poloA few weeks back I posted about old boyfriends who have gone to the great beyond. I told the story of Andy, but never got around to the story of Paul. Let me share with you my brief, but awesome time with the Polo dude.

It was my freshman year at U of D. I was into weight lifting, an activity I started doing my senior year of high school in an effort to shed some pounds. My abs were rock hard, and I intended to keep them that way, so I frequented the weight room at the gym. This is where I met Paul.

He was cute, with sandy brown hair. He was not overly tall, and had a thin, yet muscular build – his arms were amazing. We began chatting over the fact that I had the sit-up bench at the highest incline – I think he was impressed. I noticed right away that his voice was sort of high – it almost made him sound girlish in a way. But I was never one to judge someone for something out of their control.

We became friends and met frequently at the gym. When I asked what dorm he lived in he said he lived off campus on his family’s farm about 30 minutes away. I pictured him in rubber boots swinging a bucket to slop the hogs – that must be why he had such good arm muscles. He said he had horses and asked if I’d like to come out and ride sometime. Sure, who wouldn’t? We set the date for the upcoming Saturday.

Paul showed up at my dorm bright and early to make the drive out to the farm. His car was nice. Really nice. I think it was a Mercedes, but I can’t remember. After a short drive and pleasant small talk, I was expecting to pull up to a modest farm house. That’s what I was expecting. Instead we turned down a private road with a carved wooden sign at the head of it – one thing engraved in the sign was the word “estate.”

Estate? Didn’t he say he lived on a farm? I suddenly questioned my earlier vision…I doubt there would be any pigs here.

We pulled up to a sprawling, cheerful, yellow and white house surrounded by acres and acres of green, rolling hills, and miles of fence. A sizable stable stood in the distance. Yep, this was no farm boy.

I was introduced to his mother, a beautiful, elegant woman with blonde hair and an accent. I can’t remember what country she originated from though. I just remember she was super nice, and very welcoming. I was also introduced to Paul’s father. I found him to be intimidating and somewhat cold. I made a mental note to stick with mom.

After a brief tour of the house, which included showing me a television that rose up out of a cabinet at the push of a button, we headed out to the stables. The stable was magnificent and housed quite a few horses. Paul led me into a large, and well stocked tack room where he found me riding boots, and a helmet. I began to get the distinct impression that Paul was loaded. Farm, indeed.

We went out riding, which was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Usually when I’d been riding in the past, it was at a commercial stable where you paid by the hour and went out in a group. The guides told you when to walk and when to canter, that is, if they let you run at all.

But with Paul, we were able to do whatever we wanted when we wanted. I remember us giving our horses a slight kick and before I knew it, we were racing across the green hills, the wind whipping my hair back, my eyes shining with excitement.

We rode for about an hour – that was about all my ass could take. In that time I found out that Paul was not a simple farm boy. He was a polo player. His family had their own team, made up of his father and brothers. They spent spring and summer at the Pennsylvania estate, and spent winters in Palm Beach, Florida.

I immediately felt out of my league. Here I was, an average nobody from New Jersey and I was on a date with a polo player? But, Paul was very genuine, and extremely modest. This guy could easily had laid the “I’m rich” soft soap on me, but he didn’t. It was as if he was unaware of the advantages of his wealth – to him, he was just an average guy.

Once back at the stables, I had a hold of the horse’s bridle while Paul did something or another to take off the saddle. It was at this point that the horse lifted up it’s front leg, and put it back down, right on my foot. I felt immense pressure, and then heard a wee little “snap!”

Ruh roh. I yanked my foot out from under his hoof, which clacked back onto the floor. I could feel the swelling begin in my foot. I said meekly, ” Paul? I think the horse might have broken my toe.”

He set me down on a bench and immediately went to take the boot off. No! It was too painful! But, he said he had to before my foot swelled too much in the boot – then it would be near to impossible to get it off. It was awkward, and very Typical of Tracy. Only I could mess up a magical date with a rich, handsome polo player. But, Paul being the down-to-earth guy he was could care less. He fussed over me and my swollen foot the rest of the afternoon.

