Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
One of the most disconcerting feelings in the world is to run into an ex or an old boyfriend or just someone you went out with and liked and to find out he has someone special in his life now…an infant. It’s a weird feeling because it conjures up so many deeper emotions.
The child need not have been conceived while you were committed or involved. Even before, but especially after, it’s still odd. It’s like a cosmic reminder of what might have been but wasn’t. That you went on in different directions, and even if you come back to the same place, it’s not the same future that might have been there for you before that child was conceived. It’s proof that one particular window of opportunity was shut.
Sometimes the guy is proud and just wants you to be proud, too. Sometimes he’s embarrassed because it’s a surprise in his life, too, and obviously not the way he wanted it to be. Sometimes it’s sweet and bittersweet, too. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to make of it.
I ran into an environmental scientist I had dinner with a while back in Grayton Beach. Actually, I believe I bought him dinner, which is always interesting in itself to see which men will let me buy them dinner and which ones insist on treating me, even if I’m the one who did the asking, and honestly, the ones who are only too happy for me to buy them dinner are not ones I’ll ever have anything long-term with. We went out a couple of times and it was all too clear that he talked a good game and played an even better one. He was mentally stimulating but there was something disingenuous about him, and he was a little too fond of his own good looks. We talked a lot about our children and what we enjoyed about them, especially since they were near the same age and we had that in common.
So it’s funny to run into him months later when he’s asking for a favor related to his job and we have a casual conversation in which he mentions his kids’ names and I recognize them at once. Except he casually drops another name into the mix, and I’m like, whoa, whoa, who?
With studied non-chalance he tells me yes, his youngest…his baby girl. He tells me he told me about her and goes on to say something about her mother and that they split up a while ago and he rarely gets to see the baby.
He did not tell me about her. In our several talks, he’s pointedly avoided telling me about her. He tries to tell me that he surely discussed her and he thinks I’ve heard about her, but I haven’t, not until now. For whatever reason, he deliberately withheld that information, and I know this now as he shows me the photos of her.
It’s strange looking at these photos, at this child who is so much a blend of his face and a face I don’t know. It’s strange knowing that this is where one possible future might have taken me if I’d formed an attachment with this man—or possibly even just a one-night-stand. He asks if I might want to meet her, but I don’t. Then he acts disappointed when I say no, though he’s the one who kept her secret before. He’s not someone I want to see again, either for business or for pleasure. The business would be only to his advantage and there’s no pleasure in my involvement with him. Plus, it might be nice of him to buy me dinner for a change, but I’m not giving him that chance.
Still, it’s such a strange feeling to find out a child has come into his life and has nothing to do with my relationship with him. A child and all a child represents. Hopes, dreams, futures, shared news and emotions. Windows of opportunity and closed doors. He seems so unaffected by what this news represents to me—a road not taken, or at least one I didn’t take with him. A family not chosen. A future not selected.
In this case, that’s good. This is not someone I needed to be with. He came on strong, with more than enough charm, and for a brief while, he actively pursued me. And I won’t obsess about it or wish things had been different because I don’t wish that at all. My future’s far better than he could ever offer.
If I seem disturbed, it’s not because I pine for him— the kiss between us was uninspiring—but because I might have had a narrow escape from a future with a womanizer like him. And because of all the deeper emotions a baby brings up for me.
I wonder if men, when they encounter women from their pasts with new babies, are as thrown off kilter.