The silence got long, so I bounced Alice up and down and blurted, “Is it weird?”
He scrunched up his face and got the kind of overgenerous pitying expression you’d give to a crippled dog. “Not really,” he said. “Somehow I always imagined you having children someday.”
You don’t get it! I wanted to scream. I wasn’t saying, “Is it weird because I’m such an unlikely mother?” I was saying, “Is it weird that time passes so quickly?” And whatever I meant, it wasn’t loaded or heavy. I was just making conversation!
But I couldn’t say any of this. It would be like explaining evolution to a born-again. If he could understand why he was so quick to be patronizing, he wouldn’t have misunderstood in the first place. He was a mopey narcissist with no acuity. How could we have had a future anyway?
“Hey there,” he said to Alice, and I could tell he was into the fact that he wasn’t speaking baby talk. I bet he did this with all his friends’ kids, prided himself on not raising his pitch.
“So how’s everything going?” I said.
“Pretty good,” he said. He looked back at his computer. “Actually, I should kind of get back to work.” He sat down and then his cell phone rang and he answered it, joking in that way guys do when they’re talking to smart, sardonic guy friends.
I’d gotten married, pregnant, and given birth, but after all this time, he was still dumping me. I wanted him to see me with my kid and suddenly realize what a fool he’d been. I wanted him to feel jealous. But he didn’t look jealous. He looked happy to be unfettered, sitting drinking coffee without a kid crawling up his leg.
When we were dating, he always sent me e-mails from Vegas and L.A., and although he complained about the travel, I could tell he liked it. He loved being a workaholic. He loved his bachelor life, his big apartment, and his lack of dependents. He didn’t see me as the embodiment of all his regrets. He saw me as what I really was: a frazzled, breadwinning, hormonal, overtired Park Slope mother.
I sat on the couch with Alice and took out the Tupperware with her oatmeal and banana. I balanced her on my knee and fed her loudly, saying things I never say, like “Ready for more?” and “Yummy!”
After just a few bites, though, she started squirming, crawling on the couch over to where the VLG was sitting. He didn’t notice. He just kept blabbing on his cell phone like a cell-phone jerk, which is the only thing worse than a loud-parent jerk.
“Come back,” I said quietly to Alice, yanking her up. “That guy doesn’t call back.” It’s never too early to start teaching good values.