I sat at the desk near the front entrance to my small, mildly dilapidated little home. The late winter sun was harsh and unrelenting and hurt my eyeballs from the outside in. I remember: the dust on my computer monitor, the piles of tear-stained kleenexes littering the top of my desk. Paper in disarray and files scattered, a two-day old plate of untouched toast near the monitor.
“You’re not coming home, ever, are you?”
I’d whispered it into the phone but I already knew the answer and though I had asked him to leave, though I needed time, I wasn’t sure that I was ready for the consequences of the inevitable permanent divide.
“I don’t know. No, I don’t think so.”
I thought about our son: not even 2 years old. I thought about the past four years: Amsterdam, concerts, beer nights and snowboarding. I thought about the shrill fighting, alcohol, money, responsibility, pettiness. I thought about myself: at 30 years old, a single Mom, disengaged, struggling. A statistic.
Two years ago I’d been engaged to a beautiful man, a baby growing inside me. Outwardly we were so happy: young, employed, laughing. The fragility of that glass castle amazed me, and I remember putting my head down on the paper, the tissue, the hardness of the desk, to cry.
I worried about my son, of course, about the adjustment to a one-parent home, about a life with a half-time Dad. But I also stressed about my future. I foresaw in my bitter glass ball: chinchillas, maybe a few birds, a puffy pink housecoat and a grimy abode. Maybe, I thought, I’d get lucky and one of my friends would end up solo too, in older age, and we could cook each other feta cheese and pickle sandwiches and lie about the fact that our butts had dissolved into dimpled pancakes.
At the time, I wasn’t thinking about men. I didn’t want to feel the pain of heartbreak ever again and the thought of it being my son and I for the next 30 years was all right for me. Painful. But all right.
But as the years dripped on - one, two - I started to “see” men again. I started to miss their companionship, humor, and unabashed appreciation for soft clothes and a homemade meal. But I really believed that I was a pariah - that my son was a breathing indication of the fact that I’d had successful (not to mention unprotected) sex with another man. What man wants to see that, every time he looks at his woman? I understood that biologically, and intrinsically. It made me wistful.
I’ve now been juggling work, dating, and my son for over a year and a half. What I have discovered is this: a child is not necessarily “baggage” to the right man. In fact: Nolan’s presence in my life has negated the necessity for me to weed out the bad eggs. Men who are willing to take me on must be willing to take my son on, too - and it serves as an automatic filter, of sorts.
I am attracting a different kind of man these days than I used to - better and kinder and I think my son is the reason. These men don’t see my son as a manifestation of another man - but rather as a sweeter, more naive extension of me. The good ones - the awesome one I’m with now - is as eager to be liked by my son as he is by me.
It amazes me that our darkest days often represent the beginning of the pivotal climb to the brightest ones.