Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Origin Story

"Up here."
"Are you ready...?"
My friend stopped in the doorway. I was sitting on the bedroom floor surrounded by photo albums and boxes. Scattered in a circle around me were hundreds of pictures of Miles. I was sitting in a sun-warmed spot on the soft, brown carpet, weeping as I dug into the overfull hatbox in front of me. I pulled out a "first day of pre-school" picture and bit my lower lip.
"Look at him!" I wailed, shoving the picture towards her.
"This is for the Bar Mitzvah video?"

"Yes," I dabbed my eyes with a tissue and sniffed loudly. "I just need about 10 more baby pictures. I've got enough of his school years."
I dug further into the hatbox and my hand froze above a black and white photo-border.
There are wedding day photos in here.

I peered into the box and saw that it was of a picture of me looking solemn in my wedding dress, surrounded by my bridesmaids. I knew what I would find if I dug any deeper. "There are probably pictures of HER in here," I said. But my voice sounded like, "There's probably a live snake in here!"

I also noticed that I had taken to calling Tracy "HER," like it was her name.
"Good! I'm dying to see what she looks like!" Her eyes were wide with excitement.
I shook my head and pulled the out the photo and looked at it.
Why did I look so sad? What was I thinking?
"So, Laur, you're really going to see her tomorrow?!? Tell me everything, Sweetie! How long has it been?"
"Years," I said, looking back at the hatbox. "Maybe, not since my wedding, I don't know."
I set the photo down and continued digging in the box. Here was a picture of the me laughing with my beautiful row of bridesmaids. Next I pulled out a picture of my Dad and I doing the Macarena.
"Everyone looked so young, Sweetie!"
"I know!"
My heart thumped in my ears as my fingers found the next photo. I could tell just from the edge that it was "the picture". All at once I was filled with a combination of dread and curiosity.
Oh my God, here she is.

Slowly, I held up the photo of Tracy. She was wearing a white, silk, slip dress and staring right at the camera, holding a microphone.

I flashed back to our wedding video. Tracy was laughing and told her friend to hold her apple martini. She looked right in to the camera.
"Congratulations guys!" She said with a raucous laugh. "This is the best wedding I've ever been to."

"We've ever been to!" her friend cut in, putting her face in to frame with Tracy's. More laughter, there was a toast to us. Then they both smiled for too long, as if the videographer had asked them to pose for a still photo.
I shook my head to clear the memory.

"Laur! Is that her?"
She grabbed the picture from me and held it like it was a developing-Polaroid, delicately and by the edges.
I managed a nod
"She's a kid, Laur!"
"She was a kid" I agreed. "She must have been what? 19, 20?"
"Okay, so you two were more like social girlfriends than actual friends."
"Exactly, we just hung around in the same circles." I took the photo back from her.
She actually looks like she could have been one of my bridesmaids...
"Okay, Laur" she interrupted my reverie. "So you called Bri and asked him to arrange a meeting between you two?"
I put the photo down and looked up at her as if I were seeing her for the first time.
"Yes, well, less like 'a meeting' and more like 'a coffee'".
"But why, Sweetie?"
I felt the beginnings of tears again.

"Because," I said decidedly, not allowing the tears to interrupt me. "He wants her to be with him at Miles's bar mitzvah."
"Really Sweetie? That's insane!! How long have you been divorced? Isn't it too soon!?"

"Yes - and thank you!! I think so. I think it's way too soon. But clearly it's not way too soon, because it's happening!" I heard the emotion in my voice and decided to just let the tears fall, it hurt my throat too much to stifle them.

"I need to sit down with her," I continued, "because I don't think it's a good idea for us to be in room together for the first time in 12-years without having had some kind of conversation first." I wiped my nose on my sleeve and sat there looking down. She scooched over and put her arms around me, rocking me back and forth.
"Okay," she turned her attention to the notebook on the floor next to me.
"Sweetie, what's all of this?"
"My work" I said pitifully.
I looked down at the notebook pages of barely legible scribble.

My work.

I’d prepared for this conversation for over 3-months with my sponsor. Together we whittled down all of the stuff I wanted to say.
“Self righteous anger should be left to those better qualified to handle it,” she advised. "So I’m going to ask you, what do you need her to know? What needs to happen during this meeting?"

What NEEDS to happen?
I thought. And suddenly I felt like a giant balloon with a gash in its side.
What needs to happen here is much, much different than what I want happen. I want her to feel bad for making me feel bad. I want her to know that she can never replace me with my children. I want her to say, "I actually don't feel right going to the Bar Mitzvah , so you don't have to worry about me being there."

But that wasn’t what my sponsor had asked me. She asked me what needed to happen. The truth was, the only thing that needed to happen, was that I needed to make sure that nothing popped off between her and I at Miles’s Bar Mitzvah. I needed to be able to be in a room with her and not feel overwhelmed by anger, resentment and confusion.

"So yeah" I said, taking a deep breath. "This is my work. My 'lines', as it were." I picked up the notebook and pointed to a section at the end of the page. "When she and I meet for coffee tomorrow, I'm going to try not to go 'off script'. I'm going to say what I need to say and get out."
"What do you need to say to Tracy, Laur?"

I looked straight ahead as if I were actually talking to Tracy.
"That I'm working really hard to put everything behind us. And that I'd really like for us to move forward for the sake of my children."
She regarding me for a moment with a look of intrigue.
"Wow, Laur. That's really impressive, Sweetie. Do you know how brave that is?"
I watched with a mild curiosity as the tears falling from my face bounced off the blue notebook cover.
"Laur, do you want me to come with you?"
I felt my heart pounding. The hand holding the notebook was trembling.
"I do," I said, putting my head on her shoulder. "Actually, I wish you could go instead of me."
I tucked my bare feet underneath me and set the notebook down. The late afternoon sun had moved and suddenly I was cold.
"But I need to do this by myself."
We sat like that for a while . My head on her shoulder, her left arm around me. Her hair smelled clean, and freshly pressed. I ran my fingers through it like a comb down her back. "I'm scared." I said finally.
"I know, Sweetie."
"I hate being a grown up," I said lifting my head up and smiling.
She laughed a little. "I know."
I sighed as I surveyed the mess that I had created all around me. I kissed her cheek and slowly got to my feet.
"Let's clean this up" I said. "I'm ready to go."

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