I’ve been thinking a lot about exes lately.
And don’t tell me you haven’t. I’m not interested in that. Really, can’t we please, for just a moment, admit, all together, that it’s weird, so very weird, to have exes in the universe? I don’t want to pretend that I’ve moved on—which I have, in a sense. I’m not stopped, I’m not waiting, or weeping. I’m just thinking.
Isn’t it strange that there are people in the world that you used to lay next to every night (if you’re a cohabitating type of serial monogamist, at least), who now have these lives that don’t involve you? They have wives and girlfriends and fiancés and children, and you have new loves, and you live somewhere else, and why does that have to mean you can’t still call his mother? Why does that have to mean that you’re a stalker if you want to see a photo of his new family?
One reason I’ve been thinking is because I’ve been hearing a lot from an ex who was an item so long ago I hesitate to think of him as more than a very old friend. I was visiting home not long ago, and he randomly called. He didn’t even know I was in town, but he instantly started pushing to see me. I agreed to dinner at his intense insistence—he hinted at some sort of trauma. He promised he’d be pathetic, and offered to buy.
We got in the car, and I said, “So. What was all that? What’s up with you?”
“Right,” he said. “So, my wife left me.”
Of course she did. Although there was one point in my life that I’d considered him my backup plan, my safety, in case my life didn’t go the way it expected, I gave up that plan about four years ago when he told me he was having a baby. Since then, I’d been firmly in the camp that supported his relationship, and I’d even been charmed by his wife – and while we’re being honest, I’ll just put it out there. I’m prettier than his wife.
“Oh, buddy,” I said. “That sucks.”
“For her teacher,” he said.
“Yikes,” I said.
“Who is a lady,” he said.
At dinner, he told me the whole sordid story. It’s pretty fucking tragic.
He knew our server, it was why he’d picked this particular restaurant. When the server walked away, my friend confessed, “he doesn’t know yet.”
This break had been sudden, and the whole thing had only gone down about three weeks prior. My friend described to me how he understood depression for the first time in his life.
“I wake up in the morning, and I can’t think of a reason to get out of bed. And even when I can, I just can’t think of how in the world I’m going to make myself do it.”
I hugged him, and got a little drunk with him, and said what little, weak things you can say to comfort a friend whose family has just been torn apart. Mostly I listened to him. And when our server asked what the wife and kid were up to, he got the bad news. When our bill arrived, I think it was $5.
“I’ve been getting a lot of free meals lately,” he confessed.
What little things we can do to comfort a friend.
Later, after I’d left town again, he texted me, saying he wished he’d been able to spend more time with me when I was in town.
“I have a lot of friends here, but none like you,” he said.
I’m not sure what he meant by that. In a literal sense, he doesn’t have any other friends who took his virginity. In another sense, he probably doesn’t have any other friends who have considered making a life with him. I’ve thought about what our kids would look like. I’ve considered whether I would take his last name.
But he probably didn’t mean any of those things.