She sat across the conference table from me, an unintended meeting nearly forty years in the making. She was an old boyfriend’s other love interest, the woman he was with when he wasn’t with me which was often because we fought. He went on long binges of drinking and depression and when he scared me too much, I withdrew, not for long though because I’d panic and go try to retrieve him. It wasn’t a healthy relationship but it was a pretty long one – five years.
I mentioned none of this. I was meeting with her about business. Nothing personal, all professional.
I didn’t know if she knew that I knew about her. Her name had popped up on Facebook the past few years when she would comment on the posts of mutual friends. For a long time, I felt the old reflex, the same bile, as if her status as the ‘other woman’ was still important, still hurtful. That was crazy. It was a long time ago. She had gotten married to someone, not our old mutual boyfriend, and had children, I think, hard to tell just from Facebook photographs. I had been married to another man for nearly 34 years. I hadn’t seen the old boyfriend for probably twenty years although I did go to his funeral a few years ago. It isn’t important to the story how he died except that it was violent and by his own hand and had been something I’d left him to avoid discovering in my own kitchen.
She was very kind and measured. We talked about the work she was doing with abused women and part of me wanted to ask her if she had chosen that work because of him. He hadn’t abused me, not really, just scared me to death, and made me think I should sit up all night looking out the window waiting for him to drive up and park in front of my house. He had a key which was a mistake but it was a time when I made a lot of mistakes. There were threats and dangerous situations which I’d lived through unharmed but not unaffected. I wanted to ask her if the same was true for her. We had, after all, lived parallel lives in many ways.
But I never brought it up.