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After I never saw him again... until I did

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As part of my HERE Year, I solicited submissions on this month's topic of Time. The loose guidelines: Tell me about a Moment in Time when your life changed (for the better or worse)... Could be the birth of a child, or a climbed mountain, or the loss of a loved one or something seemingly tiny and ordinary that altered your existence in a way that's meaningful... Anything goes.

Cue a flurry of wonderful essays. I hope to post many of them. It is my deep belief that we are all better off when we share our stories happy and sad, big and small, that there is something liberating and inspiring about trading tales. And so, without further ado, I bring you a beautiful and poetic piece from a friend and fellow writer Evelyn Lauer.

After I never saw him again... until I did

by Evelyn Lauer

There was always an after. After he broke up with me. After I broke up with him. After we got back together. After he called and told me he was having a child – with another woman. After we split up. After the towers fell and the world seemed lonely. After I was lonely, beyond so lonely. After I e-mailed and he called. After we spent that magical summer together. After the Cubs lost. After he said I love you and walked out of my apartment. After I never saw him again.

That kind of after. After until after with him turned into happily ever after with someone else. After I exchanged vows and bought a house and dreamed of having babies. After he contacted me on Facebook. After we exchanged e-mails. After I learned I was pregnant. After we stopped communicating. After I had babies, after all of that, there was this:

A moment.

Two cars. Two cars on a busy highway traveling home from work.

A beautiful day in May, sunlight illuminating the trees like an Instagram filter. The windows rolled up instead of down because two children are screaming in the backseat, driving their mother crazy.

I am their mother. I love them more than anything.

And then I see it.

The car to my left beginning to slow down. A person honking the horn.

It's him.

There in the car next to me, trying to get my attention. His face, a face I haven't seen in ten years.

I've imagined this: the profile of someone who looks like you in the car next to me on this highway, how I’ve wanted him to be you, always. But it’s never you.

Until today.

It’s your face with two windows between us. You look desperate to reach me. To shatter the glass and erase the space, the ten feet between your steering wheel and mine.

But when I turn and look, instead of meeting your blue eyes, instead of pulling them into me with a smile or a wave, I look away.

I talk to my kids to make it seem like I don’t see you. When I look back, your car has disappeared into the rush-hour traffic. I turn up the radio.

After a song plays.

After I reimagine this scene in 80 different ways.

After I breathe.

After A.J. asks for his apple juice.

After Noah says, “Mommy.”

After I saw you on the highway.

After that?

I drive home.

After I think of you.

After I feel guilty for thinking of you.

After dinner is made.

After the lunches are packed.

After the bedtime stories are told.

After my head hits the pillow.

After I dream.

After the alarm goes off.

After I shower.

After I keep living my life without you.

After I keep writing these words about you.

After I love my husband.

After no one understands.

After everyone understands.

There was that time when you compared us to two parallel roads that keep intersecting. And we were. For forever, we were. But after that day on the highway, we became what we were always meant to be: you                                                                                          me.

And that space between us.

*

Evelyn is working on a memoir based on this piece. She writes for the Huffington Post and other publications. You can visit her website at www.evelynalauer.com.

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