A Road Trip Down Memory Lane


… Coming soon to a trainwreck near you.

April 13. 2024
It’s been nine years since my aborted emotional affair with a married man I knew for seventeen years before things turned.
It’s in the rearview mirror. Although, objects in the mirror can be closer than they appear, because the person in question does still visit my website … over nine years later.
I don’t expect a single thing from it anymore. Once upon a time I believed the visits had to “mean” something.
Now, I think all they mean is the person has some concern about how I’m doing, which is nice of him, and that’s it.
One common caveat about extramarital relationships that is given is not to have them at work. Well, I didn’t. This was a social group we were involved in. However, I should have foreseen that with my job, it is still indeed possible to shit where you eat … nine years later. Because of my work, even though we didn’t meet at work!
I spent a good portion of my career traveling to do locum work. Since taking a full-time position at one location, I thought that was over with. I didn’t anticipate things going wayyy south where I am now … partially because of, believe it or not, the married owner’s emotional entanglement with one of the employees. (No, not me!)
The resulting nuclear fallout affected everyone in the place, greatly destabilized the workplace, and had my coworker job hunting. As a result of this, we discovered just how badly underpaid we were. This, and The Great Plumbing Disaster Of 2023, which I am still paying for, in addition to car repairs, student loans, medical bills, and a mortgage, led to me doing a bit of job-hunting myself. (Oh, to finally replace the toilet that’s falling apart! Oh, to finally get the tub drain snaked so it will stop plugging up! Oh, to fix the broken electric socket …)
Turns out there’s a cluster of available jobs … guess where? Right where this person lives. It’s a fairly high-income area, which is why corporations moved in and bought out available businesses I service. And one of them in particular needs a revolving locum person, which I am sort of a specialist at, having done that very thing most of my career. Their locations are fairly spread out, but two of them are right where my ex-affair partner lives.
As always when scoping out new locations, I make sure to test drive to all of them and time myself in order to avoid getting lost on my first day, which I’ve done, and boy, what a mess. I have an in-person interview at one location on Thursday, so I definitely needed to find that one for sure.
I was of course prepared for the idea of scouting locations literally right down the street from my ex. What I was not prepared for was how close the place I interview at on Thursday is to a restaurant we lunched at the few times we actually saw one another during the affair.
This restaurant sits literally at the feet of an unmistakable landmark one cannot miss on the freeway approaching this general area. I never need to drive this way, so the few times I have, I forget this landmark is there, and then it pops over the horizon, and … I remember.
Seems as if the joke is on me.
I’m very lucky this job opportunity didn’t happen even last year. Even so recent as last year, I had the worst time just going out for pho soup, because of memories connected with times I had hoped to one day have. I’m very fortunate to have moved on enough from this that, while a part of me will always be sad we won’t get to have those times, I can see that landmark pop over the horizon every day if I have to without bawling my eyes out.
Today I saw it, felt a momentary sadness, and then I had to laugh at myself. Now I will be reminded every single time I have to make this trip!
But, I will also be reminded of all I know, all I’ve learned, and the things I understand now that I didn’t understand then.
I figured out where the workplace was (it’s not visible from the road), clocked my travel time, then went and got pho soup for lunch.
Then I made the trek to two more locations. One of which is literally right down the street from this person’s house.
I also happen to know there’s a grocery store there. I did need to pick up some things. So, here I am crawling through the parking lot, checking for any familiar vehicles, two of which I know, yet there’s the distinct and ugly possibility of a third I don’t know.
Say I end up working here. This was nine years ago. Should I require a grocery stop before heading home from work … do I inconvenience myself by skipping this one, or do I risk an encounter that may upset someone else more than it would upset me?
Which would end up upsetting me very much in the end as a result.
No. Clearly, this behavior simply isn’t done. Period.
Despite the fact that it would be the most convenient grocery store, this place will have to be off limits. Gas stations, I will just hurry through. That wouldn’t be nearly as bad.
I made my way to the business, noted the time, and then … as I drove out, I recalled a specific restaurant the person in question mentioned as a place he and his wife like to eat.
I recalled it because there it was, directly in front of me.
Another place that will be strictly off limits. Including all other restaurants within a short drive, no matter how hungry I may be after work.
Oy. Who envisioned this, nine years ago?
Of course, this may not happen. My current boss has made me another offer trying to keep me. It would involve being lead person at this office, involving a lot of annoying paperwork I would rather not do, but it would also involve not leaving my friends.
It may also involve another big office blowup to deal with in a couple of years, since these things tend to occur in two-year cycles, we have noticed. (Next year is an off year.)
However, I suspect the corporation will probably make me an offer I can’t refuse. An offer I would be stupid to refuse … considering I’m fifty-five and alone, still drowning in debt, with no loved ones and no family and old age staring me right in the face.
There’s always the chance with these corporations, you will take the job for the money and it will turn out to be a real dreck epic, with personality conflicts you didn’t expect or some other monkey wrench that happens. A friend of mine is dealing with that right now: an unconstructive approach to interpersonal conflicts at work that’s getting her a pile of reprimands from the new management team … even though she’s been there four years with not a single write-up before these two took over.
I have a working interview there, too. Don’t think I’ll take that one, thanks.
One plus for staying where I am: I doubt they’ll ever fire me. I’ve been there on and off since 1998.
But, if the corporation offers me money that could have me out of debt in two or three years …
I guess I will be driving around this person’s neighborhood for a while and looking carefully over my shoulder.
I would be okay if I ran into this person. I mean, sure, I would be a little sad, but I would be okay.
But, it would be awkward. The last thing I heard from this person was, “I made my bed, so now I have to lie in it.”
That’s code for, “I choose to stay in my marriage. No matter what.”
Yet, the person still hangs about.
You run into the person. Whatever does one do? Whatever does one say?
What if the person’s changed enough in appearance that you’re not one hundred percent sure it’s them?
Do you hurt the person more by speaking, or not speaking? I don’t feel as if I have permission to speak to this person. I have always said, I will never contact this person without permission. I have never received permission.
Do multiple visits to a certain website over, Jesus-fucking-Christ, nine years constitute permission? If I saw this person and didn’t speak, would he feel awful because I didn’t speak to him??
I certainly wouldn’t want that. I would speak to him. I just don’t know if it’s okay.
This reminds me of the scene in Sex and the City where the Candice Bergen character is dating a guy who’s seeing someone else; one woman on the east side and one woman on the west side. She runs into him with the other girlfriend and hurries away, a-tiptoe not to be seen.
Good heavens. Is this really me?
I am sitting here laughing at this, really. Chances are I could drive around there every day and never run into this person. The real test would be if the person is on the client list at this particular business. If so, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be able to avoid seeing him in a professional capacity. Or his wife, or someone I know is related to him.
Now, there would be the test.
Greatest test of poise ever: Staring down your ex’s wife or family member, or even your ex himself, because you’re the only one in the building and can’t avoid it.
In nine years, I sure never saw this coming. Yep, there’s something in the horoscopes, but it sure didn’t look like this.
How bewildering.
And why does this guy still hang around, anyway??