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For a long time he was just my brother in law. He married my sister six years ago and both families seemed happy with the situation. They had a little girl, bought a house and took vacations. When they separated last year I was one of the shocked people. My mom says the divorce is supposed to be final soon. Final as in over, not as in death, but judging by everyone's reactions they are similar. In family conversations he is not Daniel any longer. He is that man or the ex or Beth's father. I mentioned once that he had been Beth's father all along and I got a chorus of dirty looks.

What brings all this up is seeing Daniel today. I almost walked right by him at the mall but then I stopped and called out his name. He hesitated for a second and gave me a quick glance to see what my intention was: verbal abuse, veiled threat or small talk. When he realized I was smiling, he shook my hand and asked me about school. I asked him about work and we had some benign guy talk about hockey and the Olympics. I was set to let it go at that, but he paused for a second and then looked at me with a serious look I had never seen before.

Do you know what it is? What it's like? I finally realized it the other day. It's like a bad bruise or a sprain-you ever had one of those? When it first happens its like BAM! The first thing you think of when you get up and the last thing you think of when you go to sleep. You think the feeling is never going to go away, that you will always have that. Then one day, without realizing it-it's gone. No pain, no awkward walking-gone. Then it's like it never happened and you don't know why you thought it would be permanent. It's like that. I changed. She changed and what we had is gone.

He paused to see if I understood, and I think I did. Then his face returned to its regular smile and he patted me on the back-

Take care, OK? Don't tell anyone hi.

He winked at this last part. He knows how they feel. But I don't think he cares. That's what he was trying to say-he has moved on, whether they have or not.

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