The Wayward Mother

Character Study No. 1

Have you ever known something beyond a doubt? Not the “reasonable doubt” thing they have in court. I mean beyond any doubt whatsoever. So little doubt that you would go to jail for the rest of your life without a trial. You just know that thing. Nobody can argue you out of it because it has gotten so deep into your soul that it’s a part of you. That’s what I mean when I knew I wanted to be a mom.

You probably won’t believe that I remember the moment I knew. Some memories imprint themselves into your mind in permanent marker. They’re there forever and ever. One was the relieved look on Corrine’s face when I dropped her off at college, and the other was this one. I was five and staring up my mom’s nostrils. She said that it was where babies came from. Now I know she was joking, but I believed it back then. Babies dropped out of the nose like mucus from a runny nose. “Mommy,” I remember saying, “I want to be a mommy, and the bestest one, too! I’ll have lots of them. At least three, maybe four, or even five!” I held up my hands to show her.

My mom just looked at me with that look, the one of a woman who didn’t want to be where she was, which she didn’t. “You might change your mind, Sharon. Maybe you’ll want to do something else with your life.”

I never did change my mind. When all of my friends were out burning bras and talking about how they wanted to be the President of the United States, I was just thinking about babies. You know that saying, “babies on the brain”? That was me. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan as much as the next feminist. I just wanted to have a family. The husband part I could do without.

Becoming a single mom was harder than I thought. Nobody would give a baby to a twenty-six-year-old temp even though I had good reasons for leaving all of my jobs. The art gallery owner kept pushing her sister’s work, which looked like flowers covered in poo. When I told her that it was called nepotism, she fired me on the spot. I tried to keep quiet at my paralegal job, I really did. I kept my mouth shut about that man who faked his slip and fall. The sexual harasser was too much, though. I couldn’t stand watching his victims squirm as my boss interrogated them during the depositions. When I told him that I thought he was mean, he said, “Sharon, what do you expect? I’m doing my job the best I can, so should you.” So you see why I had to quit. Then there was Mr. Banks, but I’m not going into that. Having a conscience made me an unfit mother, according to the state.

Anyway, sperm banks were out of the question, being so expensive. Plus, they were all for women who wanted designer babies with Harvard-educated sperm. That wasn’t me. All babies are designer babies if you ask me.

I came up with a plan. I would go to a biker bar and get knocked up by some guy named Spike. He’d be the kind of man who would do his business and ride off without a backward glance. I would raise the baby as an independent single mom, having it all. I even had the dress picked out, a red number that showed off my legs. Men always liked to look at my legs more than my face, so I figured that was my best bet.

I got as far as the entrance to Dino’s, which reeked of beer and diesel. A rough-looking man with tattoos up his neck walked past me and smashed a beer bottle on the ground. I almost told him off for littering until I remembered why I was there. I thought about how sad it would be that all I could tell my child about their father was that he was a litterbug. I turned around right at that moment and wobbled away. I was never much on stilettos.

It was good that Bernard came along, despite everything. I wonder if Corrine would change her mind if she knew that she almost had a litterbug as a daddy.

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