A few weeks ago, I was in a café across the street from my house, having just put in an order for the first cappuccino of the day, when a woman walked in with her young son. I recognized him as one of the children who is regularly looked after by the same child minder as my own son. The woman, on the other hand, I had never seen before. The boy obviously recognized me, too, because as his mother was placing her coffee order he smiled up at me and said hello. I returned the greeting, using his name, and felt immediately awkward, because as far as his mother was concerned I was just some random man she’d never laid eyes on. Instead of simply leaving that ambiguous and faintly sinister note ringing in the air between us, I decided to tell her that her son and I knew each other from the child minder’s; but, flustered, I somehow managed to introduce myself to her as “Mike’s mum.” I tried to clarify that I was, of course, Mike’s dad, but the chat was by that point completely beyond salvage. We awaited our respective coffees in tense and complicated silence, before going our separate ways.
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