Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bet You Think This Post is About You

I can’t deny that I was enjoying myself relaxing on the park bench while watching my small son run around in the playground area. The day was warm, and it was my favorite time of afternoon when the light had a golden hue to it and time smacked of relaxation.

And then I saw him.

He came around the main play structure, chasing after a very small girl—his daughter, I surmised. At first, I thought he was this person I used to know, and that’s why I sat up and paid closer attention—taking care, of course, not to be obvious. It took a long time of watching him to assure myself he wasn’t the person I used to know. This was good, because if I knew him, I’d have to possibly get up and go say hi, and I’d be flustered, and not know what to say, and generally make an ass of myself, as I always used to do around him.

But the resemblance was uncanny. Same coloring, same build, same country of origin, even, since I could hear his accent from where I sat. I watched as he called to an older child, a boy, who had a name typical of his home country. The mother of the children wasn’t in view, and I allowed myself to wonder if he’d gotten himself into a situation and not married her, or had divorced early perhaps. What kind of woman had trapped him? Because he was the kind of skittish guy that had to be trapped.

Yes, fine, it wasn’t the same guy, but close enough!

The fact remained this man was like an addictive drug, just as the person I used to know had been my heroin. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke, even the way he looked off in the distance seemed dear. Even now I’m at a loss as to how the two could be so similar. I adjusted my staring and made sure I turned my head toward my son many times—both because I had to as a responsible mother, but also because this man was alert—just as the person I used to know was always alert—and his eyes (oh, his eyes!) darted around the playground often.

Then his wife came into view. My mouth dropped open and I sat up, thankful that my dark sunglasses allowed observation without detection. That was his wife? This was what he’d married and procreated with? Wait, he’d slept with that? He’d shunned me when I’d known him! And now he’d turned to this potato sack? I hoped she was a friend, or a relative, and not his wife, but then she reached over affectionately pulled down the bill of his hat (oh, how I wanted to tug the bill of his hat!), and smiled at him in a way that belied intimacy. His reaction wasn’t satisfactory—not if I’d been her—but then hey. She’d scored and married him.

The two were so mismatched that it was laughable. I felt hideously mean for thinking this, I still do, but there it is. Look, I’ll be plain—I never thought much of myself, never had a very big helping of self-esteem, and it certainly took a dive after knowing the man I used to know. But God, I wasn’t that bad. Not everyone is a beauty queen, but his wife was clearly living a different lifestyle than he was. No one is perfect, but she had stopped caring.

His eyes continued to dart around the playground. Watchful, aware. The two boys my son was playing with kicked each other down and their father told them they were leaving. My son stared forlornly after them, and I decided now was a good time to go. Otherwise, I couldn’t trust myself not to get up and get closer to the guy under the guise of seeing what my son was up to. I couldn’t trust myself not to drool, or make some other unseemly sign from my bench. He’d see it. I could be assured of that. His head turned in my direction when I got up as it was.

It wasn’t until we were in the car and driving away with this man well out of sight that it hit me: he’d been glancing at me, too. His watchful eyes hadn’t darted to other areas of the playground. He’d seen me from afar. Maybe I resembled some woman he’d known before. Maybe he really loved his potato sack, but he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be with someone who looked human, and whose ideals matched his own. I was that person! Of course I was. I’d always been. Now, we’d both married other people and invested in them--and there are no regrets with my husband, none at all--and we’d had kids. We’d committed to other things in life, to the joy of our own children. It was time to forget all the nonsense of the past and look forward to the lives we’d built.

But damn it if his notice of me today wasn't like water in dry cracks. I could have had him. It would have just taken a twist of quantum physics to put us in a different time and space, and possibly a different man entirely. I was okay with that. I could have had him.

11 comments:

Linda G. said...

Oh, the "What If" lane...so tantalizing, isn't it? I think we've all been down it a time or two. This post sounds all too human to me. :)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Wow, been there, done that! Passed a guy driving a year or so ago and I could have sworn it was You-Know-Who, the only man I would ever love during the summer of 1998. Hands got all sweaty, tummy all fluttery, mind racing.

Played the tape to the end, and oh, yeah. Even though he dumped me first, I totally would have had to dump him later. No WAY would that have worked out. Hell, he'd have been at the playground checking out all the moms!

demery bader-saye said...

Sierra, this is such an honest, vulnerable, vivid post... the inspiration of a new novel, maybe? I'd like to read this story played out to its fullest - backstory and "what if" included.

Travener said...

Yes, those twists of fate. For example, if I'd been born George Clooney...then I would have a very large...collection of Rosemary Clooney records.

Roni Loren said...

It's definitely tempting to think about how life would be different if you had made one decision instead of the other. I don't regret anything since it got me here, but it is fun to think about the other paths I could've chosen.

Love the title of the post by the way. Gave me an earworm for the day.

adam.purple said...

Well, and bravely, said. But,

"I was okay with that."

[raises eyebrow]

Jeannie Moon said...

This is just fabulous. I can see everything and oh, how I understand your feelings.

Thank you for sharing this.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

You *so* coulda had him!

Sierra Godfrey said...

I just love you guys. I wasn't sure how this would go over. I wasn't sure if you'd all condemn me for saying his wife was a potato sack (and she so was, like beyond anything).

Linda and Teri -- you're probably right that there was a very good reason it didn't happen years ago in the first place!

Demery, you are so sweet. Thank you for that.

Trav - Riiiiight.:)

Roni- I've had the ear worm all day too! LOL

Adam - No really, I was okay. He'd never looked at me before--- NEVER -- so this was like a huge score for me. It takes the edge off some of the bitterness, anyway. :)

Jeannie - aww thanks.:)

Jeffe - YEAH!! Right? Yeah!!

KLM said...

Aw, man. As I was reading this, I kept hoping there'd be a confrontation at the end. Maybe even you getting to laugh triumphantly and say,"Nice wife, loser." Apparently you took the more mature approach.

Very compelling to read nonetheless!

Meghan Ward said...

Definitely a compelling read! And yes, isn't it fun to imagine that the one who got away is now with a potato sack? :)

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