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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

Thursday March 25, 2010

A man pushes a baby carriage. Passing him on the street, you look inside—and stop in your tracks.

On most days she loved the feel of her sneakered feet on the concrete and a breeze not brought courtesy of Trane on her face, but today’s walk just felt like a chore.  Something else to do before she could finally collapse on the couch.  Gracie had launched into a spirited bark-fest the minute her car pulled into the driveway.  She may not always notice “leave it” when spoken with the calm authority Karen had learned to use in obedience school, but she never failed to stir at the merest hint that a walk might be imminent.  Karen couldn’t really blame her, she had a touch of selective attention herself.

While Gracie stopped to examine the Foster’s blooming tulips, Karen spots a fellow post-work stroller up ahead.  The sight catches her selective attention primarily because of the familiar gait (could that really be Jim in her neighborhood) and the fact that it looks like the guy is pushing a baby carriage.  Not a stroller, but what used to be called a perambulator, the kind of thing that looks like a crib on wheels with a lacy awning.  Who actually owns and uses a baby carriage?  Certainly not Jim, Mr. I Don’t Actually Want Children, I Just Made You Think I Did for Awhile So I Could Sleep with You.  Certainly not him.

Attempting the calm authoritarian “leave it” she had been practicing, she managed to get Gracie to pick up the pace so she could check this out.  The closer she got, the more she was sure it was Jim.  In spite of the weird baby carriage prop, she recognized the faded mid-90’s concert t-shirt that only a very few die-hard fans hadn’t gotten rid of long ago.  That was the thing about Jim though, the guy flatly refused to admit that he was no longer in his 20’s.

“Hey Jim!” she called in what she hoped sounding like a friendly hello and not like the what-the-hell are you doing here you commitment phobe assault that it actually was.

“Oh hi Karen and ……. Gracie.  Looks like Gracie is doing well”.  He sounded shy and almost shaky.  Odd.  Jim didn’t really do shaky.

“Yeah, she’s a pretty happy little dog.  So, what are you doing walking around the burbs with a baby carriage?”  The words sounded accusatory even to her ears, but it hardly mattered, she wanted to know.

“Well, Gina needed a break and so I decided to get outside and get some air.  The walking really calms her down.  The baby I mean, not Gina.”

“The baby?  I know it’s been a few months, but ….”

“Gina.”  He practically spit the word into the middle of her sentence.  “Gina had the baby back in February and I’ve been trying to do what I can to help out”.

Karen was fairly certain that the words kept coming, but she didn’t hear anymore after that.  All she could hear was the word Gina.  The way his voice had sounded when he said it.  An echo of the way that word had always sounded in his mouth.  Close and intimate.  Gina, his friend from work had a new baby that Jim was helping out with?!!  Her math skills were never great and math under pressure was certainly not her friend, but she was pretty sure that the news of this baby would have come right when Jim suddenly just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I’m Not Father Material Jim had left her for prissy, pregnant British Gina who made him push a BABY CARRIAGE in public?!!

This was more than she could handle.  She should have just let Gracie bark, the dog would have gotten tired and abandoned her hope of a walk eventually.  Of course, that option was off the table.  All she could do now was concentrate on holding a pleasant expression on her face while ushering Gracie in the opposite direction.

“Well, good luck with that Jim.  Enjoy the walk.”

Her feet made their way towards home and the waiting comfort of the couch.  Settling in beside Gracie, she couldn’t get the image of that ridiculous baby carriage out of her mind.

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