Waiting for Tom Hanks - Kerry Winfrey

Chapter One

I just thought I would’ve met Tom Hanks by now.

Not real Tom Hanks, the beloved actor. After all, he’s married to Rita Wilson, and I’m not the sort of monster who would want to break up what is perhaps Hollywood’s one truly perfect union. And anyway, I’m twenty-seven, so he’s a little bit old for me (no offense if you’re reading this, Tom).

The Tom Hanks I thought I’d meet is the Tom Hanks of romantic comedies. The Tom Hanks who starred in Nora Ephron films. The one who wrote about bouquets of sharpened pencils or told call-in radio show hosts how much he missed his wife. The one who lived on an unbelievably luxurious houseboat or called Meg Ryan “Shopgirl.” The man with a heart of gold, the one I was meant to be with even if we lived on opposite coasts or owned competing bookstores.

I should have run into him by now, while I’m carrying a large, unwieldy stack of books and he’s hurrying to some important business meeting. Or maybe I should have tripped over my own feet and fallen right into his arms (note to self: start wearing more impractical footwear). Or maybe I should’ve bumped into him while Christmas shopping, when both of us spotted the very last fancy scarf and we each desperately needed to buy it for our own fancy-scarf-wearing relatives. And we would fight and get angry and hurl insults that neither of us really meant, but that underlying passion would translate into some fantastic flirty banter, and then that scarf would get written into our wedding vows in a hilarious-yet-touching surprise that wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Not that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, or anything.

It’s just that I’ve seen a lot of romantic comedies, and I can’t even blame that on Tom Hanks himself, as much as I would like to pin all my problems on a celebrity.

No, I blame my mother.

She’s the one who indoctrinated me into the Cult of Ephron, the one who showed me When Harry Met Sally . . . when I was only nine years old and way, way too young to understand what Sally was imitating in that deli scene. She’s the one who spent Saturday nights sobbing over the end of Sleepless in Seattle, showing me that true love sometimes involved a little bit of light stalking and a lot of encouragement from Rosie O’Donnell. She’s the one who introduced me to the charms of Rock Hudson and Doris Day sharing a phone line and being incredibly deceptive in Pillow Talk.

And yes, only one of those films actually stars Tom Hanks, but that’s not the point. Tom Hanks isn’t a person so much as he is a representation of the kind of man I deserve, as my mom told me over and over. “Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t adore you,” she told me. “My favorite thing about your dad was that he worshipped the ground I walked on.”

She was kidding, but only sort of. Anyone who saw a picture of my dad and mom together would know that they were one of those golden couples, the ones who get together and stay together and end up like those old people talking to the camera in When Harry Met Sally . . . about how they met. And they would’ve been, if he hadn’t died when I was just a baby, before I even got a chance to remember him.

My mom died much later, of a heart attack. I have a theory that you can react to tragedy in one of two ways: you either distract yourself from your pain with over-activity, or you make yourself a home inside your pain cocoon. In high school and college, my coping strategy was the former. Instead of thinking about how much I missed my mom, which could easily have been a 24/7 extracurricular, I threw myself into activities, clubs, and projects. I was valedictorian in high school and graduated summa cum laude in college with a degree in film studies. I studied movies, watched approximately one million of them, and dreamed of someday writing my own Nora Ephron–style romantic comedy.

But after college, after I was done crossing off every item on my to-do list, my over-activity ground to a halt. I couldn’t bear to leave my childhood home, which my uncle Don moved into after my mom’s death so I wouldn’t have to change schools. I didn’t have anything to