Friday, August 12, 2011

Childless, childfree, happy, and sad

I watch the child dance around the museum lobby. She wears a white tutu, matching headband, and rapturous smile. She is the fourth ridiculously happy toddler I’ve seen in just an hour here, my weekly torture. I want a baby. I cannot have one. Adoption and surrogacy are out, per my wife, though I’m not sure if she truly objects to those routes or is punishing me for my infertility. I’ve caught her looking at me with the withering, disgusted look one reserves for smelly drunks or boors in the supermarket checkout line, hating to share oxygen with me. I do my best to stay out of the house these days, visiting this museum, the park three blocks down, and the every-so-often coffee shop which is now my second home. I’m happy to have the excuse of being a writer so as not to raise a red flag with the owner, a gregarious hippy who stands behind the counter every moment of the day with her husband, chatting nonstop with her customers. She has taken a liking to me, telling me weekly with watery eyes how I remind her of her brother who ODed on heroin thirty years ago, a peach of a guy with an addictive personality and lousy friends.

These days, I speak more with her than my wife as she sits with me a few minutes every day, asking me about my book. She too is childless but seems happy as a clam, and I wonder if it was a choice or, like me, something put in her path for her to work around. If the former, it seems she made the right call, though I suppose one never knows: Will you suddenly decide you should’ve been a parent after all? And if it was the latter, she appears to be more than at peace with where she is today: happy—joyful, even—and fulfilled by her work, her lover, and her customers, those with and without kids, who rush in for her impressive candy bar, set low to the ground for easy drooling and grasping.

I hope I get to the peaceful place. I wonder if I will arrive with or without my wife.

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