It was surreal, you know? We are standing in the hallway, embracing "hello" like we've always done. I am dropping off my children. My ex Mother-in-law is conspiratorily pointing toward the livingroom behind a raised hand and whispering to me..."I need to warn you. Tammy's in there. I don't want you to get hurt seeing her." I know she means well. I love her to pieces. Divorce hasn't changed that.

We can almost pretend it's the same as it ever was. Almost. I know, as Mom does not, that Tammy will not stay put hidden away behind a wall. She will do what she has to do in order to walk into my line of sight. It is one of those things she feels she must do. I have not figured out yet whether it has more to do with being perverse to me or more to do with her insecurity in her place with my ex. She carries his child, yet he has not offered her permanent security. Perhaps it is a combination of both. True to expectation, she makes sure she walks into my view.

I am shocked. Not so much because she is clearly pregnant. I have known of that for several months now. That jolt wore off three months ago. It is not that, but something else. I have to hide the surprise on my face. She is not a pretty pregnant woman, not even close. She looks very very tired. She does not wear the glow that expectant mothers wear. That surprises me. I expected her to look beautiful. She does not. But that is not what shocks me. What shocks me is that she is growing out her hair. It is much longer than when she first met my ex. She has a similar color to mine, though it is a flat brown as opposed to copper-tinged. She is wearing it the same way that I've always worn it. She is wearing the same kind of dress in the same type of color that I wore. I am seeing her walk in profile with the rounded belly looking a lack luster reflection of ME in a far off mirror when I was at the stage. I almost choke. I have become expert at the instant facade.

What is going on here? Is she trying to look like me? Is she growing her hair out because that is what my ex likes? Is she doing it in some bid to cement my ex to her? Or maybe it's to try to gain acceptance into his family? Or maybe instead she is doing what she thinks will please my ex? Did I do that? My head is spinning. What the hell? I wonder if my ex's family has noticed the same thing that I have which is why my ex-Mother-in-law was trying to shield me. I don't know. The sense of displacement is palpable. I feel I have been written smack into the middle of a Kafka and then painted into a Dali, upside down.

I force a smile to my face as I call goodbye to Mom and Dad. I call them by those names because that is what I have always called them. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I quietly wonder whether I also do it to push home the point to both my ex and his girlfriend, that his parents will always be that to me and that no matter what they do, I am my own person and not replaceable with a pale imitation. It is possible. I do not think I am as noble as I once was. This trial has changed me.

I do not know who I feel more sorry for, the one tossed out, or the one trying to fit in. Self-pity is a colorless, bitter drink to be tasted in small sips only. Just enough to jolt the reality back firmly into place.It does what it is supposed to do. My feet reattach themselves firmly to the ground. I hug my children goodbye with a warm smile. I get behind the wheel. And I do the only thing I can do, I drive home.

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