A few years ago I had one of the more surreal nights of my life. Funny, I hadn’t thought about it in a long while, but for some reason I was reminded of it the other day.
I was in Vancouver for work and it was my birthday. My first love lives there. He said he’d take me out, knowing I’d want to celebrate with someone close to me, especially when friends of that ilk were home, in Toronto. Mirah, his seven-year-old daughter, also was going to come because he was full-time dad that week. I hadn’t seen her since she was about three or four. Yes, my ex, Sean, and I have stayed parts—albeit fragmentary—of each others’ lives. We have one good, long dinner together about once a year. It was that time.
So there the three of us were, at a table in their favourite sushi restaurant. Mirah had been firing questions at me since they picked me up. She was trying to remember me and, also, like all kids, testing me. When we had ordered, she decided it was no-holds-barred:
- Did you two used to kiss?
- How old were you?
- Why didn’t you stay together?
- But you’re still friends?
- Daddy, why aren’t you still friends with mommy?
Sean and I answered her honestly, and couldn’t stop from smirking and raising our eyebrows at each other. Her clear-cutting directness and honesty inspired the same. With it came a gamut of emotions – regret, nostalgia, and, overwhelmingly, happiness. Here I was with someone whom I had loved so much and still did, now in the platonic sense, plus whom I knew so well. These were bizarre and funny moments that we were getting to share, inspired by the interrogation of a pint-sized, female version of, well, him! We would never have been able to predict this some 17 years ago, when we wrapped up in our love. Sure, we weren’t still together like we had hoped we’d be. But we were in a sense, when everything else was against it.
After dinner, I went back to their place so Mirah’s bedtime wouldn’t cut the evening too short. Sean and I wanted to talk without a mini mediator. Plus she wanted to show me her room. I knew I had finally passed her test when Sean went to read her bedtime stories and tuck her in. She asked that I join him. And with that she also passed my test. I love reading to kids. They’re great and so are their books.
Surreal scene number two: Mirah’s room. She’s in the middle of her bed, with Sean on one side of her and me, of course, on the other, taking turns reading. I don’t think anyone would blame me for the Sliding-Doors moment I had. There we were, the family that could have been. Servers at the restaurant had treated us like a family. Not only were we acting like one, but we looked it too. Mirah is blondish and blue-eyed like me.
I didn’t feel any regret. I was in awe of life, its unpredictability, and its magnitude. Yet there are the tiny things you can attend to – the tentacles that keep all of that sheer vastness together. I felt so grateful.