The One That Got Away

Day 2 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day–the one whom you often call “The One That Got Away.”  What happens?

It was early evening last Sunday in the city.  The air was unseasonably warm for February so I decided to take a stroll down to my favorite confectionery shop.  It was Valentine’s Day and I was feeling a little pathetic.  There’s nothing like a shot of sugar to make things right.  Unfortunately, everyone this side of Broadway had the same idea, singles and couples alike.  The line was especially long but since I was in no rush, I decided to wait it out.  I had been hankering for a sweet bun all day and I wasn’t going to be frightened off by a 20 minute wait.  I knew I wouldn’t regret it.

I was standing there watching against my will, the 2 kids in front of me making out.  I was wondering to myself how they wound up here when it was quite clear that they were in the wrong place for the type of buns they really wanted, when I suddenly felt a tap on my left shoulder.  As I turned around, there was an incredibly tall, absolutely gorgeous woman smiling down at me.  She was wearing high heels that accentuated her beautiful, shapely legs.  She seemed a bit overdressed in a skirted business suit for a Sunday, but I could tell at first glance her threads did not come cheap.

I hate to admit it, but I was struck with a slight pang of envy.  Her hair, shiny and perfectly straight down the middle of her back, was the color of wheat.  And her eyes…those eyes.  Why did they look so familiar?  I remember feeling like I knew her somehow.  But upon checking my memory files, I came up empty.

After seconds that seemed more like minutes, I finally spoke.  “Yes?  Can I help you?” I said to this stranger.  When she opened her mouth to speak, I was struck by the sound of her voice.  Very reminiscent of Kathleen Turner sans the fake British accent.

“Hey, Clem.  It’s me, Bill!  How long has it been?” she exclaimed while placing her manicured, red fingered right hand over her chest.  Clem?  How does she know my nickname?  I only knew one Bill and he was a he.  And as long as never…because I don’t know you lady.  Wait.  What?  I’m sure the look on my face did nothing but convey my confusion.  She exasperatedly said, “Bill Thompson??  Umm, we only dated for about 5 years back in the ’90’s?”  She seemed little offended.

There wasn’t a crane in the world that could have lifted my jaw off the ground.  When I came to and managed to work up enough saliva to speak again, the only thing I could think of to say was, “Bill???”  Brilliant.  “Well, my name is Wilomena now.  But yes, it’s me.  What’s the matter?  Have you not seen a woman inside a man’s body before?  You live in New York.  Really?”

My faced burned red with embarrassment.  Not for her.  But for me.  I was acting like a complete ass.  “I’m so sorry, Bill.  I mean Wilomena.  I was just…surprised.  I don’t do well with surprises.  You know that.  And it’s really great to see you.  But I need to ask…why?”

He talked about his love of women’s clothing, his gender confusion growing up, dolls, men.  All things that I never knew.  And how can he just casually refer to our relationship as “dated?”  Bill and I met in high school and continued our love affair into college.  He was the love of my life.  I’ve dated others since him, but since I was always comparing them to Bill, things never quite worked out.

When he broke up with me, it took months to get over him.  I was certain that we would marry.  In my mind, I had pictured our wedding day (September) and what our children would look like (blonde, blue eyed beauties — one boy, one girl, in that order).  He had said there was someone else.  I assumed it was a woman.  Sure it was a woman…the woman dying to get out.  Poor guy.  Poor me.

As we stood there in this pastry shop, talking about what we were up to, it occurred to me that I had missed all the signs.  I remember catching him in my underwear once.  And he used to ask me what it was like to have boobs.  He was more pretty than handsome.  He did seem a little feminine, but I just thought he was one of those touchy-feely sensitive kind of guys.  God, how did I miss that one?  I was always told that I didn’t pay much attention to detail, but come on.

Finally, it was my turn to order the sweet bun I had been craving all day.  Except I had lost my appetite and instead ordered an extra large Latte.  If they served alcohol in that joint, I would have had three shots of whiskey added.  We hugged each other goodbye, exchanged the usual pleasantries and I was on my way.

So, that was “the one that got away” as they say.  Suddenly, it struck me as funny.  I started giggling to myself and within a few moments I was catapulted into fits of laughter.  Not because he was now a she, but because of the irony of it all.

At the end of the day, I’m happy for Wilomena/Bill.  She seemed to be in a good place.  As for me?  Well, I will be staying far away from men who cry at “The Way We Were.”  12 times.  Probably not a good sign.  Or a good fit for me.

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3 Replies to “The One That Got Away”

  1. So interesting that this old boyfriend of yours changed so much, Maureen…wow! that’s quite a transformation. If he can do it, I guess I can walk my path, right? Of course, it’s a different one, but i am meant to stand in my truth and not allow myself to get distracted by others and their fear. It will all be good. Thanks for sharing this story…everyone should be their true selves.

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