I was telling Kelly about how an old boyfriend from over twenty years ago had reached out to me. She didn’t seem surprised and between bites of chicken salad and slurps of Diet Coke she shrugged, “They always come back.”
Now, another twenty years further down the road I think she may be right. I can’t decide if that is good or just another proverbial splash of gasoline on my stress inferno. The older I get the smaller the world becomes.
A few months ago I was in Kroger at time not typical for my shopping. I had just pushed my cart through the entrance when I heard my ex-husband, the one I call #2, calling out my name from the fruity area of the produce aisle. Most often when #2 and I end up at the the same place at the same time I choose to ignore him. I responded with a wave and moved on with my quest for the perfect avocado. He must have thought my wave was an invitation. A few moments later as I was bent over searching for green bananas in the boxes stashed under the display, he bumped his cart into my backside.
He was always, and I assume still is, a very shallow man with an ego that would make Donald Trump envious. He was quick to criticize and control. If I gained a pound he noticed it two days before the scales confirmed it. Back then I had a winter coat that I loved but he hated so while I was out of town on business he gave it to Goodwill. I’m sure this helps clear up any misconception of why I now call him #2.
As he stood there, surrounded by fruit, I observed the 30 more or less pounds he had put on kind of made me think of a peach that was past it’s prime; plump yet the skin was wrinkled and rather saggy, even the smell was a little sour.
“You’ve gained weight” I commented and intentionally cast a judgmental glance at his mid-section.
“It happens” he grumbled and swirled quickly away as if I had just pulled the flush lever.
I went on about my shopping and was leaving the produce section to check out the discounted flowers when someone banged their cart into mine. Ex-husband #3 looked up and was about to apologize when he recognized me. The words, “Excuse me” were also formed on my tongue yet neither of us said anything. I think we were both in shock. For all I know he had just had an encounter with his #2 over in the deli-section. This sort of thing is a small town hazard. Both of us turned our carts to go around the other and by the grace of God we turned opposite directions and didn’t end up doing that awkward, Perhaps we should just dance , left then right turn thing.
I decided I had experienced enough fading flowers for one day as I tossed some fresh carnations into my cart without so much as a glance at the price. Next I pulled my cell phone out and called my son.
“Hello” came my adult baby’s bored voice.
“Hey Tyler, It’s your Mom. Crazy question, Does your Dad ever come to Kroger to buy groceries?”
“Uh, I don’t think so.”
“Oh good, because if he does I need to make a run for the parking lot and start buying all my food and household supplies from Amazon.” (I think I just figured out why grocery delivery is becoming so popular).
Tyler doesn’t appreciate my weird sense of humor so I didn’t get the chuckle I had hoped for when I explained that if all 3 ex’s and I were at Kroger at the same time the place would certainly implode.
Last week I bee bopped into the post office to pick up a passport application. I looked like warmed over crap and as luck would have it, there stood one of my former flings. Steve is a very nice looking bad boy with a slightly crooked smile that makes him irresistible. I hoped he wouldn’t notice me because while I don’t want to get involved with him again, I like the idea of him wanting to get back together with me. I was almost out door when he called out my name. We talked for a few minutes and then when I was about to back out of parking space he was at my window and I could either talk again or hit him with my car. It gets harder to hide in world that keeps shrinking.
Just last night I got a friend request on Facebook from my high school, on again off again, boyfriend. I have some knowledge about where life has taken Max because his sister and I were friends and she and I have maintained contact through social media and even met for lunch a few years back. Still, I was more than a little surprised by Max’s friend request since I had not talked to or laid eyes on him in well over 30 years. In my head I heard Kelly’s taunting voice singing, they always come back. I didn’t accept the friend request immediately and instead looked at his page. His profile picture was of both him and his wife. After debating for a minute or two I clicked accept. I figured if he started trying to reconnect in any way that his wife would not appreciate I could always delete and block him. I decided he must have seen my comment on one of his sisters posts and was just curious about where life had taken me on this loopy, crisscross journey. Thirty years ago Max could melt my heart and make knees weak. The guy that looked back at me from the screen of my Android was nothing like the senior portrait that sat atop his parents console television and is still burned into my memory. Now he just looks like an almost 60 year old geeky guy on a bike and I suspect the helmet was concealing a bald head.
All of this prompted me try to recall the ones that had not come back and to my knowledge had not crossed my path. I say to my knowledge because, as evidenced by Max, most of them could have been in Kroger along with me and my ex’s and I wouldn’t have even given them a second glance. I spent several minutes searching Facebook for the boy that gave me my first kiss. I think I found him. I had no luck at all in finding Tyrone, my crush from second grade.
Finally I searched for Tim, the sweet guy from high school that was either a freshman or sophomore when I was a senior. Surprisingly, I easily found him and immediately recognized him. Even without his gorgeous, dark, naturally curly hair which was completely gone I knew his smile. If he had been a few years older we would have dated, of that I am sure. I was 17 and he was a 14 so it was out of the question no matter how mature he may have been. That isn’t so bad, he will always have the honor of being my “If Only”.
His profile says he is a “Christian, Husband, Father, Soldier and Nurse Anesthetist in that order”. I smiled knowing that he was and still is a good human being. There is, of course, a small possibility that he is a jerk, but I will happily never know. I won’t message him or send a friend request, I prefer to keep the faded memory free from blemish. I don’t have to cross his path again. It is enough to believe that life has been kind to him and that he is a good man and that I might also be on his “If Only” list.
Have a great week, I’ll see you at the grocery store!
Photos provided by: Adam Stefanca, Christian Buehner, Matthew T. Rader and Daniel Jenson.