to me and he asked if this was my first time deep sea fishing. Not wanting to be a “fish out of water,” I lied and said no.
“So you don’t get sea sick?” he asked.
Nope, I said cool as a cucumber.
The water in the morning was calm, and as we got out to where I’m assuming the “deep sea” begins, I learned the true definition of the color “Caribbean blue;” I had never seen a color like that with my own eyes.
Hours later, the waves started to pick up and as the fish started to pile onto the boat I was reminded of my own hunger. I then climbed down from the top deck, and went inside the galley to grab my cooler. Once inside, the waves gathered strength as I was knocked off my feet and onto the couch.
The sudden change in direction created an instant disruption in the pit of my stomach.
Not wanting to pull a Blair and exercise the contents of my breakfast …
… I quickly grabbed the cooler remembering the worst place to be with motion sickness is indoors.
Climbing back up to the top deck, the captain laughed asking how I was feeling. Judging by his confidence in the question, I’m assuming my skin turned to a shade of seaweed.
Fine, I said, again lying to myself.
Unzipping my cooler, as I went to pull out my sandwich, we got knocked by yet another big wave. This time the captain seemed more concerned.
“Shit,” he said.
Not knowing what was happening, I just held onto the closest bar and remained calm. The captain went downstairs to check on the guests, as the waves swelled up past 12′ (the boat was 50′). At 5’7 and 120 lbs, I America Ninja Warriored myself to the safest spot to anchor on the top deck.
The captain laughed upon his return. “You really do know your way around boats, don’t you?”
“Common sense,” I said, “but I’ve never experienced waves this strong.”
“This isn’t even that bad,” he said. “It’s bad, but not the worst that I’ve seen.”
He then navigated the boat back to safety, and before sunset we were back at the harbor.
I then helped the charter guests off the boat, as I asked if there was anything else I could help with?
“I’m impressed,” the captain said. “You didn’t get sick, and you held your own on the water today. We should go out for a sunset cruise sometime.”
“Why not right now,” I said pointing at the sun that was actually setting.
Surprised I was still game to be on the water, he agreed and as the crew wrapped up their work, I began mine.
On much calmer waters in a literal sense, we again sat next to each other on the top deck, this time with a drink in our hands. I wasn’t sure what I wanted in that scenario. Yes, I was attracted to him, but I don’t ever let that come in between me and a job. My ultimate goal was to stay on the island and support myself. That was all I could focus on in this exact moment.
That is at least, what I told myself …
WHY MUST YOU BE SO ATTRACTIVE?!?!
The first sunset was followed by a second, and shortly after we started dating. I remember looking at him on our second date, and being surprised by what I was feeling. I was genuinely starting to like this guy.
Having given myself so wholly to my last boyfriend, I wasn’t sure if all of the pieces had come back yet.
Stop thinking big head, I thought. You have butterflies again!!! This is amazing!! Figure the rest out as you go!!
My trips to the harbor then became an every day occurrence. I became a bikini barnacle of sorts spending part of the day hustling to win over walk-in charters on the dock, strategizing digital marketing, and then having sex. A lot of sex.
After about a month of dating, he introduced me to his family (remember, I already knew his aunt) and weekly dinners became a “thing.” I could tell that they really liked me, and I really liked them. Everything and everyone was a win, and that was something I desperately needed in that moment.
As we got more comfortable with each other, he asked what I was “into.” Oh I’m a F.R.E.A.K, I said (now finally able to talk dirty in bed). In a cocky manner (hehe), I continued, “between running a “relationship/sex blog” and my own experiences, nothing surprises me.”
“I like that,” he said.
Later that night, he poured me a glass of wine (red, which was surprising since we were on a boat), and poured himself a glass of scotch as we cuddled up on a couch inside the galley ready to watch a movie.
A glass of wine past my bedtime, we proceeded to make out like the world was ending moving from the galley to the bedroom. (There were two small bedrooms below deck.) He then threw me onto the bed (something I am into), and as we began having sex he kept whispering in my ear “I want you to relax.”
Not knowing what he meant, I took the talking dirty cue playing along by saying “oohhhh, I’m relaxed baby, so relaxed …”
A handful of pumps later, I felt his hands on my backside as he cooed for me to “let it go.”
Continuing to play along, I moaned …
“Let it go,” he said now distancing my cheeks.
Finally catching the actual cue, I realized he wanted me to expel the contents of my colon …
Being jolted into my head meant that my own orgasm wasn’t going to happen. Not wanting to spoil his, I talked dirty in his ear choosing words as my weapon against mass deconstruction.
He quickly finished, and as we rolled over ontop of each other (the only way you can sleep on a boat), he went straight to sleep and I was scared straight.
“This is ACTUALLY A THING?!?!” I thought. “Maybe it was the alcohol. I know I’m an open minded person, but am not sure if I’m THAT open minded.”
The next morning he woke up, and it was game on. Not wanting to put myself in an uncomfortable position, I immediately got ontop of him as we began having sex.
“One second,” he said getting out of bed. “Let’s use this,” he said placing a towel down underneath me.
OHHHHHHH.MYYYYYYYY.GOOODDDDD. I thought. This isn’t just a drunken request, this REALLY IS HIS “THING!!!”
Never one to leave a partner hanging, I method acted myself back to a place of back door comfort.
Here I was thinking I was so bad ass the week before for finally being able to pee off the side of my girlfriend’s boat. Now you want me to plan a trip to Cleveland? I wasn’t even questioning if I could do it, I was confident that I wanted to keep my shit to myself.
Unable to even articulate exactly what kind of fetish he was into (I guess my mouth isn’t as dirty as I thought it was), I avoided the conversation at all costs and focused on something I could wrap my brain around – work.
