“I want a baby more than anything in the world. I’ve wanted to be a parent as long as I can remember.” It’s a Sunday night and I don’t want a baby. Cars hum over the pavement and my shoes have a hole in the toe. The glossy black patent leather is gnawed, fraying just to the right of my big toe and colored in with sharpie. Travis is a barrel chested gay man sitting to my left, hands laced over the breadth of his stomach as he narrows his eyes at the night sky. He nods once. “I’m not in a relationship and I don’t see myself being in one, but I know that I want to be a Dad.”
“You’ve got all the time in the world, man,” I reply. My nose wrinkles as I stub out my smoke and it’s sensible to turn the conversation away.
“That’s the only thing that L— and I ever talked about you two dating. If you want kids you have a time clock.”
“Yeah.” It’s not like I can forget. It’s not like every time it gets quiet my age doesn’t settle like afternoon sunshine around my head. I’m not old. I don’t feel old.
“I mean, you’re looking at like five years tops if you want kids. That’s a lot of pressure.”
“Yeah.” I shrug, I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to talk about the fact that I don’t know if I want kids. I don’t know if I’ll ever want kids. I don’t want to talk about the fact that sometimes I’m terrified of the way my brain compartmentalizes so specifically that I worry I’m sociopathic. I never worry about loving the idea of the possible kid I could make from scratch some day, because love comes easily.
I worry about not being present. I worry about resenting them. I worry about rushing into having one because it’s my last chance. I worry about single parenting. I worry about co parenting. I worry that I’ll be just like my dad- or sometimes worse, just like my mom.
I want to build a home and a life for myself and I think that maybe I build walls to keep other people out and the possibility of being a mother locked far far away. I loved my ex husband, but I didn’t want to have children with him.
There are moments in my memory that have this golden topaz colored skip jump photography. They’re round as river rocks and drop to make waves in my present. I remember the way my Dad would pick Gingko leaves, twirling them between his thumb and forefinger like a flapping yellow fan to batter against my nose. I remember the way he smelled like cigarettes and scratchy beard. There’s a specific noise that I can only find in playgrounds, the slow cry of metal on metal from a swing hitting that perfect epogee and apogee of my childhood.
There are trees that I pull myself into because there’s no one to lift me up anymore.
I watched myself hit an age that was unimportant to my Father. I watched my brother hit it. Then my half sister. I watched him go from completely entranced and wondrous of the life he can hold between his palms to the man who missed my birthday at 28… 29… 30… older and older and less and less important. I know the way a basketball court feels empty and waiting to be remembered and how the pause of nothing to talk about sounds over the phone and states in between us. I remember the feel of hugs when I was special and the feel of hugs that happened as I became an adult and no longer deserving of that glowing yellow cake batter idolatry.
I think about my mother and her 16 cats and three dogs holed up in a house that’s dusty with litter and a phone gone quiet. I call, but sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in the loneliness she chose, throat sore with swallowed words of: is this what happens when we choose to be alone? Do we just get smaller and quieter, joints aching as we fill our lives with fur and something to feel warm against our skin- something to make us not feel so utterly and completely alone?
Travis is nominally handsome and kind of an asshole. He talks about children and long term with L. He talks about how important family is. I think about how important the people I’ve picked as family are in my life. I think about the breathless wrung out beauty of my best friend as she met her first son. I think about the heavy curtain of privacy we put up between ourselves in a relationship and the people we love. I think about how two women could be so miserable and so silenced. I think about how I feel trapped by tiny chuck taylors in stores or the way a six month old baby looks in the arms of a new twenty something mom. I think about the girl who took fertility drugs so when my ex husband was an idiot who couldn’t operate a condom she could catch him and a child.
I wonder if I could ever do that. I know that I couldn’t.
“I just really want to be a Dad.”
I nod. I’m sitting outside a Starbucks in Tampa on a Sunday night. The air is orange with that buzzing streetlight shine. I’m an endless array of moments of people falling in love that led to me. I’m a perfect storm of paranoia and pride, ego and emotion. I’m thirty five and I have five years.
The world tells me I have five years.
I think about the last five and I wonder how in the hell anyone can ever be sure enough of who they are and what their life is going to be that they can bring a whole life into the world and know that no matter what they’ll be there.
“I think I just want to be me.”