He nearly breezed past my office before I called to him, and I could tell that while my face was familiar to him right away, it was not the face he expected to see from five years before.
“Oh,” he said. “Oh, it’s you! Hey!”
But then his eyes opened wide as he processed the tableau before him: Cluttered office. McDonald’s breakfast wrappers on the desk. Toddler reading on a bean bag chair. Pregnant woman at the center of it all, someone he might have known, but she was older. Flabbier. Mommy-er.
He, on the other hand, hadn’t changed a bit. Same tan, same hair, same steely penetrating eyes.
My former crush.
He was one of those wild boys: Artistic, independent, rugged. The type to backpack in Tibet one moment then jet home in time for Burning Man, all while making art and music and, most likely, mad love to scores of women. He was totally out of my league, and utterly impractical as an object of my affection: The perfect target. At least back when I was single, styling, and any circles under my eyes stemmed not from 6 a.m. baby wakings but 6 a.m. walks of shame with the occasional bold-faced name.
Our relationship never progressed beyond stares that lingered too long and hugs that were just a little tighter than most. It was enough.
“Yeah, pregnant again,” I shrugged as I hoisted myself up from my desk chair with as little grunting as I could muster and waddled over to the doorway.
There was a brief awkward hug as he craned his neck over my shoulder to stare at Thalia, clearly the biggest change of all. Even more than the McDonald’s biscuit crumbs on the desk. He didn’t say hi to her. He didn’t try to curry favor with her. He motioned vaguely towards her as if she were a chair. Or maybe a ficus. “Who’s this?” felt more like “What’s this?” Her mere presence seemed to leave him grasping for words, for comfort.
We quickly switched topics back to the common denominators – travel, writing, work, life in general. The conversation was brief and filled strained pleasantries that reminded me of that Dan Fogelberg song that always makes me tear up against my will around Christmas every year. Except he wasn’t an old lover, I hadn’t married an architect, and I wasn’t about to sit in the car with him drinking champagne and laughing til we cried. He was just a guy I kind of liked once, who had once made me think maybe, just maybe, if the timing was right…
And then he said goodbye and slipped away, back down the hallway, perhaps trying to figure out how my life had gone in a direction so very different than one that the freewheeling single, urban chick he had known once in his life might have predicted.
I’m not generally surprised nor regretful when I perceive doors that were once open, closing shut as I outgrow their usefulness or reach new stages in my life.
What shook me, however, was how this one seemed to slam with such a resounding, thunderous boom.