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So about those three women.

1

Singularity Girl stopped by for a socially-distanced visit in our garden. I've known her since she was thirteen. Her family had just made it to Canada after surviving the Siege of Sarajevo. She turned up at an audition meeting for a play I was workshopping with teenagers. She wanted to write, not act. Despite her not having gone through the usual process to be part of the writing team, and her young age, I believed after meeting her that she should play some role. I assigned general responsibility for her to the older of the two established teen writers.

That girl, as it turned out, had a kid sister, roughly Singularity Girl's age. Kid sister would fall for SG and say nothing for years. Teenage years. They became friends and finally started dating in Grade 12, the only self-identified same-sex couple at their school. By then, she'd worked on two shows as a writer and was in charge of make-up for the current production. Their relationship would last until they finished college.

She used the L word then. I think it made her girlfriend happy and kept guys away. Tailsteak, Internet Famous in the early 2000s, is local. He based the character of Terra from his comic strip 1/0 on her. Stereotypes run deep. He once admitted having cognitive difficulties with her being a "perky lesbian."

That's the first fictional character she inspired. Chelsea, who appears in my forthcoming novel, is loosely inspired by the teenage version of her.

In any case, we bonded in a mentor/mentee way. In my thirties, I actually had a teen sidekick. Her version of the story differs, of course. A watcher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she had me listed in her cell contacts as "Giles."

I consider her visit a great honour, as she's pregnant with her second child, and scrupulously avoiding being around too many people. She joined us in our garden, and we used the protocols we developed when my brother and his wife visited: separated chairs, and separate plates of goodies. We toast-- no alcohol, of course-- an implausible friendship that has endured now a quarter-century.

2

My wife has a different cross-generational friendship with a woman now in her nineties. Among other things, LK taught her how to make jam and do home preserves. They've been doing it for years now, selling it at a Christmas charity bazaar. That event won't happen this year, unless as an online event. They've agreed that, either way, they'll sell what they can and donate the profits.

During winter, LK lives in an apartment, and has since her husband died. I saw the inside once, after my wife had accompanied her to the hospital after she'd become dizzy and passed out. She called me later that night to drive them home from the hospital. By then October night had fallen. As a bonus, an ice-storm had hit the city. The last thing you want to do is let an elderly person in recovery slip while you're helping them home from the hospital.

"Sorry for the inconvenience," she said.

"Your timing could have been better."

LK laughed.

In warmer weather, she spends most of her time in a cottage on Lake Huron. We went there last weekend, with masks and plans for distance. They held a two-woman jam-making bee. I carried things, loaded boxes of jars, went on a grocery run to the nearest town, and otherwise spent most of two days outside, where I read, wrote, and took video. Even managed some footage of a hummingbird, helicoptering about the shore.

They're challenging to capture.

3

The third woman I used to date.

We met in our twenties, though I was well into mine. She had just started hers.

She was emerging from difficult times. I came to regard her as a friend, and tried to be helpful. She was younger and, if I'd thought of it, I wouldn't have considered myself in her league. Four months later, I invited her to a party. I was living in a now-trendy neighbourhood with a couple of other guys. She and I spent a lot of time together since, you know, she didn't know anyone else there.

I walked her back to her car, where we stood and kept talking. We hugged goodnight. I returned to my party, smiling. My friend Eve will tell me this new girl is "really together in a not-together sort of way." My friend Detroit said little about her at the time, but he would later connect the pair of us, humorously, to a certain popular song.

A week later, our next-door neighbours, a married couple our age, were hosting a party of their own, for his birthday. We sat in their back yard around a fire. At some point, someone told me there was a limo out front, asking for me.

Obviously, they were pranking-- which seemed odd, because it was someone else's birthday-- but I decided to play along.

Yep. That was a limousine, all right. She'd been hanging with a friend, who was dating a chauffeur for a rent-a-limo service. He had some time to kill after dropping off a client at an upscale restaurant, and he went to pick them up. He asked where they wanted to go.

She directed him to my house.

So we drove around and talked. My friends took it in the nature of our twentysomething lives that someone would disappear from a party in a mysterious limo. She told me she wanted to ask me out the first day we met but, given the state of her life then, didn't. I had no idea. Young men trend clueless.

For a long time, we both assumed we would get married. Our relationship, difficulties and age-gap notwithstanding, could have worked out. I see that now. It didn't. Long story. That's for another time that may never come.

When my mother died, we got back in touch. She'd had two failed marriages which each produced a daughter, bright and beautiful, like their mother. I was married and childless. We meet, once or twice a year, for dinner or lunch or coffee or drinks, and catch up. My wife knows this happens. So does her partner. She's supposed to marry him, but his wife is ass-dragging the divorce proceedings.

So we met on a patio, in the shimmering reality bubble that appears when we sit down together-- as we did recently, on a trendy patio.

Our masked twentysomething waitress wouldn't have existed when we dated.

We play the recent details of our lives like some trading card game. We both drink craft beer. Back in the early 1990s, she was still into sweet concoctions in primary school colours. The song Detroit referenced, all those years ago, played in the background, and we laughed about it. It's easy, right? We exist in a memory of our golden twenties, marred by having broken up, but unscathed by the challenges of maintaining a relationship over decades. That I did with someone else.

We part and the bubble pops, a pleasant dream that fades when you wake and cannot be connected to your present life.

Today,

I'm on some online panels at Gen Con. Tomorrow, my wife and I go for our anniversary dinner at an upscale restaurant.

We have not, however, engaged a chauffeur. COVID-19 makes that inadvisable.

Besides, who knows what he'd get up to while he waited for us to finish eating.

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