Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Conversation

I left my trainer's studio and literally ran across the street to Vineland and Ventura to meet her. I had picked this location mainly because I thought it was important that she fit herself in to MY day instead of the other way around.
Hey - I can fit you in between my work out and school pick up - I'll just take a minute to put you
in your place and then keep it moving, Sistah...

But as I approached the Starbuck's entrance, I began to see the flaw in my plan. I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass double doors. My t-shirt had damp semi-circles under each arm. My hair was rebelling against the bobby pins that were keeping my "mouse ear" buns in place. As I re-pinned my hair, I could hear the voices of my friends who had counseled me for the last year or so.

"Keep it classy," Chariesse had advised.
"Remember, you are in control here. Make sure she says in her lane," said another.

I waited for a moment outside and took a deep breath.
As I opened the door I was hit by the icy air-conditioning and the rich smell of freshly brewed, Pike's Place.
There she is.

Tracy was sitting at a table off to the side. She looked young and impossibly fresh in a long, sun dress. Her signature curly, dark hair was long and straight with ombre'd ends. But otherwise she looked the same as I remembered. You could see her Thai mother's influence in her wide, oval eyes. Her father's genetics had given her smooth, deep-chestnut skin. She stood up and we greeted each other with a confined curiosity (no hug). She's tall like me, so facing each other we were eye to eye.

Suddenly I couldn't feel the air conditioning anymore, my skin felt like it was on fire.
An eternity went by as we stood in line and made small talk.

The 15-minute line to order coffee! Another flaw in my plan...

I had never felt this particular combination of nerves and rage. It felt like everyone in line with us could look inside me and see my acute discomfort. Finally we sat down at a table.

Keep it short, Laura. I coached myself. ​Keep it moving.
"Well," I began.
"Yeah," she smiled. "Well..."
"Okay" I took a deep breath. I pictured myself reading from "my script."
Just get right to it!

I cleared my throat.
"I need you to know that I'm working really hard to put our past behind us. I'd like for us to move forward for my children's sake. And honestly, I don't think that I could have walked into my son's Bar Mitzvah in two weeks without having said that to you first."
There was a modicum of relief as I said the words out loud to her at last. I felt my skin begin to cool. I could hear myself breathing as I braced myself for her response.
"Thank you so much for saying that, Laura. I want you to know that I am very respectful of the way you and Brian are raising your sons. You're both wonderful parents. Miles and Justin are great kids. Honestly, I never want to interfere with that."


Suddenly my nerves evaporated and I was vibrating with anger.

How dare she come at me reasonably and speak to me with humility?!

"Okay," I said out loud. I stared into her eyes without blinking or smiling. My chest felt tight and I found that I couldn't take in a full breath. I sat up straighter and pulled my shoulders back. "Thank you," I said. It was almost a whisper, but there was an instant relief. I took in a long breath.

Suddenly, I didn't know where to look, or what to do with my hands. I grabbed my iced coffee and took a sip, allowing the cold, creamy sweetness to flow down my throat. With my other hand I began intently rubbing at a smudge on our table with my napkin.
I wondered idly what we looked like to the other customers. Did we look like two old friends having coffee? Or did we look like what we were, the ex-wife and the new girlfriend trying to reckon with this new chapter in our lives. A chapter which would, whether we liked it or not, have to include each other.

"I need to you know that I never wanted to hurt you," she said. I swallowed hard and steeled myself.
"I was really sorry to hear about your marriage."
I'll bet you were.

"I have thought about you a lot since..." I saw her catch herself. "Recently," she continued. "It's been so long since I've seen you."
"Actually I don't think I've seen you since my wedding," I said (with emphasis on w​edding)​ .
It was possible, actually probable that I'd seen her since then. But I needed to remind her that she had been a guest at my wedding to Brian. It mattered little to me that they had waited until the marriage was over, I wanted her to know that she was still egregiously violating the "girl code" by dating him now.

I regarded her for a moment without speaking. A woman at the next table with headphones plugged in to her laptop was singing "Rolling in the Deep" under her breath.
"My friends might feel some type of way about you're being at my son's The Bar Mitzvah," I said breaking the silence. "But whatever that looks like, know that it's not coming from me. My intention is, like I said, to move forward."
"Oh, I'm not worried about them," she said easily, looking me in the eye. "I can handle myself," she continued "The important thing to me is how you feel."

I was completely thrown off. I had expected there to be a bit more of a kerfuffle. But she didn't seem to be at all interested in taking a stand or defending herself. At that moment it felt like a tactic. Her whole "I'm giving you respect" stance felt strategic.

The most important thing is that the children feel safe! I could hear my therapist, Marguerita's words ringing in my ears.
My insides began to feel like wet clay drying in the hot sun. There was a fist hardening in my stomach.
I have a right to be angry. And she should be begging for my forgiveness! She is obviously trying to play me. I could hear her now, going back to her friends and laughing. "Yo, it was so easy. She totally forgave me...!"
I looked at her again, cocking my head slightly to the side.
"Well, I already said how I feel." ​My voice was steel. "I'm ready to move forward — okay?" The okay wasn't a question, but a statement. It was final.
I felt something dangerous and unreasonable swelling inside of me. I didn't know if it was anger or humiliation, but it was threatening to breach the dam.
I started to gather my things.

The most important thing is that the children feel safe.
A little kindness goes a long way toward forgiving.

I deliberately ignored Marguerita's voice and fished around in my purse for my Prius keys. I fully intended to walk out and leave her standing there at the table.
"I've got to go pick up the boys," I said. I was surprised by how normal my voice sounded. "Okay" she said, standing up. "I'm really glad we had this talk."

I nodded (or maybe I said, "Me too" I don't remember).
As we walked to our cars, I was picturing telling Scottie everything.
She seemed genuine and sincere.
And for some reason, that really pissed me off.
Sitting there with her, I remembered why I liked her.

But I'm still hurt and angry and I don't know what to do about that.
Her black, Cadillac Escalade looked commanding and gigantic next to my little gray Prius. She opened her door and stood there for a minute.
"Okay then," she said. "I'll see you at the Bar Mitzvah."
"Okay," I said nodding.
It was time for a goodbye hug. We both just stood there. I didn't know what to do.
Oh what the hell...
Suddenly I felt myself giving her a hug. It was short and awkward. I think I was as confused by the impulse as she was.
We hurriedly retreated to our respective vehicles and I watched her put her sunglasses on in my rear view mirror. I pressed my lips together absentmindedly, scrolling through my phone to find Scottie's name.
"Hi Hon."
"How did it go?"
"I did it, Hon. It's over."
"Good for you, Hon. I'm proud of you."
"Thank you, Honey."

"Now the Bar Mitzvah" he said.
"Yes," a laugh made it's way out of my pursed lips. "Now the Bar Mitzvah.  Lawd have mercy!"

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