Did I ever tell you that I was almost a father once? Yes, it's true, despite life's many attempts to discourage me, I am capable of reproduction- if by a somewhat slim margin. I was once engaged to a woman who was not right for me at the time (and probably never will be). When I got my head screwed on straight, I broke off the engagement- this did not please her. I didn't expect it to, but it was the wisest move for both of us.

Getting snowed in at a friend's house a few months after the break-up, however, probably wasn't the best thing for us. Everyone else had a bed and it came down to the fact that two people were going to have to share a bed for the night. My ex-fiancé and I decided that since we'd slept together before, we could probably endure it once again, for one night only.

Then the morning came. We were groggy, we were cold and we were alone. Old habits die hard, they say. I've never told anyone this, but I felt the conception occur when we made love that morning, that one, last time. It was like a small static electric charge in my spine and it kicked me hard. We hadn't used any protection and it was just... a mistake. I didn't say anything about it to anyone because I didn't want to believe I'd sensed what I thought I'd sensed. Over the years I've learned to listen to my gut and act upon it whenever it spoke to me. I should have then, but I was young and stupid and still finding my own voice.

She found out about her pregnancy a month later and it tilted her world at odd angles. She didn't know how to respond to the news or what to do with it or herself. She asked some friends, in confidence, for some advice and made them promise they wouldn't tell me about it until she made a decision about what she wanted to do. Our friends obeyed, oftentimes forcing themselves into silence when I'd walk into a room or just watching me with eyes that seemed to almost pity me. I sensed these things and that something was up, but like I said, I still hadn't learned to listen to that inner voice. I just figured that they'd tell me when they were ready. I knew that whatever it was had to be something "big", but I had no idea that it involved me so completely.

One of my friends rationalized that I deserved to know, but they were bound by their word not to tell me. So they figured that the next best thing would be to tell my parents and have them deliver the message that way. Oh, man, you have no idea how strange it is to be told by your parents that you've got a kid on the way. That's the kind of thing you inform them of, not the other way around.

As soon as I got the news I decided that I would do everything within my power to be a part of that child's life. I knew better than to propose marriage to her, but I made it clear that I was not going to disappear. I'd helped to create this life and it was my responsibility to make sure it was provided for and cared for. I was a father and I had a duty to uphold as such. In the long run, it proved pointless.

She miscarried on the last day of her first tri-mester. It was a boy, which I already knew in my gut, but she was kind enough to tell me that much. She didn't blame me or hate me or want to hurt me. She was scared and frustrated and confused, but through it all she knew that I would always try to do the right thing, even to my own detriment. She respected me and still, in ways she couldn't understand, loved me.

After that incident, that messy chapter in my life, I decided I needed to do some major growing up. Over the last 7 years I've been doing all the growing up I can handle. I've got a long, long way to go, but I feel light-years ahead of the game- more so than I was back then. I've bumped into my ex-fiancé a few times over the years, but there was always that lingering feeling of "what now?" It was always strained and uncomfortable.

She showed up at Cafe Coco a few weeks ago. We were civil and kind. I gave her my business card with my website address on it and implored her to send me an email. She never sent the email to me. She showed up again a few nights ago, just last week, and told me that she thought the website looked great and was sorry for not sending the email. She promised to send one that night, which she did.

I've been so busy with my new job and life and everything else that I haven't had the time to sit down and really reply to it. Tonight, on my 28th birthday at Cafe Coco, she showed up again. We talked about the past. I asked her questions about why she didn't tell me about the baby until I had to find out the hard way. I asked how her life has been going. I told her that her last girlfriend was not worthy of her attention and that she could have done better, but it's all good now that she's moving forward with her life. I listened to her tell me about a new guy she's interested in, the first man in years, since me, that she's been interested in at all.

My cousin showed up and we went off to play some 9-ball. I invited her, and she gladly accepted. She's awful at pool and hasn't improved over the years, but it was good to talk with her in a relaxed setting. The tension was gone and it was genuinely good to see her, like we were almost friends again. She's matured at lot and so have I; we've got things in perspective.

While she was playing against my cousin, who was taking his turn at the time, she edged herself beside me, laid her hand in my knee and was about to perch herself on my thigh. Suddenly she jerked back, as though she'd touched a white-hot furnace and just stared at me in shock at how easily she was falling into old patterns. I just smirked knowingly and said:

"Old habits die hard, don't they?"

She looked down, almost sad for a minute, and then looked me right in the eye. "Yeah. Yeah, they do. It's hard not to fall back into them." In that statement alone, I heard volumes. The lesbianism thing was a phase for her and she was still in love with me. She was scared of being close to me again, for fear of what it might do to her heart. She'd said other things through the course of the evening that sorta led up to this, but that one exchange summed it up: she still finds me attractive, after all these years and after all we went through.

A few of the guys who hang out at Cafe Coco have seen her, my ex-fiancé of seven years. All of them find her to be attractive. I don't see it, though, not the way they do. When I look at her, I see the mother of my unborn child. I see a young woman from many years gone that had some severe issues about herself and other people. I see a woman who's still scared to be true to herself. I see a woman who's still running from peace and self assurance. I also see a woman I had a very special and very strong bond with. I see a woman from my past, a past that I thought I'd left behind. Like my ex-life wants to collect alimony- only the currency here isn't really money so much as the kind of currency people find priceless.

I suppose this is something I deserve, in a sense. I've been working on a website for the Baha'i Faith and have been woefully slack in getting the work done- for a myriad of reasons, doubt of self-worth being one of them. I'm being tested now and I'm almost back to square one. I wasn't paying attention to my spiritual obligations, the ones I'd set up for myself back when I was still engaged to this woman, and now that I'm falling behind again, she's come back to haunt me. It's like a karmic reminder or wake-up service. I don't know what to do, but I'm becoming seriously resolved to finishing SoulPearls.Com something quick. Now, more than ever, I need positive karma- because I sense that things are about to get rocky for me once again.

Happy 28th, eh?