On Second Thought(16)

By: Kristan Higgins

Occasionally, we’d run into Daniel, his cloud of pheromones thick enough to make us choke. Paige called him Thor, God of Thunder, and yeah, he had that kind of effect. Once, Paige and I were sitting in at Porto’s Bar & Restaurant, and Daniel walked in at the very moment the jukebox started playing “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer. Even the machinery knew.

He was friendly, sure, slinging an arm around my shoulders. “Hey, Kate!” he’d say, his eyes flickering from their usual good cheer. After all, I’d known him as half of a couple, back when he and Calista were newlyweds. I’d seen him sitting on their front steps, waiting for her to come home, unsure of where she was. I knew that he’d been heartbroken, and she had not. Calista moved to Sedona after the divorce, taught meditational movement and spiritual cleanses. I still got a Namaste card for winter solstice each year.

But Daniel and his ilk—the cheerful man-children of Brooklyn—didn’t give women like Paige and me a second glance. Marriage? Tried that, didn’t work. Those guys just kept buying lemon drop martinis for their just-graduated girlfriends, women a decade (or more!) younger than I was, who considered Britney Spears songs classics. They didn’t care about things like fatherhood potential, didn’t care about depth of character. They were simply smitten by the FDNY insignia on Daniel’s T-shirt and the bulging muscles that were showcased by it. (To be fair, I’d once seen Daniel shirtless, and I stopped caring, too.)

The other single men I knew...well, the truth was, I knew only a few. Most of them were ex-cons, as I volunteered at the Re-Enter Center of Brooklyn, a place where parolees could take classes to help them adapt to life on the outside. I taught small business management with a little photography thrown in for fun. And while I was all for forgiveness, chances were quite small that I’d marry a guy with a teardrop tattooed under his eye.

Paige and I would assure each other that being single was great. Our lives were full and fun and we loved our careers. Look at other women! Just because they were in relationships didn’t make their lives meaningful! Paige had two sisters and seven nieces and nephews, and both sisters were wretched and exhausted. One was contemplating a mommy makeover to lift her boobs and shed her fat and get her husband to sleep with her again; the other, Paige was pretty sure, was about to come out of the closet.

My own sister...well, okay, Ainsley was happy, but kind of...how to put this? Naive. Retro in her worship of all things Eric, always putting herself second, despite the fact that she’d had a very impressive job. She took care of Eric in a way he never took care of her; he was the star in the couple, and she had a supporting role. It bugged me.

I was different. Paige, too. We were self-fulfilled. And what about that fabulous trip we’d taken last year to London, huh? We should plan another! Vienna this time? Or Provence?

Then a couple would walk by, a baby strapped to one parent, an adorable toddler wearing an ironic T-shirt holding hands with the other, and we’d falter. “Screw it,” Paige would say. “If only there were mail-order husbands.”

If only I had a gay male friend who’d pony up and coparent with me! Not only would we have a wonderful child, we could write a great screenplay about it. Alas, no—my gay friends, Jake and Josh, already had Jamison, so that was out.

I told myself it was okay. After all, I didn’t need a baby. The world was overpopulated, there were teenagers I could adopt, etc.

But then I’d visit my brother and watch him and Kiara with their kids. The rush of love and gratitude I’d always felt over the years when my niece or nephew would run to see me, or more recently, at least come out of their rooms to see me. Sadie still snuggled, at least. Granted, I wasn’t like my sister, who had to sniff the head of every baby we saw and chat up the mother for details on the birth, but I loved kids.

Brooklyn was full of babies. I wanted someone to cuddle, someone I could carry and stare at during naptimes—not in a creepy way, but in a loving, maternal glow. Someone who would call me Mommy and reach for my hand without thinking, the way Esther still did with Kiara, the way Sadie reached out for my brother. I found myself eyeing pregnant teenagers, wondering what they’d say if I casually asked if they’d consider giving me their unborn child.