When you are stuck in the past, there are days you can’t help but lump all your breakups into one big cookie jar and take each one out, one by one, and compare them in the light to see which one is the big winner. For me it’s pretty easy, the worst breakup moment came when I had to tell Ricky that I was going away. I waited till he was asleep to do it since he wasn’t going to really understand anyway. He wasn’t even two yet so how was I going to expect him to even stand still long enough to let me get through my little speech but it was still something that I had to do.
I helped him with his first steps, held him for his baptism, helped throw his first birthday party and he even said “Ockah” before he said “Mama.” Some days, we would be walking down the boulevard, Ricky, his mother and I, as people would stop and say “He’s so beautiful! He looks just like you” and be looking dead at me instead of his mom. After a while you stop trying to correct strangers in the street and just accept the compliment. At least that’s what I told Angela so that she wouldn’t get mad but after a while we both knew that it was something we both wished was true. As if these random comments from the world could be used as testimony in an invisible court that would help us erase Ricky’s father from our lives.
Not that the baby/daddy was that big an obstacle in our lives. All things considered, he was more of an annoyance than anything else. His presence in Ricky’s life was an empty promise that we never took seriously. There were a few times that he acted up and tried to bump me out of the picture but they were usually at his mother’s request and never amounted to anything.
Angela and I broke up for the simple reason that she fell in love with me way before I was ready for anybody to fall in love with me and in an amazing display of the vulgar duality in this universe, the more apathetic I was to her affections, the more Angela loved me. Then we hit the blade of the pendulum, her heart ran out of momentum and she began to retreat from me. The fear of losing her was enough to get me on the opposite end of the scales and now the duality was even more vulgar as the more I declared I couldn’t live without her, the more she wanted to put that theory to the test.
One night, I was cracking wise (like always) and dropped some inappropriate humor in the room and instead of an arm smack and some giggles, I got a look of sheer disgust that sent me into an uproar. Twenty minutes later, it was all done except for the exchange of personal items and my goodbye talk to Ricky.
I got to see Ricky from time to time for the next two years but every time I was fading more and more into the back of his mind. Less and less I was the person who he ran to when he was hurt and more and more I was just another kind stranger. We had this game where I would repeat, “round and round goes the bear,” while rubbing his stomach. After a while I would ask, "Where will he stop?" then spring it on him, “There!” and insanely tickle him. He loved it. Not so much the tickling but the anticipation of it. I would make it last forever some times. Make him say “There! There!” and then spring it on him. Angela would come around for no other reason than to let me say hi to him and that was the one thing that would always bring a smile to his face.
While we would be laughing together, I’d think about how much I remember from when I was two and realize that it’s not much. The countdown was on and soon I would be just a face in some picture. "Mom, who is the man holding me?"
"One of mami's friends that you knew when you were a baby, that's all."
This is why people would dog me out when I showed up with a new girlfriend… and her baby- something that happened often and many when I was in my twenties. It seemed like every single mom in New York had my number. All of them. The ones with porcelain faced children that took your heart away the first time you see them. The ones with demon spawn that say “Bitch” instead of “Mom” and bang their head on cement floors when they don’t get their way. The ones with babies that want to know why their father doesn’t love them and can you play with me, please? The ones with baby/daddies that want to know why “he can’t get his own family.” And the ones that let you put their little ones to sleep so you can smell the milk on their breath, feel them shudder in your arms when you start to lay them to down, hug just a little tighter to let em know it’s ok (for real it is), pat their backs till the heartbeat slows, walk away as if stepping on the barest of ice, and turn off the light switch with a hand that could make origami with rice paper.
Me being twenty-seven and shit, I could have cared less about the opinions of others and cared even less for their advice. Advice was for people who didn’t want to live life, afraid of making their own mistakes. I would just love to go back in time and slap my younger self and tell him that advice can keep you from making the same mistakes over and over again. It can keep you from thinking that you have it all figured out and that it’s going to take more than just an agreement between you and this new woman to keep you from getting caught up in baby mama drama. The fact that you love her doesn’t mean shit and the fact that she loves you means even less of a shit because if you were to stop being so fucking bull headed and actually, ya know, listened for once, you may realize that if she is that much damn love with you, there is no way in hell that she is going to honor her agreement to take things slow and let the relationship develop first and then meet her daughter later. No way in anybody’s hell.
But when you’re twenty-seven and think you got the world by the short & curlys, these things don’t enter your mind and when you knock on the door to find your love standing there, with her daughter staring right at ya, with the most precious smile a four year old can have, saying “Hi, Oscar!” Well, that’s the exact moment you realize who has who by the short & curlys.