I’ve been on a few dates with a guy. We’ll call him Mr. Ice Cream. (Yes, dating during a pandemic is weird.)
He was at my house last night, eating dinner. In the corner of my dining room is a shelf. Gabriel’s picture, a stuffed animal, and the urn of Gabriel’s ashes. Mr. Ice Cream had been looking around at photos, as one is wont to do. I watched his eyes track to Gabe.
He asked if it was a baby photo of me.
13 years on I have a series of polite and smooth answers, at least most of the time. I have learned, where polite and smooth answers will not work, to divert and distract. To answer one question with another, avoiding bringing the terrible and tragic into the pleasant and the mundane.
I do not know what to call that full and terrible moment between the question and the answer.
If Mr. Ice Cream sticks around long enough, I will tell him about the baby, about how I am a sort of mother, if not exactly. I will tell him that I stare off into the stars sometimes and I am sad.
But for now?
No, I said. That’s not me. But if you look at the photo of my dad over there in that other corner, you can see how much I look like my parents.