The Crush

He nearly breezed past my office before I called to him, and I could tell that while my face was familiar to him right away, it was not the face he expected to see from five years before.

“Oh,” he said. “Oh, it’s you! Hey!”

But then his eyes opened wide as he processed the tableau before him: Cluttered office. McDonald’s breakfast wrappers on the desk. Toddler reading on a bean bag chair. Pregnant woman at the center of it all, someone he might have known, but she was older. Flabbier. Mommy-er.

He, on the other hand, hadn’t changed a bit. Same tan, same hair, same steely penetrating eyes.

My former crush.

He was one of those wild boys: Artistic, independent, rugged. The type to backpack in Tibet one moment then jet home in time for Burning Man, all while making art and music and, most likely, mad love to scores of women. He was totally out of my league, and utterly impractical as an object of my affection: The perfect target. At least back when I was single, styling, and any circles under my eyes stemmed not from 6 a.m. baby wakings but 6 a.m. walks of shame with the occasional bold-faced name.

Our relationship never progressed beyond stares that lingered too long and hugs that were just a little tighter than most. It was enough.

“Yeah, pregnant again,” I shrugged as I hoisted myself up from my desk chair with as little grunting as I could muster and waddled over to the doorway.

There was a brief awkward hug as he craned his neck over my shoulder to stare at Thalia, clearly the biggest change of all. Even more than the McDonald’s biscuit crumbs on the desk. He didn’t say hi to her. He didn’t try to curry favor with her. He motioned vaguely towards her as if she were a chair. Or maybe a ficus. “Who’s this?” felt more like “What’s this?” Her mere presence seemed to leave him grasping for words, for comfort.

We quickly switched topics back to the common denominators – travel, writing, work, life in general. The conversation was brief and filled strained pleasantries that reminded me of that Dan Fogelberg song that always makes me tear up against my will around Christmas every year. Except he wasn’t an old lover, I hadn’t married an architect, and I wasn’t about to sit in the car with him drinking champagne and laughing til we cried. He was just a guy I kind of liked once, who had once made me think maybe, just maybe, if the timing was right…

And then he said goodbye and slipped away, back down the hallway, perhaps trying to figure out how my life had gone in a direction so very different than one that the freewheeling single, urban chick he had known once in his life might have predicted.

I’m not generally surprised nor regretful when I perceive doors that were once open, closing shut as I outgrow their usefulness or reach new stages in my life.

What shook me, however, was how this one seemed to slam with such a resounding, thunderous boom.


53 thoughts on “The Crush”

  1. Anyone who would look at Thalia (or any toddler) as if she were a ficus, as if she were a <>thing<>, even perhaps an inconvenience, doesn’t deserve your regret, n’est-ce pas? I am outraged on her behalf.

  2. My ex-fiancee, whom I was with for six years, and from whom, I put up with more than any sane woman would have have because I loved him like crazy, called me shortly after the birth of my first son. He said, “What did you have?” What. I said coldly, “A baboon.” He was actually irritated that I was irritated. I wondered what in the world I ever found worth fighting for in him. He was beautiful, but he was empty.Don’t be sad about what could have been. What is is so much nicer, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

  3. wow, that was some damn good writing, lady. and yeah, that stupid song gets me every year, too.

  4. I agree with slouching mom-anyone who could look at Thalia and not immediately fall in love would have never been the right guy for you!

  5. That feeling…I know that feeling SO well. Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I always tear up at that song, too.

  6. I’ve been looking backwards lately and this post really resonated with me.But on the other hand, it sounds like this is the kind of guy who would have hurt you.Lovely.

  7. I dunno Liz, I think you were star crossed from the start. The guy you just described would never tolerate being set to an easy listening soundtrack.

  8. I think the Big Fat Loss is his, no?But I know what you mean. No going back. Not at all.(unless you want to go lesbian. because I have been told I have smoldering eyes).

  9. You are such a great writer – had to de-lurk to comment on this post. I felt like I was reading this great beginning to a novel…I didn’t want it to end! Truly love your blog, you bring a smile to me every day!

