A mutual friend, knocked up. We joke and then—
“You can’t have kids, right?,” they asked me. “Because of the lupus, right? Or is it because of the cancer? Or is it the medicine?”
I am twenty six and I live in Los Angeles. None of my friends are pregnant or planning to be. We shop and take the Pill and go to work hung over. Having children is the future and we live in the present. Brunch is almost over and we think we just sat down.
We joke about it and then someone asks me and maybe it’s because I never think about it that they want to know, now. Over eggs and bloody Marys.
They say things that are easy to ask loudly, after a few drinks. A cigarette and a serious question.
They want to know if I can have children.
I want to shout that I have questions too. I want to know why they want to know.
But when I ask them why, I overwhelm them. I embarrass them and then it is me, me who has made this situation awkward. Me, with my badly dyed hair and stupid diseases.
So instead, I say nothing. I fumble with my napkin and order another mimosa. I finish my French toast. We take pictures, laugh at inside jokes.
Will I know? Will I be able to? Will I be married?
These questions are in my brain now and I see that it is only just beginning. For years people will watch me age and make decisions and they will wonder whether I couldn’t have kids or just didn’t want to. If it’s because I had a career, or because I never married. If I’ll adopt someday.
I console myself. I have another drink. It is late afternoon now and the sun moves across the table, tinting the glasses of water, orange and yellow. We have been here too long.
I know that they want me to be okay. They mean well. They say “I could never live how you do, you have such strength.”
I don’t tell them that living is a choice I didn’t make. It was decided and I was born and I have lived ever since. And I feel important and special when my suffering is apparent enough that someone says, “I would not want to be you.”
I tell them it’s not that bad. I laugh. I realize I don’t want to be me either.
“Do you want to go to another bar after this?”
Yes. I do. I want brunch to last forever. Because the light is orange and we have no wrinkles, only laugh lines. Everything is warm and fine and passing.
I want people to want my life instead of admiring me for my strength. To see only what the surface says, because the surface has it all.
I want to give sympathy instead of receiving. I want to take care of someone someday and maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. Maybe I won’t.
But now — for now, I want the life that they want. That they wish for. That they already have.
I want to ask the questions and know the answers too.