By: Tim Stevens
Song: Somebody That I Used to Know
Artist: Gotye (ft Kimbra)
Album: Making Mirrors
(Picture taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/philwolff/)
If I am being honest here, my first impulse was just to walk right back out. To grab my son Dalton, spin him about, make some excuse about forgetting something, and take him back through the doors. Maybe buy him some ice cream a few doors down so he’d stop asking, “But WHAT did you forget, Dad.”
I didn’t do that though. Because I am ostensibly an adult. I have a child, a house, a car, a wife, a job…you know, all the fixin’s. And adults, as it’s been explained to me, do not grab their children and run away just because they catch a glimpse of an ex-girlfriend. However, there appears to be no rules about not being tempted to do so.
The fact that she noticed me just as I realized it was her had nothing to do with my decision to stay. Honest.
“Chris? Oh wow…how random?!” she laughed, opening her arms for a hug. I accepted in manner that could best be described as “wildly awkward.”
I know it’s a weird thing to get weird about when you’ve seen someone else naked, when you’ve slept with them, but it’s a little weird. I don’t think having sex with someone entitles you to a lifetime pass to throw your arms around them whenever you wish, regardless of the length of time between last act of sexual congress and current encounter. Yet, every ex I encounter, there’s the hug. The stupid, invasive, super-awkward hug. That’s it, from here on out, I offer a high five. Possibly a fist bump, depending on the quality of the relationship.
I introduced her to Dalton and she bent down at the knees to appropriately give him the tiny handshake and the “wow, I knew you weren’t a baby anymore but I had no idea you were such a big boy speech.”
I was tempted to ask her, “And how did you know that, exactly, as we have not spoken in 12 years?” Or I was after the fact. At the time, I was trying too hard to be a gentlemen and not look down her shirt.
My son, for his part, was far classier. He accepted the hand, smiled cordially, and then slipped behind me to create distance between him and this strangely enthusiastic woman he had just met. For an 8 year old, this was the adult equivalent of giving flowers to every person you meet on the streets. I cannot stress enough to you how classy Dalton was being.
We made the requisite small talk. She asked Clarissa (how the hell does she know my wife’s name) and how the bike shop was (and my small business?). I asked her what she was up to (something involviong finance…of course), how her family was (oh, good, good) and where she got off being in my town. The last one in practice, however, came out as, “I didn’t even know you lived around here.” My tone was apparent though, I assure you.
Throughout, I just kept thinking, “You look the same. How do you look the same? We graduated from college 12 years ago. How do you look the same?” and “My god, I have not aged well. At all. I mean…damn…I am hideous.”
When she left and was a safe distance away, Dalton extracted himself from behind me and after a safe time elapsed he whispered, “Who was that?”
I started to answer but stopped. How did I answer that? Did I tell him how she and I used to be inseparable? About how we used to joke that her hair made her look like Mufasa and mine made me look like Carrot Top’s less prop-oriented brother? About how she was there for me when Mom had the accident? About how I was there for her sister committed suicide? About our Thursday and Saturday nights spent drinking and then arguing loudly in front of the student center? Our early Friday and Sunday mornings spent making a similarly loud spectacle in a significantly different manner?
Should I mention the ring? The almost? The sense of falling when she said no? The attempts to still make it work? The giving up?
(Obviously, I understand a great many of those are inappropriate to lay on an 8 year old.)
How do you tell the son of the woman who you did build your life with about the woman who came first?
The rest of it was true at one time, but that time had died out long ago. She was just a photo, a journal entry, a name that once help power that now just meant “past.”
I shrugged, put my hand on his back, and told him, “We used to know each other a long time ago. We went to school together.”
Then we got ice cream
Tim Stevens is the creator of this contest and The January Project. His writing can be found all over the web including Marvel Comics website, The Living Room Times, and New Paris Press. He can be found on Twitter @UnGajje where he talks about Val Kilmer, Nic Cage, comics, movies, TV, politics, and his family just the right amount.