I’ve never wanted a family. Everyone I knew getting married promised
never to lose perspective about their wedding, then two months later
they’d lost all the weight in their face and become obsessed
with napkins. Though the apocalypse has made me rethink.
Not just because it’d be easier to fight off looters as a team,
but because my one friend trained her ten year-old
to bring her margaritas in bed. In bed? I asked. To spec, she cooed.
And though I was skeptical – it’s very hard
to make a good margarita – I was like, huh. Kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so lonely each day brings a new recognition
of how deep the drag in the bones can get. It wasn’t just the margarita,
which is no reason to have a child – I think you can get arrested for thinking that, especially now, with civil liberties on the decline – but as a friend
pointed out the other day, “You think pandemic reasoning’s bad, until
you consider how long it might go.” Vaulting my collective conscious back
to the time of poor farmers procreating eighteen kids, praying for just one
of them to take one for the team and marry some rich bozo
so their Mom didn’t die of diphtheria. Every time these stories played
on TV I shook my head at whichever of the eighteen turned out to be
the pushover who didn’t believe in true love, though one month
in the echo chamber of my living room has made me come around
to their infinite wisdom. I can’t even fathom the magic
of a whole other person in my house. The sheer size of them
on the couch. In Guinea I heard story after story
of bloodthirsty hippos stomping you to death for walking the wrong way
past a tree into their territory, but there was this one lake
where they’d grown up “friendly” and you could canoe right up to them.
One morning a guide took me out to the crop of rocks where they hang,
and I watched them float and bat their soft beady eyes at me, their majestic
purple bodies grunting and snorting – and a few lucky times –
yawning to reveal the vicious phenomenon of their mouths.
It was like New Orleans. How everyone says it’ll blow your mind,
and you’re like, yeah, yeah, how vibrant can a place be, then you’re waltzing
the evening cobblestone blinking back the wonder, blindsided
by just how correct, for once, the world had been. There’s no exaggerating
a hippo up close. They’re bigger than the universe. I yelled at the guide please, please, get me out of here! My sudden thought being:
what if one of these hippos is… shitty?
After all, everything alive has the chance at a bad father. Some past trauma convalescing on the shelf of their memory, until this weird white guy
starts shaking his oar about, tumbling loose the past and firing up
the blazing furnace of their brain – and that’s it. There’d be no bargaining.
The guide paddled blithely away, chuckling – my mind dipping back
into my body just long enough to clock how special the moment had been.
If the highlight of everyone’s life is gazing at their child the first time,
this is my stand-in. Because what’s a family but the biggest thing
in the universe? A thrashing animal that, even at peace, threatens
to heave you around its mouth and break you? The miracle that will always
live up to the promise of its force. Your fear may blight it and make you
turn away, but you’ll always be forced back – as I was
the next morning, weaving down the broken dock and stepping again
into the boat, forcing myself to believe the risk was worthwhile
to take part in the miracle.