After eating hamburgers and hashing out bad dads with Tali, we climb back into her pickup and she drives me up the hill to my house.
I love my house so much. Our house now –- me and Dashiell and Rodney. It’s roomy for a one-bedroom, and we think we’ll stay here for the baby’s first year. With some rearranging -– and the tragic loss of the giant antique dining table –- we can set up a little baby-station.
I worry about the strain of having a screaming, squalling infant in this apartment building where I can hear my upstairs neighbor’s phone ring, and can hear the girl two stories above us getting fucked. I’m especially concerned about my immediate neighbor, a gay filmmaker who lives and works out of the apartment next door.
However, if his attitude towards Rodney’s incessant barking is any indication of his forgiving chill-ness, I think we’ll be okay. The last time we all ran into each other in the hall and Rodney tried to kill him, he laughed and cooed at the dog and said, "Oh, Rodney!"
“I’m so sorry,” I gushed, shoving treat after treat down Rodney’s fluffy white throat, trying to get him to calm down. The Filmmaker flipped his hand dismissively.
“You guys are great neighbors,” he said generously. “I’m so lucky.”
I happen to know for a fact that every time Filmmaker comes home, Rodney hurls itself at our apartment door like a rabid monster, driven wild by the sound of Filmmaker’s keys unlocking the door.
“Whenever I hear him barking, I just think, ‘Oh, Rodney,’” The Filmmaker says, with another "whatever" flip of the wrist. He’s lucky? We’re lucky! Will he feel the same about a crying baby? Will our building manager toss us out for breaking the "two resident" stipulation on the lease?
“That’s illegal!” My sister Madeline exclaims. “You can’t evict someone for having a baby!” It does sound cruel, but housing is an aspect of life rife with cruelty, is it not? I don’t know if it is really illegal to evict someone for having a baby, or it just seems like it should be illegal.
My baby-housing angst is relieved when I realize that a woman on the top floor seems to have . . . a baby! We start noticing a stroller parked at the foot of the stairs.
“I think it’s just someone visiting,” Dashiell says. But we keep seeing it. Then I see a lady bundled up with a baby strapped to her chest walking up the stairs. Visiting? Truly, all the people in our building look sort of alike to me in that they are all white and have hair and for some reason I avoid looking at them when I pass them in the hall. Neighborly, right?
In addition to the Filmmaker and Building Manager I know there is a French gardener on the bottom floor; Candy, the lady Rodney bit; and a strange "couple" upstairs we call Andy and Edie. Andy looks like Andy Warhol and seems obviously gay to me, but Edie -- who we’ve named after Edie Sedgewick because she is always with Andy and also because she is so, so beautiful like a model –- has referred to her "husband," which would have to be Andy, who she lives with, right? But Andy is so gay!
This confusion has only increased Dashiell and I’s obsession with this couple. We get really excited whenever we see them in the hall or the street, or when we look up into their apartment from the backyard and see them lounging beneath their chandelier, with their tiny fluffy dog whom Charlie once tried to eat as we were all coming in together.
Anyway -– when I finally saw the woman with the baby getting her mail out of her mailbox, I was certain she actually lived here, and my eviction fears were laid to rest.
After my torturous and fruitless sonogram, I popped a pot of popcorn, cranked the heat and cuddled down on the sofa, waiting for Dashiell, who had an after-work soiree to attend. Rodney arranged himself before me on the couch and I tossed bits of popcorn into his mouth. I should really be working on a grant, but I just can’t.
When Dashiell comes home she cuddles right up on the couch with me and I tell her all about how horrible it all was and she cries. She’s a little tipsy from the soiree, but still. How did I get the sweetest person in the entire world to love me?
“I didn’t realize it was so painful,” she says. “I’m going with you next time.”
Since we’re all teary and close on the couch it seems like a good time to bring up the intense sperm donor email I’d sent her, full of anecdotes and statistics which suggest we’re doing our future kid a disservice by going through a sperm bank.
“I’m really open to following your lead with this,” she says, after I express all my thoughts and concerns. “I think you’re being very wise about it.”
I tell her about what our friend Brenda -– in the same situation as us -– had said about it, that’s it’s an Aquarian situation and needs to be approached with eccentric, Aquarian logic. Ultimately, it’s about community. The community we are creating for our child to live inside. Brenda and me are Aquariuses.
“I trust Quentin 100%,” Dashiell says, “But I’d want to have a conversation.”
Truthfully, I didn’t have much of a conversation with Quentin when we started "working together," i.e., when he began coming over my house and jerking off into a warm bowl in my kitchen. Back in the DIY-get-pregs days, before Dashiell was in the picture, before I knew my ovaries were busted. I go more on vibes, trust and optimism, and while this sounds admittedly shaky, it has served me well. I’m an Aquarius.
Dashiell is a Virgo. She wants structure, information, order. Which totally makes sense, especially for such a big deal as a baby. She’s also a worrier, sniffing out potential bad scenes that don’t really occur to me.
“What about Quentin’s parents?” she asks. “What is they want to spend time with their grandkid?”
I think most people who find out they have grandkids would be pretty obsessed with meeting them and spending time with them. Especially if the people have a gay son and have perhaps sadly given up on the idea of having grandbabies in the first place.
Quentin’s family background seems familiar to Dashiell –- Jewish and middle class, kind, family-oriented. She thinks they are for sure going to want to claim their baby as their grandkid. From what I know of them, gleaned mostly through photos Quentin has shared of the over-the-top Holiday decorating his mother indulges, I agree. My mother is an over-the-top holiday decorator as well, and I think that people who enjoy putting snowmen figurines all over the house each winter are also the kind of people who want to spoil a grandkid.
Truthfully, this doesn’t concern me very much. If there is another couple of people in the world that want to love our kid and look out for them, I think that’s great.
“We won’t owe them anything, not any more than we owe our own parents,” I say. “But, chances are they’d be great.”
Dashiell nods. “I know these people,” she says. “I am sure they are wonderful.”
As scary it is to know we don’t have complete control over the creation of our little family, I think it’s a blessing. Really no one has control over their families, or over anything. That illusion is just falling away faster for us than it does for other families. None of us has control over anything, ultimately. And the situations that make that clear to us, though often hard, are blessings in the long run.
“Thank you for being so open and so sweet-hearted about this,” I tell Dashiell. “Should I make a dinner date with Quentin?”
“Just give ma a couple days to think about it,” she says, laughing. “You just want to GO, don’t you?”
“I do!” I said. I feel like I’ve been waiting so long!
“We have some time,” Dashiell said. And it’s true. I like to rush into everything wildly, and Dashiell likes to be a slow-poke. I think she helps me reign it in, and I help light a fire under her butt. It’s a good compromise for both of us.
I switch from popcorn to Oreos and continue eating my feelings. Soon we will pack Rodney into a rental car and drive down to Southern California to spend Xmas with my sister and her family. We agree to put off the Quentin decision until we return.