It is 1998. I am in my bedroom around 11:000 at night, and my pager buzzes. I dial her number.
“Hey,” she says.
“Are the boys asleep?”
“I think so.”
“Good. I have a couple of things I want to talk to you about.”
“First, I got a new job! I interviewed over at Cosmetic Associates and got it. It pays more. I gave my two seek notice yesterday, but since we’re overstaffed right now, Dr. Ibis told me I could go ahead and start over there Monday if I want to. He was totally cool about it, said if I ever needed a reference or whatever he’d give me one, or that I’d be welcome back if things didn’t work out.”
“Well, that’s exciting. Good for you.”
“The other thing is… I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
She’s waiting for me to ask why, but I’m not going to do it.
“The truth is, I still have feelings for…”
“… your ex, I know. It’s fine, really. I’m glad you’re able to admit you have feelings for him… well, for anybody, really. You are a loving person at heart, I know it.”
Silence for a moment, before she breaks into “Tuesday, did you tell that little girl I would take care of her, and make sure everything was okay? I thought it must have been you.”
“Yes, that was me.”
“That was very sweet.”
“You’re great with kids, I’ve seen you.”
“She was adorable. She just clung to me the few minutes her mother was in with the doctor.”
There are a few more moments silence.
“You aren’t making this easy, you know,” she says suddenly.
“How? I’m not even arguing.”
“Because you’re so nice to me, even though I’ve told you I don’t love you. I haven’t been nearly as nice to you. It isn’t really fair.”
“Look, you’ve always been totally honest and upfront with me, and that means a lot. You and I are just not… we’re not ‘destinations’ for each other, not stopping places. It’s no more complicated than that. We each move on.”
More silence, which I break this time.
“Look, Lisa — I am very fond of you,” I say. “I hope you’ll be happy with your new job. I know you’ll do great. Although, honestly, I won’t miss your horrible taste in music.”
“Great. We break up, and only then do I get my first laugh out of you. You know what else is ironic?”
“That we break up just as it becomes cool, workwise, for us to be seeing each other.”
“Wasn’t that part of the attraction?” she asks.
“… oh, and one last thing: the woman I was seeing broke it off.”
“And how are you feeling about that?”
“Relieved, honestly. She never lied to me – and it wasn’t my fault if I was lied to in the past – plus, we just weren’t right for each other. I am as worthy of love as anyone, I know.”
“Do you mean that, or is that part of the exercise I gave you?”
“Some of both, I think. Which is pretty damn good.”
“How are things at work?”
“Better. I’ve been able to focus better.”
“Well, truthfully, even though you have a session left, I think we’re done here. Unless there is something else you feel like you want to get done, I think you have what it takes to deal with what you’ve got.”
“Keep in touch. Let me know how things are going.”
He claps me on the shoulder as I pass back through the door into the lobby. The girl and her mother are back, and the girl, who appears to be about nine years old is asking the new receptionist where Lisa is.
“You must be LaTonya,” she says. “Lisa’s gone to work somewhere else, but she left some things for you,” she said, bringing out a stack from underneath the counter.
On top of the stack was a card. The girl opened it, reading it carefully. She smiled as she read.
Next was a package she opened. It contained a diary. “She said she writes in hers every night,” the girl said to her mom.
I moved to the side of them, telling the new receptionist I need to cancel my last appointment.
“Hello, there” the mom said.
“That’s quite a daughter you have there,” I said, and they both smiled at me.
I turned to leave. It was time to get on with my life.