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yesterday was old, today is new

published: 2013-01-01

The man I was talking to in a bar yesterday referred to his two daughters. They were too old to be celebrating New Year’s Eve with him, with us. Past twenty already. At one stage I asked whether he was still with the mother of his children.
“Oh no,” he said. They had separated over twenty years ago. She had fallen in love with another man while they were on holiday in Thailand. It had happened right in front of his eyes.
“And now?” I asked. Somehow, you know she’s no longer with that man.
“She’s been on and off relationships. It’s a pattern,” he said, “and now she’s leaning towards me again.”
He took a sip of his beer and said, “it will never change.”
Hold on a minute. But…”what about you? Are you in a relationship?” I asked.
He shook his head. He’d had a few, nothing meaningful at present.
Ten minutes later I was outside smoking a cigarette, staring at a few blocks of wood on the pavement from which fire came. It was raining, and still there was fire. Another man was looking at that same fire. This man was younger. I first introduced myself to his wife, I’d seen her around in our neighborhood.
“You were wearing really cool track pants today,” I said, “blue with a white stripe. And boots.”
She laughed, “he really hates those,” she said of her husband.
“No, they’re really cool,” I said.
When she went inside, her husband asked who I was texting.
“Someone I love,” I said, “he came into my life and it ended the relationship with the father of my son.”
He said he knew what that felt like. He’d left his wife for a period of five years. But he missed his children, family. So he returned. I wanted to say he was lucky. Not only because of her cool track pants. But for her to take him back.
Was he happy? No, not really. Actually no. And he gave me this look which was meant to be intense and meaningful, but it made me feel both disgust and desire. Disgust because I did not want to be like these people. Desire because for the same reason, I so wanted that someone I love to respond to my text message. It was 11.45 pm, it still wasn’t too late. I could jump on my bike and be wherever he was, kiss him at midnight and say we’ll be fine. It could still happen.
A friend recently posted a message about a latin-american old wives’ tale. It said that whatever you want your new year to be like, you should be doing exactly that at midnight. If you want to travel, walk a block with a suitcase in your hand.
At midnight, I was ordering orange juice, not wanting it to be midnight yet. It could still…
And today, in the park, I saw the man with his wife and a friend of theirs. She was wearing her cool track pants, and the boots. She was talking animatedly with her friend. He had separated himself somewhat, walked a few steps in front of them. Alone.

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