In which she gets knocked up again, if you can believe it
W sauntered (he sauntered, mostly, as opposed to actual walking) into reception one day and introduced himself as the new guy from the satellite office. Cute, I thought, but I was still dating Number One, Number Two sniffing around on the fringes, flirting his li’l’ heart out. Everybody, including me, found W annoying at first. His swagger, ponytail and scratchy goatee got on my nerves. In fact, it was only after he cut this horrid thing off that I began to look at him a little differently. Facial hair has never done it for me, so I really don’t know what I was thinking.
Being too occupied with Number One, then Number Two, I didn’t give W much thought, especially like that. Besides, he had a girlfriend called Nicky. Now, here’s something that has always bothered me. Why is it that every guy you will ever date has an ex-girlfriend called Nicky? Why, why, why? Is there a Nicky-The-Ex factory somewhere, churning out carbon copies of the same girl, to be distributed generously among the male population of a certain age? What’s up with Nicky? I mean bleergh. The name gives me chills, and not in a good way. Other common Ex-GF names include Natalie, Kerry (fucking Kerrys, they’re everywhere) and, oh yes, Kim.
And what kind of name is Tracy? Sounds like a single mother’s name to me. Do I know any married Tracys? I don’t think I do. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Bygones.
W and I ignored each other for a few months, then one day something clicked. Number Two had since left the building – he’d resigned and we were trying half-heartedly to keep in touch. Half-heartedly indeed, as I believe it was around this time that he crawled back to his wife. Grrr. I swear on my life I didn’t know they were not properly separated.
It was one of those long, hot summer days at the office. The boss was away and the sexual tension was so thick in the air, you could have cut it into chunks and used it to stuff mattresses. Everybody was bonking everybody else, or trying to, apparently. The whole place was one fiddle away from a bankrupting sexual harassment lawsuit. The whole office sat around talking about W’s girlfriend situation: he said he was unhappy and didn’t know what to do. The resident agony aunt gave him some good advice, and he was on the phone to poor Nicky that very afternoon. We need to talk. Yikes. Such a ghastly phrase, yet so versatile.
Flirting began in earnest. There were innocent back rubs (ha!), much playing with hair (his now cut short and spunky) and sitting on laps. Shudder to think of it now. The innocent back rubs culminated in a not-so-innocent kiss behind closed doors in the debtors’ clerk’s office. She was out smoking weed on the roof, I think.
We started dating properly shortly after. Dating a guy who was basically still a kid was a culture shock after being with Number One, who was older than both my parents. In fact, W was a little younger than me, something I’d never tried before. Now I know why. I was a mother with responsibilities, he was a party boy, just barely twenty-one. We had almost nothing in common and struggled to find things to talk about. We solved that problem by not talking much at all. It was difficult to have a conversation with him that was not punctuated by sound effects anyway. Existential discussions about the universe and philosophy were not our forte. Our attention was elsewhere. Ahem. I’ll never forget those dreadful movie posters stuck all over his room – it’s pretty difficult to get your groove on while The Crow is staring at the back of your head. Those eyes followed me everywhere, I’m telling you.
There are benefits to dating a younger guy, too – different, but no less impressive. Those benefits kept us together just long enough for me to delude myself into thinking we had something real. It worked for a while. The problem came when I began to daydream about something more. I wanted the same things I always had. A “proper” family and a home of my own. To no longer be a burden on my parents. I wanted a man who would love Steven as his own. Someone with whom I could be connected and truly comfortable, somebody who would get it. Back in those days, I still believed such a man existed.
W told me he wanted those things too. He said he could give me what I needed – could, and wanted to. I believed him, despite all evidence to the contrary. I’m really good at talking myself into things I know are crazy, stubbornly determined to make it right, no matter what. What a terrible habit. I was barking up the wrong tree entirely – it couldn’t have been more wrong.
He tried hard to get along with Steven, but it was a strain for both of them. That worried me, but I told myself they just needed time. He found it very difficult to relate to a young child – he couldn’t get down to Steven’s level at all, although you’d think it would have been easier for him from his youthful vantage point.
He just didn’t understand. I’ll never forget the day I bought Steven’s school uniform for Grade One. I was so excited – any parent will tell you it’s a big day. We arrived home and made Steven model his uniform and school bag up and down the lounge in front of the whole family. We were having a great time – until I looked over at W and saw how bored he was. He could barely conceal his irritation. He simply didn’t get the big deal and had much better things to do. Like playing pool, or swanking about in his black trench coat or something. My heart sank when I saw his face, and yet I kept at it. God, I was so wrong to put myself and my child in that situation. I could kick myself for the wasted months, for the time and effort and tears I put into it trying to make it work, when it was plain from the beginning that it never would.