What the fuck am I doing? I mean, really: what the fuck?
I was trying to explain to my parents the way I'm feeling now, and why I've been an inconsolable, stampeding bitch for the past five months, and why an ultrasound that tells me that it looks like my unborn babies are fine seems to have set off an episode of panic and speculation and worry about the future.
Finally, the idea formed in my head.
"But my life has been mostly a big party since 1999, and I don't want that party to end." An oversimplification, of course, and not nearly as shallow as it sounds, but that's it, nonetheless.
A wave of recognition washed over their faces.
1999 is the year I graduated from college and moved to the city. The greatest city in the world.
Doing so was every bit as charming as it is in the movies. Cute young heroine looks at apartments--one of them has a sagging floor that threatens to crash into the apartment below, so she steps gingerly over it with her cool shoes.
Cute young heroine buys pastry and eats it on 5th Avenue, a la Holly Golightly.
Cute young heroine gets invited to art gallery openings by boys.
And it's not just all a big party. Living this way seems to fill in the pieces of her life. Anger, sadness, and loneliness of the past all melt away. She is happy. She is fulfilled. She is not a misfit; she is a cute young heroine. She has interesting things to say and interesting things to do.
Cute young heroine meets one very special boy. They go see artsy movies, and then share the stories of their lives over Chinese noodles.
Cute young heroine buys a soft ice cream cone on a hot day and eats it as she walks down Broadway. A truck full of appreciative firemen call out to her as they ring bells.
A week later, as planes crash, buildings fall, sirens blare, and smoke pours through the streets, it dawns on her that some of the firemen from that truck are probably dead.
Cute young heroine and very special boy help each other through their pain, and decide to do so for the rest of their lives. Cute young heroine and very special boy become husband and wife. The last photo in the wedding book shows him twirling her around in the middle of the street, dodging traffic. Her dress swirls around her. That day, champagne flows again.
Husband and wife trade endless after-movie conversations for homemade Sunday brunches. They are every bit as happy, if not happier, but in a different way. He scrambles eggs. She pours orange juice in fancy glasses.
They wait and watch and hope. Each month, nothing happens. The doctor tells them, "do this." They do it. She goes under the knife. He eats his pasta sans cheese, too. She waves to him from the recovery room. A few months later, they are rewarded with a series of pink lines, and blue veins.
And then the shit really hits the fan. Actually, the puke. And she tells herself, "It's ok, nothing will really change, it's just one little baby, I'll bring it to artsy events and sit in the back."
Except it's two, and she won't.
"Your mother and I used to have brunch in the Village," said my father.
"And you thought, during the pregnancy, that, after I was born, you'd bring me, and she'd breastfeed over eggs Benedict with smoked salmon," I said.
"And then reality set in. Lug the stroller on the subway while the baby cries, bring diapers, negotiate tables with no space between them..." his voice trailed off.
"So, once in a while we'd get a babysitter, and we'd go two blocks away and have a burger and a beer. You have to learn to content yourself with simplicity. Get past Rome and Amsterdam. Settle for a hot shower."
"And if we want a third child," I began, "then maybe we can't take trips, and maybe we can't stay in the city. These are real decisions."
"Yes, they are. They're the decisions every parent has to make."
"But you don't have to make these decisions now," said my mother. "Things become clearer in time."
And then they said the line they've been saying for years, that they, too, probably heard a long time ago, and had to learn to understand, and that finally, finally makes sense to me:
"Before our children were born, we had fun. After they came, we had joy."