I met the love of my life, A, two months before he found out he was going to be a father. Our meeting was one of those immediate connections with fireworks and vibrations in your core that I thought only existed in stories. We were enjoying carefree, single-person lives and loving it, but figured out we felt mutual earthquakes and heart palpitations quickly. Meeting up casually on Friday nights quickly turned into goodnight texts and surprising each other with food and coffee on busy Tuesdays. Then Wednesdays and Thursdays.
I was one of the first people he told about his son.
We were lying down on the bed, holding each other after our respective long days. He started telling me about a girl named S, and how they had casually been together in the past. His story dragged on, until eventually he got to the long-delayed line he was so scared to say: “I’m going to be a father.”
I pulled away and sat up, looking at him. “Say that again?”
“I’m going to have a son.”
“Wait, what? Son? How far along is S?”
“Oh. …. Are you getting back together? What does this mean for us?”
“No. And I don’t know.”
My mind was spinning. There were a million more questions to ask, but I couldn’t find the words. So I settled down, this time putting my arms around him.
“Congratulations. And I’m sorry.”
He held me like his life depended on it, and we’ve been holding each other tightly ever since.
As the months went by our relationship only strengthened, as we realized that everything else aside, this was the partnership we had both dreamed about. No matter what happened, we were worth it. We supported each other in the stressful moments that made up only a fraction of our otherwise amazing life.
I got a great job at home, three thousand miles away, and we’re doing the long-distance dance. I proposed first, during a visit in the fall, writing it out on a napkin I now have framed. He made me a ring, and gave it to me on bended knee the night we celebrated our January Christmas, with a tree we cut down from the woods. We’re planning to get married winter of 2015. If this were a fairytale, our love story would be that simple. We overcame a time of adversity, only to emerge triumphant and carefree in time for the credits to roll.
But this is real life, where you can’t always choose the other characters that you meet along the way, and there is no such thing as good and evil. Only complicated people. Our life’s story will always include S, and their son. He’s a happy, healthy baby, with a million possibilities in front of him and surrounded by people who love him. Including S. And the story she had planned for herself did not involve me.
S had feelings for A, and wanted to be a mom. She thought A would be excited to have a son with her, as he had raised a child not biologically his for eight years in a previous relationship only to have contact cut off when he left the deeply problematic relationship. (I like my wine and coffee like I like my men: complex. His path is a tale for another time.) The story she had written involved cohabiting co-parenting, and a future as a happy family together out of her parent’s basement.
We all react differently when reality is different than how we imagined. S feels betrayed by A. She is angry. At us. At me. At what she saw as a chance to change her life for the better, only to fall further into the grips of the spiral of poverty. None of us are financially well off, but A and I have advantages she does not, including established careers (him) and college degrees (me). There is only so much we can do.
S loves her son, and wants the best for him. So does his father. And so do I. If I somehow thought leaving the love of my life would help his baby boy grow up in a happier, more stable environment, then that is what I would do. The tension between S and me is not healthy, to the point where my anxiety has me almost physically ill at times. I can only guess how it’s affecting her, as I’m hardly her confidante, but living with this kind of stress and hostility can never be a good thing. Our relationship is Newtonian in nature, where one puts in energy and the other reacts just as fiercely in opposition. But my leaving would just lead to more sorrow in what should be a happy time for everyone.
This is the path I am on. I have accepted that. This includes mourning the life A and I could have had. I allow myself to imagine it once in awhile, in the moments where we can forget the hostility that’s being sent in our direction.
Then I look again, at the life I actually have. I love A. We are lucky to have found each other. Planning our wedding and our life together is a joyful act. I don’t know exactly where the different twists and bends along this road will take us, and there’s beauty in that.
I just hope that somehow S and I will find some peace. Because we might have at least one thing in common. We are each struggling to reconcile the place where our stories meet. Hoping that maybe, possibly, there will be a happy ending.