“You need a brochure, I said, basic marketing materials. Let me reach out to some people and find you someone.”
That’d be great, he said.
A few days later, I had a basic mockup of the brochure, and was ready to show him.
“What’s your schedule?” I asked calling from the island (a solid hour and a half drive).
“Let’s meet at 3:30.”
Done, I said. See you soon!
As I arrived on the dock an hour and a half later, I took off my shoes and hopped onto the boat opening the galley door – only this time, it was locked.
Weird, I thought looking into the boat and seeing no one. He must have gotten stuck in traffic somewhere.
I then sat down on one of the plastic chairs on the dock and continued to edit.
15 minutes later, I saw his neighbor (whom I had become friendly with).
“Do you know when the Captain is coming back,” I asked?
“Coming back?” he said confused. “He’s on the boat.”
I then went to try the door again, and it was still locked. I couldn’t see anyone in the galley and there were only the two tiny bedrooms below deck. It was so illogical that he was in there that I didn’t even knock on the door, I just went back to the chair and resumed working.
15 minutes or so later (total time on dock :30), I hear the door click open.
Without moving my head (I was wearing sunglasses), I lifted my eyes above the laptop screen and saw him with … another woman.
I immediately froze not in anger, but genuine shock.
I took a deep breath and quickly assessed the situation. Logic, Friel. It was pretty clear that he just put his dingy inside her thingie and for whatever reason (like the fish he fries) he wanted to get “caught.”
<tangent>Truth be told, I can’t remember if we had the “what are we” conversation, but I had been completely embraced by his family, even helped fix a washer and dryer in his mom’s house. We were beyond the “implied” stage of commitment, but again, in fair honesty, I can’t remember. </tangent>
He may have been freshly fucked, but he had no idea who he was fucking with.
Without a stroke of blush (which is hard to do with Irish people since we turn red at almost everything), I calmly closed my laptop, and hopped on the boat.
“Hi, I’m Jen!” I said perky as a peach out stretching my hand.
Hi, I’m so and so. (I can’t remember her name, I just remember she was super beautiful, and clearly a bit thrown at the GPS coordinate of a Bermuda love triangle).
“So and so wants to do a bikini shoot on the boat for her fashion line,” the Captain said.
Uh huh, I thought, wondering if that’s what the kids are calling it these days.
“That’s awesome!” I said again method acting myself back to a place of comfort.
The captain then said that he was going to call her tomorrow to discuss scheduling with the models.
“Not a problem,” she said, extending her hand again saying it was nice to meet me.
“The pleasure is all mine,” I said with a smile knowing that this next conversation had nothing to do with her.
<tangent> I’ve never believed another person can “take” you from another person. We’re all adults, and actions have consequences. At the end of the day you have to decide what you stand for, and what you are willing to accept. Boundaries, bitches. It took me 10 years in therapy to understand what Swayze was saying in, “this is my dance space, this is your dance space.” </tangent>
I hopped off the boat for a second to grab my laptop (Florida sun), and walked into the galley. He remained standing as I sat down opening up my laptop. I could tell he was mentally counting down until some sort of explosion.
Before I let him speak I opened with, “just so we’re clear, my personal time is no longer on the table. Now, in terms of this brochure, I need your email address to send you the copy, and connect you with the designer. I can see the design in my head, but need to make sure it’s done right. I wish you nothing but the best, and will not speak of this to anyone on the dock, or our mutual family friends – but so we are clear we are done.”
He remained silent.
I couldn’t tell if he was shocked or still trying to remain aloof.
Giving zero fucks in figuring that part out, I stood up and opened the now unlocked door.
He quickly followed.
As I exited the boat I peripherally noticed that his friends were watching (obviously seeing/ knowing that she was there the whole time). Instead of causing a “scene”I abruptly turned around and shook his hand.
“It was a pleasure doing business with you Captain.”
“Thank you, Jen” was all that he said.
I then Nsync-ed myself off the dock keeping my composure past the gate, into my car, and made it all the way to the security guard at the front (that I had also befriended).
“Will I see you tomorrow?” he asked as I lost it.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE SIMPLEST SENTENCES THAT THROW ME?!?!
I then proceeded to cry like a sea lion barking …
… the entire way home.
Barely able to speak, I called my close girlfriend telling her what happened (still in shock hearing the words come out of my mouth).
“Say no more, she said. We should grab drinks at sunset. Would you like that?”
I would, I said still sniffling.
An hour and a half and one full mental state later, I arrived at the island version of “Cheers.”
Continuing the trend of being in shock, I surprised myself at the fact that not only did I keep my composure throughout the entire evening – I also genuinely enjoyed myself.
“What’s done is done, I said to my girlfriend. Not only did this guy teach me that I was capable of loving again, but I ACTUALLY SAID WHAT I WANTED TO SAY IN REAL TIME!!! THAT’S A FIRST!!” (The second time was last year in an elevator with one of my favorite pop stars.)
<tangent> When I was younger I would play out conversations I had earlier in the day strategizing what I could have said and what I actually wanted to say. Of course these conversations frequently occurred at 2am, but that’s neither here nor there. </tangent>
My girlfriend was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t sulking since she knew how hard I took my last break up. No matter what, I knew she would be there, but it was nice in that moment to not have someone feeling sorry for me. Even through the “heartbreak” I could recognize that I had learned a lesson, and it was time to move on.
The bartender then turned (obviously overhearing part of our conversation) and said, “Jen, island rule, don’t date commercial fishermen.”
“Noted,” I said with a smile.
I was proud of the fact that I wasn’t willing to take his shit … ::whispers:: nor was I willing to give him mine.