  10. It’s scary , isn’t it – when the thunder of slamming doors takes you by surprise. It freaks me out; I am learning though… no matter how tightly a door is closed, you can usually open it if you need to. Even if you have to pick the lock. Or rip that sucker off its hinges.And even if its only to reassure yourself that you won’t miss what’s on the other side.

  11. This really resonates with me. But for me, it is the people I used to travel the world with – the ones who decided not to procreate – with whom I have the same awkward, slightly wistful conversations. When we meet there are discussions of adventures once had, adventures they are still having, adventures they are about to have.I am always left with that “what if…” feeling. It makes me question my choices. But these days, for less and less time. Must mean I’m finally coming to term with being stationary – somewhat.

  12. Much like Queen Haline says, I have moments where I come across someone who didn’t have children and is spending his/her time pursuing art, and I am wistful – what would that be like to have all my time be mine again? But it would be far sadder for me to be looking the other direction across the differences, and wondering what it would be like to have a child.Great post.

  13. That was an excellent post. It falls at a time when I just ran into an “old crush” from high school. His non-chalant attitude reminded me of why I dumped him in the first place. He looked at my 4.5 yr old son in the shopping cart & said, “How many of those do you have?” What a dumb ass! My reply was, “None with you thank goodness!”

  14. This is a great post.I have two very close friends who don’t have kids and who are, as I once was, ambivalent about it. We were more or less together in that until I jumped ship. Although they would never be callous or uncaring–they are a little freaked and it is a process for us in our friendship to figure out which doors to close and keep open and go through together. Even though it’s off-topic, a little, that’s what came up for me when I was reading your well-put piece.Did I mention it was a great post?

  15. Fabulous words evoking vivid images. A familar theme remastered. Well done Mom 101. And how I love that song.

  16. Even though I knew the broad outlines of this story already, and even though I have not (yet) had an experience like that since becoming a mother, this send a chill down my spine. The closing of doors to the phantom you, the you that you might have been, the you that you never had the opportunity to embrace or reject… those, I think, are the heaviest doors. The force of their slam, yes, causes an bone-shaking echo.

  17. Damn. I was reading along, completely agreeable, and then I got to the part about the Dan Fogelberg song, and REALLY got it. Great post.

  18. Brilliant, vivid writing. I could smell the leather on him.He was wearing leather, yes? Black leather? Jacket and pants? And that’s because he arrived on his Vincent Black Shadow, after lunch at an understated but deeply hip restaurant on Abbott Kinney Road having broken (artisan) bread with, say, Leonardo or Jake G.Yeah, that’s all very well for the hipster. But, as others wisely implied, if he can’t acknowledge Thalia fully, hipster dude can just go back to Tibet and get altitude sickness.Don’t let that resonding boom bother you, M101. It’s just noise.

  19. Liz, I continue to love reading your writing and give it up for blogging. It’s right there to read with immediate notification in my bloglines. Great tech continues to blow me away. I am seeing your mom this week. You can bet that we will make a forest fire in your ears. Bonnie

  20. Well said.That resounding boom always haunts me when I hear it too.Until I come to my warm and safe home, filled with love and safety and the promise of more days of both to come, and suddenly the boom fades and is replaced by the giggles (and barks) of love.Until the next door slams and the circle continues. Sigh.

  21. I think we all have these moments, huh? I’m envious that you can write about yours. My husband would have a shit fit. And he shouldn’t- Obviously, we were all just wandering fools before we met our life partners. 🙂

  22. Yes, it’s odd to have one of those “if only…” moments hit when you run into an ex (or someone that had the potential to be an ex.)But this post reminds me of that apropos quote from Sixteen Candles, where the dad says to Samantha: “That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else.”(I’m full to the brim with useless 80s trivia, that I can just whip out for any situation. Whatta skill, eh?)

  23. Ficus? There’s a name for baby #2It’s funny how people who aren’t there yet just don’t get it. The next time you run into him…Thalia and sibling will be teenagers and he could have babies and he still won’t get it. Like you said, timing. I feel as if I could visualize it all unraveling. You are a writer!

