For those of you who have followed my work, you know that I dated a young woman with a child. After dating for two years, they moved. Exactly one year ago today — after over a year apart from the little girl — I flew down to see her. Here is the story:
For the better part of two years, I wore a brown hairband around my wrist. I did this for two reasons: I like things on my wrist (but, oddly enough, not bracelets), and it made me feel like part of Kayleigh was with me all the time throughout my day. I don’t wear it anymore. Not because I don’t miss her, and certainly not because I don’t love her. I wore it most of the time while she was still in New York. When she moved, I made it a point to try and wear it every day. Every. Single. Day. I would even turn around and drive home to get it if I wasn’t too far away. I felt naked without it — like a part of me was missing. It sounds stupid, but those of you who wear something often and then forget it one day know the feeling — you just know something is missing; like something is not right
After they left, I had dozens of people — friends, family, even a hack psychic in Long Beach Island — say that I would never see Kayleigh again. Ever. The realistic part of my brain kind of believed it, but the other part of me refused. People who know me well enough know that if I really want something, I’m going to go after it — no matter how slim the odds are. I’m stubborn, and sometimes irrational. I know this. I tend to overthink things, and I tend to see “signs” in things when really it’s just coincidence or nothing at all. As you can see from the photo, the hairband had worn over time and was now hanging on my a few threads. To me, there was the sign.
I had been spending so much time and effort wanting to see her, and all this time, this hairband had not ripped. I figured, if it rips before I see her, then maybe the bond between us really is broken and I’ll likely never see her again. On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, this thing will hold on just long enough for me to see her — a symbol of never giving up and never breaking, even through all the emotional wear-and-tear. In October, I finally put things into motion. I took time off, arranged plans with Kayleigh’s aunt, flew down, rented a car, and drove six hours to see her; the whole time thinking non-stop. Of all the racing thoughts in my head, only one question really mattered: “Will she remember me?”
At this point, I hadn’t seen her in about a year and a half, and she was only 2 years old when she left. I don’t know about you, but I remember nothing from when I was 2. I told her aunt specifically not to tell Kayleigh I was coming. She didn’t. I pulled in, took a few deep breaths and mentally prepared myself — mostly for the worst. The realistic part of my brain said, “There’s no way she remembers you. At best, she may look at you with some familiarity, but at least you’ll get to enjoy your time with her.” The other part of me refused. “I raised her for two years; she has to remember me.”
I got out, walked up the wooden porch, and before I could see her, I heard it. “That’s Mike! Mike! Mike!” From her kitchen table, through a screen door, before I even got all the way up the porch — maybe a distance of 30-40 feet — she knew. I went through the door, dropped my bags, and hugged her. For the next two days or so, we probably spent all of five minutes separated. She didn’t want to leave my side just as much as I didn’t want to leave hers. When it was time to go, I left. I didn’t want to; she didn’t want me to; but I had to. And that brings us back to the hairband.
I don’t wear it anymore. Not because I don’t miss her, and certainly not because I don’t love her. I don’t have the option anymore. Among other things, I left the hairband with her. It was not mine; it was hers. For everything it meant to me, I no longer had use for it, and it was now with its rightful owner. The realistic part of my brain knows that by now it’s likely lost, broken, thrown out, vacuumed up, etc. The other part of me thinks that maybe, just maybe, she still wears it in her hair. And maybe, just maybe, those strands will hold together long enough until we see each other again. I will always believe that unless she’s in the room next to me, in the car seat behind me, or in my arms, she’s not where she belongs. The hairband is. It belongs with her, not me. It’s better off with her. Everything is better with her, especially me.