if only

Had he and I met, I wanted to say, under different circumstances, we would have been fast friends. I wanted to say it – but it’s incredibly trite. I bought underwear instead. I was at Victoria’s Secret, so underwear buying was in order. Expected. I placed several varieties of lace in a row and tried to decide between leopard lace and champagne-coloured sparkle lace.

But we didn’t meet under different circumstances. We met under these: he brought his child to my daycare. He shook my hand and then, well, then I met his wife. Blue leopard or wait, is that zebra or giraffe or animal at all? The saleslady was shaking her head at me. She approved only of the champagne sparkle lace. Of course he’s married. Of course we can’t be friends. Slippery slope. Sticky wicket.

“And here is the matching bra! What’s your size?” She arched her eyebrows; she thought I was kidding. I held the bra flush against my chest to show her I was not. I liked his face when we met. Instantly. It’s nice; I hardly ever just like a face. His wife told me once “He’s funny looking, isn’t he? He’s got weird looks, right?” and she sighed without me even answering. I didn’t have to know that. I hadn’t asked.

“If you buy – look – only a little more, you can get the free gift!” New saleslady was looking at me with her big, beautiful eyes. “Do you like eyeshadow palettes?” She held up something boxy and incomprehensible. “I don’t . . . that’s really eyeshadow? I wouldn’t know how – I don’t wear makeup.” She nodded knowingly and told me where to find the extra-soft t-shirts. “T-shirts!” said my friend. “You love t-shirts! Let’s go see.” I answered and began to look them over, shiny, bright colours, glitter, emblazoned with ‘Pink’ and numbers and graphics.

He’s lost weight recently. He thinks I don’t know they’re fighting. I don’t like to see him unhappy, or painfully thin. He asked me to tell him if he was ever not being a good enough dad. “Or if I’m not polite enough to you. Or the other teachers. Or . . . anything that I should do. I don’t know.”

“So you want pants?” I looked down; I had somehow wandered into the pants section. Four pairs of eyes were trained on me, expectantly. “Do you even know what you want?” My friend asked me, almost teasing. “I always know what I want,” I told her “and you should know that about me by now.” Inwardly resolving, of course, not to think about it anymore. My vacation is coming. If I don’t see him, I’ll forget. It’s not important.

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