Don’t you just hate it when every time you go out to eat near the building where your ex works, you think you are going to see her, but you never do? The only thing you can do every time you enter the outdoor seating area is quickly scan everyone’s face Terminator-style until you get the, “No Target,” return from your eyes and declare definitively, “OK, we can eat here,” to your confused friends. But before that, the possibility of bolting awkwardly away from the waitress as she asks, “How many?” completely exists. So you make small talk and sit with your eyes toward the entrance, or sometimes intentionally NOT facing the entrance, because you aren’t going to be owned by this. You eat your meal, enjoy the sun and cool wind, finish and pay, walk away from her building over to your car with your friend and you both drive away. Then, as your friend is explaining her girlfriend’s wedding photographer failure, you turn a corner and all of space and time focus into the down-turned face of your ex sitting on a park bench that you are about to drive right past. You risk crashing into a curb as you crane your head to see around the now-too-narrow-stupid-ass-windshield-opening in your new car and you smartly execute a textbook “rolling stop” past the stop sign she’s sitting next to. But all of this occurs in the same part of your brain that controls your breathing and heart rate which means everything is starting and stopping seemingly at random. All you consciously think is, “She looks frustrated with her cell phone. Maybe the sun is too bright. She’s looking around like she doesn’t like what she just read. Someone should ask her if she is OK. She’s sitting in such a random spot like she’s hiding from her office building. She looks a little bit different but kind of the same as the last picture I saw of her. Shorter maybe thought she’s sitting down, younger but with the same eyes which are now rising toward me.” Somewhere in the distance, you hear yourself say in a slow echo, “There’s Brenda (name changed to protect the innocent),” to your friend who is still talking about weddings or something. Across the car hood, across the asphalt, over the curb, across the cracks in the white cement sidewalk which if you think about it is pretty far, especially in a car moving about 7 mph perpendicular to her field of view, and STILL her eyes roll up and snap onto yours like two dogs seeing each other across a park. She double-takes as you don’t look away and the danger of rear-ending someone overrides the danger pounding in your ears so you look forward to avoid traffic and then into the rear-view mirror as she’s now behind you. You stop at the next corner to turn feeling the road behind you shrinking like plastic in an oven as the stop light pattern doesn’t seem to make sense and feels too dangerous to proceed through. Your friend is still talking almost forcefully now like she didn’t hear me or is trying to emphasize that it’s no big deal that you just saw your ex whom you haven’t seen in six months plus or minus. Maybe you didn’t actually speak or maybe it wasn’t loud enough for your friend to hear. I glance at my friend and wonder if my ex recognized her? She’s probably not recognizing the new car, but the RALLY license plate is the same. She definitely saw me though with these same stupid sunglasses perched on top of my head like some Don Johnson idiot from Miami Vice and my beard which really needs to be trimmed so I can stop looking like a homeless dude.
Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Kinda.