He’s standing at the entrance of the subway station, a small time politician jockeying for a new political position.
It’s early morning. Teeth unbrushed, hair unruly, I am walking my dog in my dog-walking outfit, which is, in essence, my pajamas. I have a stool sample, double-bagged in my purse to bring to the vet.
There’s a moment, seeing him across the street, where I want to talk to him, to look him in the eyes. Put him on the spot. Three different scenarios come to mind. In each I walk up to him, full of confidence and cool, and give him a moment to take me in before I say:
1. Do you remember me?
2. You’re an asshole.
3. How’s your wife?
What must be a dense cloud of thoughts gathered above my head is quickly dispersed by a stuttering political lackey pushing a piece of paper with the politician’s name in my hand. I walk down the block and the kid follows, stammering as we go until I turn to him and flatly state, “I know all about Scott.”
The kid stops in his tracks and watches me walk away. “Oh,” is all that he can muster.
That’s what The Buddhist said when I told him I ran into one of the people we talked about at dinner and received an email from the other.
I didn’t realize until this morning that the parade started there. It is my annual parade of exes. This year, the theme is “off-the-radar.” Instead of a joyous march, there will be no floats this year. Instead, it’s a loosely organized, low budget stroll through side streets, alleys, and dead ends.
I met for coffee once with one of the guys. We kept in touch for a short time, but. he’s a wilting flower of a man, with an air of heart-wrenching sadness beneath his calm and quiet exterior. Our styles clashed.
I dated the other off and on for a few years. That was a long time ago. We were never a love match. He is, as I am, a distant memory.
Here’s the back story:
I sat next to him at a bar. He started talking to me and it turned out that we had a few people in common. He asked me out. I told him I wouldn’t sleep with him. He said okay, so we met for dinner one night. And then another night. And so on.
It turned out that I did like him, that he was the sort of guy who grew on you. Like mold.
We went out four of five times. And then, one evening as I was coming home from work, he called and tried to talk dirty to me.
That didn’t work out so well. It seemed a little sudden, like he was jumping the gun. I didn’t get to tell him that, though.
My phone battery died.
The last words he said to me were, “I need to tell you something.”
I never heard from him again.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up to an email from a girl I used to know.
“Amy, I swear I just saw you on my flight to new Orleans… Am I crazy?
If not… When are you coming my way?”
On Wednesday afternoon, another friend emailed me to tell me that he was sitting next to my doppelgänger on his flight to San Diego. He asked her if she was my sister. I think she said no.
Tomorrow, I am flying to Missouri. I wonder if I’ll run into this mysterious woman who is pretending to be me.
The only good thing about dating a public person is that it’s easy to google them. Which I did. Six months after our last phone call, or so.
It turned out that about three weeks after our last phone conversation, he got engaged.
This indicated, to me anyway, that he was probably working up to asking his now wife to marry him about the exact same time that he was trying to get into my pants. Which sort of rubbed me the wrong way.
Which is why I am now standing across the street from him in my pajamas with a bag of my dog’s shit in my purse, not knowing if I should keep walking, or stop and chat.
Then there was the issue of the text last night from a number I did not recognize.
“I’m in your neighborhood,” it said. “Do you want to grab a drink?”
“Where is the 516 area code,” I asked my co-workers.
“Who do I know in Long Island,” I mused loudly.
“I’m from Long Island,” my co-worker answered, with just tinge of defensiveness.
“Did you text me?”
He looked at his phone. “No.”
I examined the message as I tried to form the numbers and letters into a face, a time, a place.
While I was thinking, my phone battery died.
An hour later, safe in my yellow chair and plugged in, I texted back.
“I just got this,” I lied. “Who is this? I don’t have your number in my phone.”
“It’s Brian,” the phone spit back.
I don’t know any Brians from Long Island.
“From French Roast.”
And then I remember. We shared a salad a year ago. And then I went to work. And that was that.
I opened my email. A message from the rich Boston guy.
“I miss you,” he said.
We went out twice – three times, if you count the day I visited him in the hospital when he was in a coma.
Is life strange, or is it me?
Is it better to run into the very public person you made out with when he was planning on an engagement to his very public spouse while in your pajamas and not be remembered, or is it better not to be seen at all?
I muse over my plight as Sadie and I play “throw the ball” in the dog-run. Another dog owner strums his sitar. I am distracted.
Do I want to see him? Do I think he will remember me? Will my fragile ego be crushed if there was no remorse, no recognition, no longing look, no blinking eyes and hard, regretful gulps of air?
And then a thought strikes, sharp and persistent like the exotic, honest tones of that beautiful sitar. Some people have real problems.
I’m going to walk past him. I will not stop unless he sees me. All the rest – I’ll play by ear.
We leave the dog run, step out of the park.
He’s standing there, at the entrance to the subway. I can see him. He’s lost a lot of weight. I’m thirty feet away. Twenty. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven.
He crosses to the other side of the street.
I should stop there, but you, dear friends, encourage me to chase the story. When traffic clears, I dodge across the street. He’s sitting in his SUV, driver’s side.
His intern, a pretty young thing, sits in the passenger’s seat. I am inches away from the spot where I’ll be in clear sight.
The car pulls away from the curb.
If they’re coming two by two, I think I know who’ll bring up the rear.
I can’t wait to see if I’m right.