|Portrait of the author, c. 1977|
I met a woman at the playground with one kid running around and another small fry in the stroller. Kind of like me, I thought. Except she had hair. I decided to introduce myself for some unknown reason.
Anyway, I forget her name instantly, but more relevant to the story, I forgot her kids’ names. Both of them. I’m not good with names. Problem was, her small fry was dressed in white, so I was then relegated to asking carefully-worded, fragmented questions, in hopes of eliciting the child’s sex:
“Awww, very cute. How old?
“Two months,” she said. Nary a gender-specific pronoun. “What about yours?”
“Well, SHE is ten weeks. Sometimes I still can’t believe I actually have a DAUGHTER.”
“Well, I guess it’s 50/50, right? When my son was born, I swore that was it. Then The Noodle came along, so…”
Noodle? What kind of stupid, non-specific nickname is that? Don’t you know there’s so sweeter sound to a person than the sound of their own name? I’m sorry, what was your name again? I tried a different tack.
“Nicknames are fun. We call this one The Blob. Mostly because she eats like a two year-old already.”
“Yeah, mine, too,” she said. “Comes by it honestly, I must say, ha ha.”
Really? You eat like a two year-old? She was starting to piss me off. It’s almost like she knew, and was just messing with me at this point. The whole thing reeked of hippyism. Why don’t you just put your kid in a blue outfit with airplanes and shit on it like everybody else? You’re making playground time weird. Finally I took a stab, it was 50/50. Her words, not mine.
“So how old is his brother?” You know, the one running around over there, appropriately clad in airplanes and shit.
“Well, HER brother is three,” scoff scoff. Duh, you fucking IDIOT. Brow wrinkled. “Did the name Olivia not give it away?”
“I thought you said Oliver. Oliver-a. That’s Spanish for Oliver.”
“No, it’s not.” That could have been verdad.
“Well, she’s a fine looking girl. Much cuter than mine, even.”
Looooooooong pause. She pulled her phone out, pretended to read a message. Looked up at me like DO YOU MIND? I’m trying to read a fake text, asshole. I felt kind of bad. If somebody called HP a boy, I’d probably check my fake inbox for a fake message, too.
“Hey, listen, I didn’t mean anything by it,” I tried. “They all look like little baby chimps to me.”
Well, that was that. She put her phone away and corralled her son, mumbled something about lunch time, and vamoosed. Some people just don’t know an apology when they hear it. Bub was still playing, HP sleeping. So I did the only thing I could think to do. I pulled out my QWERTY and hammered out a few fake messages.