Keeping My Head Above Water

October, 1991.

I wandered through my days that fall in a fog.  I was leaving the house at 7:30am to drop Zachary off at daycare before student teaching every morning at a school twenty minutes from home.  At 11:30 each day, I’d leave there with my carpooling friends and we’d drive the thirty minute drive into the city to attend classes.  I’d return home on the good days around 4pm, but on the heavy days at 7 or 7:30.  I felt badly for leaving Zachary in daycare so much, but I told myself that the situation was only temporary; just a few months, and then I’d be student teaching.  Student teaching would be a break compared to this schedule.

I was working with students, working on my teaching portfolio, interviewing for next winter’s assignments and generally putting my face forward with people who didn’t know what had happened to me the previous summer.  In fact, most people I saw on a daily basis had no idea that this 21 year old girl was the mother of a two year old child, either.  It just wasn’t information I went around broadcasting.  And maybe it was better that way, that I had to keep a stiff upper lip and not let on the myriad of emotions going through my head and heart on a day to day basis.  Working so hard meant that I had no choice but to push them aside and focus on something else.

The feelings would creep up on me at times, like in a quiet moment at the library or when I watched a student struggle to read a particularly hard passage in our book, or when I was waiting for the copier to spit out exactly what I needed.   Or at night, when I was reading Zach his bedtime story and I would quietly pause and look out the window of his tiny bedroom out into the darkness outside.

I just couldn’t reconcile the events of the last two months with logic and reason.  Where had everything gone wrong?  I was supposed to be getting married, thinking about white dresses, planning a life with the guy who had been my first love, and had planned to be my last. If I just closed my eyes for a minute, I could pretend that he was down in Georgia, and we were both just biding our time, that the Phone Conversation had never happened.

But it did.  And another one never did happen.  There was no other choice as the weeks wore on without any word from him than to believe that he had spent a few fun weeks with me making promises that he’d never intended to deliver upon.

I didn’t want to be this unhappy.  I was angry at myself for allowing myself to become this unhinged.  This couldn’t be the definition of me.  This couldn’t be the moment that would dictate where I went next.  I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the good things around me.  None of those things had changed in the last eight weeks.  They were all still here. My friends were so kind and so thoughtful in those days and weeks after Ray left.

I couldn’t let myself stay down.  It wasn’t just about me anymore.  I resolved to shut down that part of my heart, the one that wanted to have that romantic kind of attachment.  It just didn’t make any sense for someone like me at this stage.  Maybe in five years, or ten, when the rest of my peers had caught up with me in their life choices.  But not now.  I couldn’t afford to lose my head again.

There was just too much at stake now.

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