I spotted the baby I wanted in a Starbucks downtown. It was attached to a stroller which was attached to the hands of a nanny.
No silver spoon, but it will do.
I say nanny because I assumed a mother would have given chase for more than six blocks. Then again, I have learned a lot about parenting over the past few days and frankly, the incentive to protect this thing is waning. We are not getting along as well as we did at the start. We are both crying a lot more often, and it's rare that we do anything special for one another anymore.
With all the distractions, I am a little under the gun to finish the piece. It has been a frustrating experience and from what I understand, you are not supposed to tell kids they are responsible for the sacrifices you are forced to make on their behalf, even if those sacrifices are your passions, or sleeping at night. While theoretically nice, this is considerably harder in practice. Fortunately, this particular baby doesn't seem to understand when I yell at it. In fact, I am suspicious it doesn't understand anything at all, which is a defect I refuse to take any blame for when I return it.
Over the past week we have been everywhere together, save public since we are probably wanted. Sunday was the first time we ventured out in broad daylight. I had an important errand to run at my ex-girlfriend's house. I dressed us as ventriloquist and dummy for the trip but no one even peered into my car or expressed any curiosity toward the contents of the puppet case so it felt like kind of a waste. Incidentally, babies are not claustrophobic.
"Are you wearing makeup?" she asked when we arrived.
I poked my head past my old girlfriend and through the door. "Where is that doctor?"
"He's not 'that doctor' he is my husband. He's at the hospital."
"Good. I have something I want to show you." I stepped inside and put the case on the floor. She disguised her intrigue with warnings that I wasn't legally allowed to be here. I popped the latches and threw open the lid. "I have a baby now."
"Oh god," she said.
"I know. It's a lot of responsibility. I guy would have to be pretty mature to have one of these don't you think?"
"What, what are you doing with a baby?"
"I made it," I lied. "You know, they try and tell you there's nothing like being a dad but when you hold that little thing for the first time you think, 'I would die for this.' I've come a long way since we broke up."
She gave me a look like she really loved me or really felt sorry for me, or maybe both. "You can't keep it in a box, Soren."
"I know, it's only temporary. I didn't want to break it."
"Is he wearing makeup too?"
"Hey, you know what would be fun? You should hold it."
She sighed and glanced at the empty phone cradle on the wall. "Fine, then will you go?"
I handed her the baby and she took it into her arms like a bird taking to flight. It looked so natural and perfect, we all did, sitting there together as a family. She smiled hard at it and said "hi" over and over.
"It doesn't understand you, it might be deaf." I told her.
"Jesus, Soren. I want you to be completely honest, is he really yours?"
"Who's the mother?"
"I don't know. Sorry. Hey, I should probably feed it."
She kept it cradled and watched as I strapped the Lact-Aid kit to my chest. Before I attached the child I unfolded my notes for the article and jotted down "#6: Surrounded by Love." As I fed the baby, my ex admitted that I looked proficient. She even confessed her own desire for a baby someday.
"They're pretty amazing," I told her as I held it to my chest. "Just think, someday I'll be able to pass on all my ideas and thoughts to this little guy. I won't even have to keep a notebook anymore. It's like raising your own flash drive."
The newer models should really have a USB.
In the two years that we had been away from one another I had forgotten all of her little idiosyncrasies. I forgot, for example, how her nostrils flared when she was angry, or how fast she could move when she was really determined. With one motion she stood, grabbed the baby from my arms and was on her way to the bedroom. Behind a locked door she told me she didn't believe the child was mine.
"OK then, how do you think I got it?" I shouted.
"Honestly? I wouldn't be surprised if you kidnapped him."
"See, this is why we're perfect together! You know me so well!" I put my palm up against the door and just knew that she was doing the same thing on the other side.
"Soren, this is serious. You've made me an accessory just by bringing him here."
"Come on. No I didn't."
"Yes, you did."
"Listen to us. This is stupid. Do we even know what we're fighting about anymore?"
"Yes! You kidnapped a child! I'm calling the police."
Between the shouts I could hear her stumbling around in the other room, searching for the cordless phone. Then, as though commanding an end to this senselessness, the baby spoke. It was clear and complete and everything behind the door went silent.
"Sowen," it said.
"No," I heard my ex whisper. "No no no."
"Sowen," it said again, defying her.
"You hear that?" I sang. "Can you hear it? That's the sound of me in the mouths of future generations!"
"Sowen," it said again, and we all wept for happiness.
Eventually she unlocked the door and emerged disheveled and broken. She didn't have what it takes to be a parent, not yet. She announced that she was taking the baby to the authorities but that she wouldn't turn me in.
"Please, just go. Don't come back."
"I understand you're upset," I told her. "You and I are clearly still tangled in a hot nest of emotions."
"We're not ta-. Please just go."
"I'd prefer if we tried to work this out."
She opened her door and waited for me to leave. Instead I turned to the dry bar near the entryway and I turned the closest bottle of liquor upside down over my mouth for a full five seconds.
"Why? Why would you do that?" She sounded more disappointed than angry.
I explained that I couldn't possibly drive home after consuming that much alcohol. What's more, It would be irresponsible for her to let me. I told her I loved her, that I had always loved her and that I wanted to stay and talk everything out no matter how long it might take.
Her eyes softened a little and she finally looked at me. "Well, I'll admit that under any other circumstances that gesture may be roman-" before she could finish I threw up on her pants.
"Nooo, you did not just do that! You are the duke of hardcore."
I don't remember much from the car ride home. I was crammed in the hatchback of one of the doctor's SUVs, my ex at the wheel, rubbing her forehead. In the seat in front of me was the baby, strapped securely into a backwards facing car seat I'd never seen before and smiling at me. My boy. We had come so far with one another and now it was over. Still wearing the nursing kit, I discreetly leaned over the seat and offered him some formula while simultaneously pulling the folded paper from my pocket. On it I scribbled a suitable ending.
"#7: In a Car" it said, and I was done.