The other day I was texting with a friend like, “Hi – how are you? Fine. How are you? Long time no talk. Want to do lunch soon? Anything new in your life? Etc. etc. etc.,” when suddenly, out of bumf#ck nowhere, totally off topic, this friend texts me, “Kathleen (long lost acquaintance) had a baby boy yesterday.”
I want to pause to emphasize… Just in case anyone out there is reading this and contemplating whether they should announce to me by way of random text that someone separated from me by six degrees, or hell, even by one or two degrees recently welcomed a healthy, living baby into this world, the answer is NO.
I knew Kathleen a long time ago, and we were never friends, and her daughter lived at the same time Matthew died, so now I’m kind of trying to forget Kathleen exists. But every once in a while Kathleen emails to request something from me (we’re loosely connected through work), and unless I can answer her question in under two minutes, I’m pretty much deleting her email. (I wonder if she ever found the trial balance she requested back in May…) ANYWAY, this friend also continues to mention Kathleen at inopportune times, so I went ahead and responded to this particular text, “Did you watch any Bachelor in Paradise this summer? I’m watching the finale now – can’t wait to hear from Corrine and Demario.”
The other night I attended a charity event with Mark. Someone from his firm so generously purchased a table and invited us to join. I’ve been to these things before, but mostly before Matthew died, and none recently. These events are usually themed in nature, and this particular one included mai tais, and a pig roast, and loud music, and a strange man inhaling fire, and towards the end an impressively large sum was raised in a shockingly short amount of time to fund vans that will drive around rural areas and offer mammograms to women who might not have otherwise had access.
And these events always include small talk. I used to excel at them – “Oh so which household functions do you outsource? Oh – how fabulous that you never have to place your own toilet paper on the holder!! Oh your kids play soccer, you say? I played soccer, and let me tell you, it is just the BEST sport for kids for so many reasons! No – I’ve actually never been to Indonesia, but it’s absolutely number one on my bucket list!”
Now I… Less than excel. (Because how am I supposed to relate to others with my recent go-to topics of conversation like, “So, I recently discovered that I have zero coping mechanisms for life, so I’m contemplating entering an intensive therapy program!”) I mean, I tried my hardest to hold it together, mostly for Mark’s sake, as these things are important for his career… (Read: Having a put-together, sociable partner might be crucial as he continues to advance at his firm.) But I just couldn’t get out of my own head from almost the first minute I arrived…
From the beginning the main topic of conversation was people’s kids, which, obviously, because no other topics of conversation exist in this world. Usually I’m not too upset by conversations surrounding others’ older kids, but on this particular night I was… It was just conversation after conversation… “So and so, our oldest, yada yada yada…” “Our boys – they’re so fun, so close in age…” “Well he’s only three, but we already know for sure he’s going to be such an athlete!”
My head started spinning, “My oldest is dead. My boys are close in age, but one of them is dead. Matthew will never be an athlete – he’s dead. I can’t count on Joel being athletic, because what if he doesn’t survive?” Everything just made me upset, so silent I stayed.
I tried to dress in a way that would hide my pregnancy, but this plan was pretty much decimated when the hostesses offered me alcohol, and I declined it. Still no one discussed my pregnancy or even asked about my family (I think they know on some level what happened to us), and I didn’t offer much of any information about such topics either, which I was relieved about, but I was also saddened, because, in a parallel universe, I would be excitedly talking about such things.
At one point, Mark’s boss’s wife asked, “So where is it that you go to church?” And I almost choked on my fruit tart and answered, “We haven’t been much since Matthew died…” And my eyes filled with tears. Later someone (who I guess didn’t know our story) asked, “So is this your first?” And I answered, “Third,” as my eyes filled with tears again… At this point I moved outside and sat alone on a step on the outskirts of a circle surrounding a man drinking gasoline or alcohol or something and breathing fire, and I cried, wondering, whether, on some level, I will feel on the outskirts of everything, forever.
Later we met up with the group again, and I was able to stuff my tears away for long enough to appear somewhat with it, but overall the night made me feel like shit and like I’d failed Mark, because like, I’m such a wreck that perhaps we may not ever get invited back…
Speaking of Mark and his workmates, last week I was sitting innocently at my computer when Mark forwarded me an invite to a barbeque/picnic at the beginning of November. It’s a family-centered event, where I’ll be expected to show up and be nice and happy and interact with others, fighting the urge to dive into the nearest oncoming traffic.
We’ve been invited each year since Matthew died, and this is the first year, I guess, that Mark is expecting me to go, figuring it is important for him to show up and that we have Joel now, so I should be able to better cope. This might be true on some level, but Mark apparently missed the memo that I’m trying to hide this pregnancy, so I guess I’ll have to wear a tent, but Jesus, we might was well just attend his office Christmas party (which I made him attend alone last year).
A few weeks ago we were eating at a local café outside when a lady looked at Joel and was like, “How old is he?” I answered, “13 months,” and she was like, “Oh – you’re going to have your hands full!” “Huh?” I looked at her quizzically, mostly because I didn’t hear her.
This had her shaking in her booties, because I guess she was referring to my pregnancy and I was acting like I didn’t know what she was talking about, so she thought maybe she’d been incorrect and that I just had a beer gut. But then I reassured her through gritted teeth, and she was like, “Oh good! I’ve only been wrong like three times in my life when asking strangers if they’re pregnant!” ONLY three times? Lady, this may be your sign to keep your damn mouth shut.
So Joel is TALL, which is NOT surprising in any way because Mark and I are tall. He is basically the size of the average two year old and maybe some three year olds and the scrawniest of four year olds. He doesn’t talk yet, maybe says a few things that sound like words. Maybe. Which is fine…
But everyone (people at the park, grocery store, etc.) looks at him and literally asks me, “Oh so he only talks at home? Why won’t he talk to me?” And they look hugely disappointed in him, which fucks with my mind because I’m constantly just wanting all to be well with Joel. And then I’m like, “Well he doesn’t talk much – he’s like just over one.” And they’re like, “Ohhhhhh – that makes sense. I thought he was three!” But like, even if he were three, these people are pretty annoying and inappropriate, and I don’t really like them.
The other day I met my dear friend Michelle for coffee at Starbucks. I was running late, wet hair, driving my beater car, and it was humid, and I didn’t know how to turn on the air conditioner, and I was pissed because I didn’t have Nav in my car so I had to use my cell phone’s Nav, and I’m technologically incompetent, so I peeled into the parking lot and saw her sitting outside, and decided I would excitedly greet her, so I mustered up allllll the energy (because this friend honestly deserves all the enthusiastic greetings and more) like, “Heyyyyy girl!!!” And this woman turned around, and it wasn’t my friend Michelle. It was someone else, and she looked at me all judgmentally like I was such an idiot.
So this is what I get when I try to be normal and friendly and enthusiastic, so I concluded it really isn’t worth it.