I have a friend. A Facebook friend, really. Our sons play college football together. She and I live hours and hours apart so we only see each other fall weekends. We message via Facebook a lot and make plans for post-game dinners and talk about the boys’ school.
She is divorced and remarried. She wed her new husband last spring. It was a very low-key affair that only merited a few Facebook postings.
Her ex, always at the games is remarried too. He's been married for fifteen years to the woman he cheated on her with. And yet, she and the ex are partners. They remained in close contact raising their now, nearly adult son. And, from what I have seen, they are genuine friends.
I am Facebook friends with the ex, too. I am often sweetly surprised to see one or the other posting something and the other commenting on it. They laugh at the same dumb posts. They support each other, too.. "Heard your mom was ill, hope she's back at 'em, soon.." That kind of thing.
Sometimes when she messages me about something like who is bringing ketchup to the next tailgate, his name pops up. "Will Joe* bring something?" "Will he get there early enough?" That's when I sense a wistfulness in her that I never hear when she talks about her current husband. She mentions him infrequently, at best.
Late last night she messaged me. The first football game had been a mess. Weak defense. Crappy offense. And we were all disappointed, but she said. "It was a nice day. Joe’s wife wasn’t there, so that always makes it better. Joe is so much more relaxed. Warmer." And then she typed, “We would have been married 22 years, last Thursday.”
I was struck with a sense of romance. It was like listening to a Taylor Swift song about unrequited desire. Now, these two do not look much like Taylor and one of the perfect young men in her videos. They look more like characters in a sitcom -- the dumpy-ish neighbors, not the attractive leads. But this half-bald, beer-gutted, middle-aged man suddenly caught my attention as the prince of her romantic fantasy. The one that got away.
I doubt their story will end with the two of them gently divorcing their current spouses, then riding off into the sunset, but I began writing it in my head so that it did. A football injury (nothing too devastating, for their son) leads to a night of comfort and confessions of love in a hospital waiting room, possibly.
And that's what's amazing about being a writer. I get to make all the stories endings just the way I want.
*Not his real name. I'll never use real names.
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