You realize with a shock as you are hugging her that you have arranged to meet at the same coffee shop where you first met your ex-husband. You blurt this out ungracefully as you sit down across from this stranger who has been a planet in your family constellation for more than a year. The other woman your son loves. The other woman your ex-husband loves.
You talk for two and a half hours. She is backlit by a great bank of windows, and it is almost blinding to look at the almost-shadow of her. In a trance of voice and story, tears rising like a buoy to the surface as the tea goes down, you clasp hands across the table like friends, like family. Your cheeks are a deep flush as your heart is doing something strenuous like the last stretch an elastic has to give. You like her, and the ache of it travels around in you like the clot of a lost story.
You drive her home to the place that is not your home, where she will spend the rest of the day with your son and his father. You drive home alone, the car a big gulp of air that no one is breathing. When you get home you are too tired to stand. You look swollen and strange. You understand who you have become: a woman familiar enough with grief to trust the waves that take you out, then bring you back again to shore. A woman who knows it is the struggle that sinks you.