We continued to see each other over the next few weeks, usually just in the weight room, or he’d come watch me play intramural volleyball. One day he asked me if I would accompany him to a ball.

A fucking BALL.

As if that weren’t surreal enough, the ball was in South Carolina. And how were we to get there? Oh, we were to fly down on Friday night in his father’s private plane. His father would pay for the hotel, and all food for the weekend. So, would I come? I felt like a Slovak Cinderella. I told him yes, but admitted I was a bit worried about fitting in. He urged me not to worry about it…he liked me the way I was, and so would everyone else.

My mom sent me an appropriate dress from my closet at home, and I packed my bags for what would be an exciting weekend. I remember driving to a small airport, and boarding his father’s plane. I think I was chewing gum to ease my nerves. I’d never flown in a small plane at night, and while it was exciting, it was a tad scary too.

We landed without incident in South Carolina and drove to the hotel, which was very fancy. I got my own room, which felt so odd. I mean, it made perfect sense – we weren’t going to all shack up in one room with two double beds or anything. But this was hardly a Motel 6 – these rooms had to cost a couple of hundred bucks a night. It was humbling to think that someone had shelled out all this money just for me.

I don’t remember every detail from that weekend. I do remember going to the ball, and eating lobster bisque for the first time. And I remember Paul’s father telling me that I would be a lot prettier if I learned to put on my eye makeup better. Yep, it was a humbling experience, alright. I remember Paul coming back to my room after the ball, where I drew a sketch of him, and we watched TV until we finally said good night sometime in the wee hours of the morning.

The next day was like a page ripped right out of the script book of Pretty Woman, except it wasn’t written yet, and I wasn’t a prostitute. That day we attended a polo match and a fox hunt. Yes, you read that right – a FOX HUNT. Here I was, a girl who lived just steps from the swamps of Jersey at a fox hunt in South Carolina polo country. Talk about feeling like a fish out of water.

But, I had Paul by my side for the majority of the day. I watched him play his polo match, mashed the divots back into the ground between chukkas, and made uncomfortable small talk with girls who had much better clothes and hair than I did. But watching Paul play polo? It was worth enduring the snubbery. He was so masterful at controlling his horse, and it was no wonder his arms were so fabulous after watching him swing that polo mallet.

After his game, we decided to blow off the Fox Hunt – yeah, like I was going to ride to the hounds. Instead, Paul saddled up two horses and we took our own ride along the back roads. Once or twice we ran into the hunt – saw throngs of red-coated riders gallop by – but for the most part we spent a quiet afternoon talking and enjoying the scenery.

It had been an indescribable weekend. We flew back to Delaware, and I sat in a sort of awe, thinking of all the new things I’d been exposed to. I’d really enjoyed myself, not only because I’d lived the life of a society princess for a few days, but because Paul had been by my side the whole time. I truly valued his company – his friendship.

Shortly after that weekend, Paul informed me that he was returning to Palm Beach on a permanent basis. He wasn’t doing well academically at U of D, and was leaving school. I was bummed, but not devastated. While I really liked Paul a lot, I always felt uncomfortable around his family. I got the feeling that they thought I wasn’t the right girl for him. Except for his mom. She was always very, very nice to me.

As a matter of fact, she came to my dorm room the next semester. Paul and I had written and called over the months since he’d left, so she knew where I’d lived. She handed me a poster for the Palm Beach Polo Club, and there in the center, swinging his polo mallet with all his might, was a photo of Paul. I’d know that muscular arm anywhere. I thanked her warmly, and we chatted for a while. She left promising to give Paul a hug and kiss for me.

That poster hung on my wall both at home and at school for years. It finally got so torn and tattered that I threw it away. Like so many other things, I wish I hadn’t. It would be nice to look at it again. To see that strong arm, and his face with that look of concentration and determination.

I was sad when I read he had died, and only in his 40’s. He was such a nice fellow, so real and down-to-earth. He deserved better – a long life with a pretty wife and kids that he could lift laughingly onto the backs of ponies. It would be cool if I could let him know I think about him from time to time. To let him know he made a very cool memory for an average girl from Jersey.

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