I time travel a lot these days.
One of the after-effects of divorce has been my heightened—I’m not sure what; sensitivity?—to emotional triggers from my past.
It’s as if I didn’t think much about my childhood during my marriage because I was making a bunch of new memories with my wife and son.
Because of that, there was a 12-year span where I was pretty much only thinking about the future.
Everything goes away.
And the future is so scary and there are so many questions to answer about where you went wrong that you focus almost exclusively on your past.
And all of the sudden you find those memories are so much more precious than you once thought. Because they’re not the ones that feel wasted. That feel tainted. That feel like this massive life void that happened between your childhood and whatever unknown thing is going to happen next.
Could Carry Us Away
I stepped into my favorite diner for breakfast Saturday morning. They clearly aren’t used to me yet.
“Are you meeting someone?”
A weak smile.
“No. Just me.”
I sat down with my note pad brainstorming about life and writing.
Then, this song started playing:
And I was instantly seven or eight years old again. Standing in the living room of my summertime babysitter, watching this video on VH1 or MTV.
It still shocks me how affected I can be by the simplest memory.
There was nothing particularly important about that babysitter.
But the memory still represents innocence.
It still represents my parents’ divorce.
It still represents missing my father when he had to go to work on weekdays even when I had such precious little time with him during my summertime visits.
And it feels just a little bit more important now because of all that has transpired.
In between ordering food and receiving it, an older guy I know walked in. He’s a contractor and has done a couple jobs in my house over the past five years.
We shook hands. He was only stopping in for a minute to say hi to his daughter who works there as a waitress.
It didn’t take him long to ask about my family. My answer made him sit down next to me.
He’s getting divorced, too.
Brokenness. All around us.
Feeling so much older
And hang me on the wall
You fall into the same trap
Is happening to us all
Then, Forward March
In walked a couple I’d met while out with friends the night before. We’d shared a bunch of laughs together.
We exchanged pleasantries.
My network of familiar faces expanding.
I arrived a few minutes early for a birthday party for a six-year-old boy to which my son had been invited. One of those big places with arcade games and laser tag and roller skating and all that.
My ex-wife met me there to drop off our son. I encouraged her to hang out for a bit because it’s such a treat to see your son playing happily with his friends from school.
It’s a big place.
Some employees pointed us in the direction of our party. The three of us walked in together. The family that isn’t.
The birthday boy’s mom caught our attention. We’d never met before.
I introduced myself and handed her a birthday present for her son.
She wasn’t wearing a ring.
I see everything.
And so, apparently, does my ex-wife because as she and I followed our son over to a playground area a minute later, she sort of playfully elbowed me.
“She’s cute,” she said of the party hostess.
And while I appreciate being in a place where I can joke around with my ex-wife about things, I’m just not ready to joke with her about my dating life.
It still hurts.
“Please don’t make jokes. That’s not funny.”
“It’s a little funny. I’m just saying. She’s cute.”
I changed the subject.
We talked about our son’s upcoming birthday over the summer and how to handle it. We talked about where he should go to school next year. And she asked me about our wedding rings again.
They’re still tucked away in my sock drawer. I haven’t sold them or even tried.
I probably care more than I let on.
Okay, fine. I definitely care more than I let on.
It hurts to hear her say she’s in a hurry for me to sell our wedding rings just so she can have a little extra money.
After she left, I settled into the rhythm of the little-kid party.
I’d met a few of the parents before. Met a new guy who owns an old pub in town. He was very cool. Score.
I kept watching the birthday boy’s mom.
A bit of a task manager. Slightly uptight, but not in a bitchy way. Just in a I’m-ALWAYS-in-mom-mode kind of way.
I was talking to one of her good friends at a nearby table.
“That girl needs to get out more. You should get on that.”
“Me!? Why don’t you take her out?”
“That’s funny. My ex implied that very thing.”
Something about the entire day makes me think of one of my all-time favorite song lyrics from a mostly unknown band named Red Wanting Blue:
“If the future’s a destination and if our history’s a ghost
Then what happens right now is what matters the most”
I try really hard to not live in the past. But sometimes I get it wrong.
Because if we’re not living in the now, what are we living for?
Why live in two places that don’t exist—the future and the past?
I thought about eating alone that morning.
I thought about hearing that song and how it transported me to another time and place and how it made me sad.
I thought about my ex-wife encouraging me to sell our rings.
All those years. For a few pieces of silver.
She’s cute, she had said of the host mom.
Yes, she is.
And she’ll be sitting on the other side of the dinner table next Saturday.