I spend a lot of time walking through bookstores. Well, just one bookstore. When Hastings closed several years ago, Barnes & Noble has been my one source for instant book gratification. Well, that and my Kindle. Most times I buy something. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic. Tonight I picked up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien even though I haven’t finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts nor have I started Michael Crichton’s Dragon Teeth. Lingering in my head as I made way down the aisles, scanning spines for titles that were familiar and new, was Shaun’s counseling session.

A few months ago, Jeanna and I agreed we’ve give child counseling a try. After all, we couldn’t explain Shaun’s sudden change in mood. Sure, part of it could be school. But his silent treatment and whispered conversation began to spread across non-school days. He no longer wanted to go to the movies because he feared the loud noises. He hated going to stores that weren’t Barnes & Noble for the same reason. We couldn’t figure out what exactly was going on with our child, so we looked for assistance. And today Shaun just wanted me to go into the room with him, while Jeanna waited in the lobby. A decision that I didn’t anticipate.

I won’t go over the details of the conversation, just the part that stuck in my head.

“Have you ever been to the beach?” his counselor asks. “Yes,” Shaun replies. “When was the last time you’ve been to the beach?” “A long time ago. But not too long ago.” “And who did you go with?” “Mommy and Marcos.” “Is Marcos another little boy?” “No.” “Who’s Marcos, Shaun?” she asks. He hesitates to answer, so she continues, “Is he Mommy’s friend?” She gives me a look, a pained smile across her face because maybe she’s uncertain if I knew about this possible interloper. “Yes.” “Is Marcos nice to Mommy?” she asks, and I understand that this is protocol. She’s not insinuating that the man who’s been planning secondary parent is abusive, but my intestines still clench with anxiety. “Yes,” he answers.

There was a time I saw Marcos as my competition, my adversary. It’s the first time I felt the bite of jealousy in my thoughts. This was before coming to terms that I was no longer in the running.

There are still times when I’m William Borgens “staring through the window into my ex-wife’s new life” and how seeing them together is “like turning on a familiar sitcom, and realizing they had replaced one of the lead actors with a stranger.” How the show remained the same but the actor who played Guillermo for nearly ten years was gone.

I close my eyes for a bit. The last night catching up with me this morning. I’m not a drinker, mind you; I’m just not as young as I once felt. The counselor pries a bit, but Shaun, like his father, holds back on discussing his feelings. Maybe when he learns to put his thoughts on the page, he’ll find a way through them. Until now, counseling sessions with this woman. After the session, she asks Shaun if he’s ready to visit her without one of us in the room. He wasn’t. Not just yet, anyway.

After eating and giving Jeanna the quick rundown on what was said about Marcos, I came into my room and just crashed onto my bed while Shaun played with his cousins. I placed my phone on the charger and started texting a girl. Someone who’s been on my mind a lot lately. Someone I’ll go out of my way to talk to, even when there’s nothing to discuss. Someone who’s like a better version of me.

Someone who’s found away to make me smile.

Me: So Shaun decided to give me the honor of going with him to the counselor’s room without Jeanna. It got awkward when Jeanna’s boyfriend was brought up.

Her: So, interesting day?

Me: Very. Because he doesn’t seem to understand what he is to her.

Her: Oh boy… Definitely awkward.

Me: And because I don’t interact with either of them (meaning counselor and Shaun) during the session, I just sat there dissecting everything in my head. The counselor just gave me this semi-pained smile.

Her: So, no reading?

Me: No reading. Just good old raw awkwardness.

Her: But no zombie apocalypse. I know it’s not much, but it’s kinda a bright side.

Me: It means a lot that you can put a positive spin on this.

Her: I try.

I’ve been transparent about my feelings without so much as voicing them. I’m uncertain about them just as much as scared of them. And while she’s met Shaun, he knows she’s just a friend. Not the same type of friend as Marcos is to Jeanna, but a friend. And I couldn’t ask for a better one during this second wave of uncertainty and existential crisis that a malevolent programmer might have set up in me.

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