I could have sworn as he was leaving he said “see you babe.”
More than likely he said “see you in a bit.”
Sometimes when he leaves I almost, almost go to kiss him goodbye. Not out of want, but merely out of old habit. Like a Freudian slip. It’s very rare, but it’s still there.
Usually his presence makes me a bit twitchy and uncomfortable. I don’t like to catch his gaze because what I see in return is either sadness, longing, or a complete dark emptiness I don’t recognize or like. I see someone I once knew, thought I knew, and lost. Someone I lost a long time ago and spent years trying to get back. Looking at him reminds me that I failed.
I closed the door behind them, sighing, for a fleeting second recognizing his shape, then back of his head, his funny gait (he’s always had this walk, I can’t explain it, but he never really held his head up to see where he was going. Maybe part of the reason he was always lost). For a split second he was familiar and yet being married to him felt so, so long ago.
I shook my head and I carried warm, clean sheets upstairs to make my bed. As I untangled fabric and the scent of new detergent lingered in my nose I couldn’t help but feel as empty as the stark, undressed mattress in front of me.
So this is starting over. The people I went to school with, for the most part, are just finishing up getting married or raising their first, heavenly-scented newborn. They were me years ago, before Instagram, hashtagging love and smiles with heart eyes when they catch a glimpse of their significant other holding a baby, petting the new puppy or dangling the keys to the new house. It’s sweet. All the stuff that happens in front of the camera. They are still picking out drapes for their new construction home it took two years to build and upgrading that sedan for an SUV to fit their $350 stroller they don’t yet know they will sell in an online yardsale group they don’t yet belong to in a year and a half. They are in the throes of just starting a chapter of their life that maybe they’d always dreamed of and I’m making a bed for one, living the story I never wanted to write, never thought I would tell.
Last night, a guy at a bar interrupted my giggles with my girlfriend to ask whose birthday we were celebrating.
Poor guy, but smart line.
He asked me what I was drinking and I said it was sweet and he sidestepped and made a face.
“What?” I say.
“I don’t do sweet,” he replies and does a half grimace.
“Neither did my ex-husband,” flew out of my mouth as I turned back around.
A group of his friends enjoyed playing “let’s guess her age” and apparently because I didn’t wear the band of honor on my left hand, I won back a few years.
Oh, to actually be 26, boys. No one asked if I had kids; clearly, I was too young to be divorced. Let me tell you about the softness in my torso, the spot that carried two babies for 40+ weeks. The stretch marks on my thighs and the wrinkles around my eyes from squinting while I watched them play in the yard and had no idea where my sunglasses were. Lines around my mouth starting to show from smiling so hard at them I thought I’d physically burst because no matter how much I was hurting as a woman, I was so full of love and focus as their mom.
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be “out there.” I already did this and I thought this part of my life was done. I did marriage, I did babies. I didn’t plan for this, I didn’t have an “option B.”