The Bachelor and the Baby Fox


So my sister had a baby – or, judging from the damage, a grenade. “There was more blood than Carrie,” she said over the phone just hours after the birth. “Why are you calling me?” I asked. “You just pushed an entire bowling alley through your vagina.” She laughed, more in agreement than amusement. “I wanted to call you,” she said, “because he has red hair like you.” “Are you sure?” I said. “Maybe that’s blood.”


“Are you looking forward to holding him?” My cousin asked. “I’m not going to hold him,” I replied. “Oh come on, of course you will,” she persisted. “You’re projecting a lot of humanity onto me right now,” I said. “This is not some cynical exoskeleton protecting a bleeding heart. That thing did some serious shit on the way out. It’s a Small Assassin. I am concerned for my sister.”


“I got the TDAP or CPAP or pap smear or whatever,” I said to a friend. “I was like, ‘but I’m not going to hold the baby,’ and they’re like, ‘but you still have to get the shot.’ So I got it. And a book: Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How To Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes. That is as involved in their parenting as I’m ever going to be.”


“I wanted to tell you,” I started to tell my sister as my mother started to tell me about the baby room. “Come see it. You have to see it.” I smiled with a few too many teeth. “I was about to embark on a topic beyond the baby,” I raised an eyebrow, “which is a little scary, I know.” The joke sounded angrier than I’d intended.  Fleeing the scene I’d just created, I said, “let’s see it.” It was a four-walled forest with painted trees and little foxes, getting into trouble and looking cute doing it – a strategy which, I felt compelled to explain to them, will only work so long. My sister asked what I was going to tell her before. “Oh, just that I’m reading A Series of Unfortunate Events,” I said, “which really should be retitled A Series of Stupid Adults. They are so stupid. They keep doing the same stupid things.”


The iPhone illuminated my face like the light from an open refrigerator. “A Wisconsinite in Missouri: the sign says Deer Run. I thought it said Beer Run,” I texted to him, since he is from here. “How long will you be there,” he texted back. Our here and there would be the same place for a few days. We set a time to meet. Just for a drink, I thought, and it seemed to echo in my head, a mockingbird in a small cage. I strolled down the middle of the road, guided by Christmas lights. The front of one house was flooded with undulating rainbow flecks of light, broken candy floating in water. I stared into the houses and watched people live. It seemed like voyeurism but felt like intimacy; as a girl cares for her dolls and dollhouse, I cared for them. Instead of ear muffs I wore Bose noise canceling headphones and listened to Book of Love: “I want to be where the boys are / But I’m not allowed / I’m not a boy / I’m not a boy.”


Tossing the baby to our parents, we went Into The Woods. The lyrics and music carried us even as they made us walk. “Mother cannot guide you / Now you’re on your own / Only me beside you / Still you’re not alone / No one is alone, truly / No one is alone / Sometimes people leave you / Halfway through the wood / Others may deceive you / You decide what’s good / You decide alone / But no one is alone” On the ride home, my brother-in-law said, “this musical means a lot more now.”


“The baby looks like you,” a mutual friend of my sister and I said. “Hopefully the resemblance is only physical,” I said. It was New Year’s Eve at Missy B’s, a place just as trashy as it sounds. The friend bound her breasts like Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry and shaved her head like Sinead O’Connor in everything and people thought we were a couple and we did not correct them. An adorable doofus found me on the dance floor around midnight and tried to kiss me. Our beards brushed as I shouted in his ear, “I’m not that kind of boy.” I should have added “anymore.”


“Apologies, but I must cancel. A good friend of the family has died so we are leaving early,” I texted the boy from here. Not a good friend of the family, really, only of my father, but it sounded better, and I felt better, like an animal caught in a trap and released into the wild again. I was even ready for the Anne Geddes photo shoot. The baby was naked and someone was aiming a hair dryer at his ass. It was a whole situation. My family had held steady for a week in their requests for me to hold him, so I did. Long enough to snap a few pictures, then I passed him back to the professionals. The red shirt I had been given for the occasion – World’s Greatest Uncle – could be taken off. I left it on.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Car I Drove

It was an 8-hour trip home from Kansas City, Missouri – a city split by two states, which I find quite relatable. Also, as I learned on the visit, it’s one of the busiest corridors for sex trafficking in the country. Likely this is due to its Celtic cross of freeways, bringing customers from every direction.

While I drove I listened to Michael York, that yummy English muffin, read the second installment in The Chronicles of Narnia. Audiobooks are another invented industry of the outsourced society, wherein we can’t even read a book, we must have some specialist do it for us. But a moving car has the same effect as eating a gigantic meal – it drags me into the undertow of deep sleep – and no one keeps me upright like Michael.

In the story, the spoiled brat Edmund (the one most like all of us) is manipulated by the White Witch, because she promises more Turkish Delight. Since I’m an Anglophile, not an Anglo-Saxon, I Googled the dessert. It’s a “sensuous pleasure imbued in its melting, gelatinous texture, and, when made in the proper way, delicately perfumed with rose petals, flavored with oils and dusted with sugar…[it has a] power as sweet and seductive as Arabian nights.”* So it’s candy. Cheap and sweet, but you pay for it later.

Just off the freeway, I saw a building without windows, like those anonymous municipal things outside of town that contain some power supply. So did this one, I realized, as I read the sign: Lion’s Den Adult Bookstore. The lion imagery was conflicting, considering the book I was listening to and The Book I believed in.

On my 18th birthday, I drove around with a friend whom I wanted to be more, though I knew little of what that meant. I said, “I’m 18 – I have to do something.” He smiled, “Like what?” I smiled in a different way, “I don’t know.” He thought. “Do you want to buy some cigarettes?” I pretended to think. “No.” I pretended to pause. “Let’s go to that store next to the freeway.”

They’re always next to freeways. And they’re all the same. We walked in and showed our ID’s. We walked around, he looking at the merchandise, me looking at him. We left. I never went in another place like that. I never had to. It was all only a laptop, click and a hump away.

“This was enchanted Turkish delight…” Read Michael York. “…anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.”

As I passed the store, I stared at the cars in the parking lot, waiting for their drivers.

*So says Jenny Colgan, some britchick who writes chicklit.