  24. Delurking to say this was lovely. I’ve been spending a lot of time ruminating on my past lately, and instead of writing so eloquently, like you did, I went out and got a new haircut.Wish I’d done it your way.

  25. For years, I used to judge people on whether they looked me in the eye when they shook my hand, said “bless you” when I sneezed, or held the elevator door open for another person. Now, I find that the best judge of a person’s character is how they treat a child. Anyone who doesn’t say hi to a cutie like Thalia probably kicks the dog when nobody’s looking. Consider yourself lucky!

  26. I used to get crushes all the time…especially when pregnant. I totally had the hots for my OB-GYN.Later it was the minister, a teacher, even the church’s custodian:0Luckily, lately I’ve been crushin’ on my hubby…what’s up with that???

  27. I’m with MetroDad. Anyone who is not kind to my child/children isn’t worthy of a second thought.Incidentally, remember the ex from the rollerblading story? Ran into him at Home Depot as I was recovering from the flu. I waved hi and scuttled away with TQ because I was so embarrassed as I was all red nosed and sick looking.He told a mutual friend about our chance encounter and said “Her little girl is so cute.”Now I can’t hate him…

  28. And he might have secretly wondered if those babies and their mother could have been his life had the timing been right.

  29. I know this guy. Clearly he’s not right for you, but to be fair, I might have done the same thing before I had kids. I had no idea.

  30. De-lurking to say how much I like your site – this post in particular.I think all women at some level can relate.

  31. I think the closing of the door sounds louder when it’s done by circumstance or the other person…and not by us. I mean…that’s just my take on things.

  32. This post was wonderful, and reminded me of the day when my door slammed shut, and even though I was married and had 3 beautiful boys, how much it hurt.

  33. So very weird. I ran into my crush this past weekend. Last time I saw him I was 37 weeks pregnant and his eyes popped out of his head when we saw me. I guess I looked a little like shit last time, lol. Anyway, it’s a very strange how immediatly the what if’s pop in your head…

  34. What an astute description of those chance run-ins that magnify by 3,000 times the ways our lives have changed. And also the distinctly un-glamorous way we sometimes feel as mothers. Particularly pregnant ones. He sounds like a bit of a cold fish though. You would have only dated him while suffering from low self-esteem. You would have dumped him the moment you re-gained it, because clearly, you are WAY too good for him. I was right there with you though. Great piece.

  35. I feel like such a copy – cat, it had definitely all been said before. But I just had to comment. This is my first visit, and to quote the movie “You had me at hello.” You somehow managed to turn a simple story, into this beautiful, epic novel. When it ended, I was ready to continue reading! Of course… isn’t that how it always happens? I always manage to run into people when I’m not exactly looking my best. But it sounds to me like he’s the one who lost out. I look forward to visiting again!

  36. oh yeah all the what-ifs men! It wasn’t your fate to be with him!

  37. Perchance do you have a mop? Bossy’s husband will need one to mop Bossy off the floor after this post. Siiiiiigh.

  38. hey, so i know this feeling well. it sucks! one grammatical error though.. your life is different FROM not THAN his… i think. i could be wrong but i believe it well! you are too good for that louse who probably has a small you know what.

  39. yeah – but he’s a sad loser and you’re not only carrying out the hardest job in the work – on top of everything he may be doing – you’re also performing a miracle!

  40. Ouch. That door slam’s gotta hurt just a bit. It’s amazing to think about how much your life has changed, isn’t it?

  41. Just stumbled across this blog while Googling. Gotta love Google.I have had this feeling many times, as well. What I finally realized is that, sometimes, as writers — we give up the external life for the internal life. We write what we want to do, how we want to see ourselves.In other words, it’s not the guy. It’s the lifestyle he leads that you crave. He is firmly planted in terracotta, to borrow from Laurel & Hardy. His world is hard edges and landscapes and flesh and bone. Find a way to marry his world with yours — and after awhile, you won’t even remember what color his eyes were.Go to Burning Man. Run around naked in the mud somewhere. Take your kids to a house concert or a coffee house and let them run around naked too.I’m definitely bookmarking your blog to revisit. 🙂

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