“What about you, do you have kids?” we’re asked, but what they mean is “How many?” and their faces fold like fists when we tell them.
“Have you thought about adoption?” sometimes follows. I give my thoughtful answer and am asked if I’ve thought about suicide.
The phone beside the bed lights up, 3 am. I throw my body across M’s to swat it to the floor but I’m too slow and M is too strong, so I listen to yet another one-sided crisis as rosy dawn tickles at the window. M snags losers, the burrier the better, a family in lieu, hungry ticks from work, bus-stops (though M drives a car), the Internet. The romantically incontinent, psychologically repellent, life inept. “Liking likeable people’s meaningless,” (stroking my face, as if this applies to me, too), “it’s just gravity”, as though I want M to be liking anyone else, truly or otherwise. M should have been a (pompous) priest, Jesus and Mary, never a parent. Kids would have eaten M alive. I occasionally wonder if I would have been jealous of our children, but since I’ve not had the chance to find out, I grind the thought out like a bad cigar.
The prospect of an unavoidable social engagement has me longing for Netflix, or else illness.
“We’ll be invisible…”
“… which is surely good…”
“They’ll use sonar.”
M shuts me up, stuffs my mouth with kisses. Alexa randomly slips on ‘Hot Buttered Soul’, or did I miss M say that, maybe into my mouth, the request amplified by my throat, and in any film, doesn’t matter Hollywood or indie, on any TV show a grindingly anticipated ‘surprise’ pregnancy would stew up from this moment but some journeys are terminal, with the tram taken off the tracks, and this is just two graying people treading up the sheets to Isaac Hayes.
We take it in turns to declare that we’re better off this way, that our place is too small, our incomes too flakey. We’re free to travel. We’ve not lost each other, as our friends have; what are they going to do when their broods leave home and they’re left staring at a stranger? (Said with the relish of delayed schadenfreude.) Do I really feel all these things? Does M? “You could get a dog,” my mother suggested, some lifetimes ago. Someone who really should have been childless.
“Should we get a dog?” I asked M during one of our bad years.
“We’d kill it off within a week,” was the considered response.
We go to the party which is, as expected, a napalm shower of talk about births, schools and college applications. There are people there we’ve not met before. New faces that fold like fists.
Nick Black’s writing has been published in lit mags including Splonk, Okay Donkey, Ellipsis Zine, Entropy, Bending Genres, Lost Balloon and Jellyfish Review, He tweets about things he likes as @fuzzynick.