by C. Anderson Guthrie © 2005
Two years ago yesterday I was in Dublin, waiting on the girl that would, according to her, "unintentionally" break my heart. I'm still convinced she'd had it planned. I was also waiting on certain bodily functions to catch up to the rest of my body, and to this day, I'm still not sure which pain was worse--the broken heart, or the not pooping. I'm guessing it was the former, but with someone like me, it's tough to tell.
One year ago yesterday, my brother and his wife gave birth to my niece. Not that my brother did much of the work involved, but it sounds better than "He came, she grunted out a child". Sometimes I have a little tact. Just a little.
Now, a year later, I no longer call her "their daughter," she is "my niece."
What do these things have in common? Almost nothing. And no, what they do share is not what you're probably thinking. You people are disgusting; you know that, right? I may have done some things that are considered immoral by many, or just downright nasty by most, but I can say that without any reservation, that I've never crossed over that brother-brother line. A friend's ex? By all means. Ex's sister? Serve 'er up with syrup! But I've never crossed the brother threshold.
Saturday, I attended my niece's 1st birthday party. "Party" would be a bit much, I suppose. It was more of a gathering to watch her discover that cakes tastes better being passed through the mouth, rather than up the nose. But up the nose is funnier.
A party it was not. Come on, the baby didn't even realize that people were laughing at her, not with her. And she definitely didn't understand how to unwrap a present. She was more interested in little pieces of carpet fuzz than what awaited her beneath the brightly colored wrapping paper. It was blocks, in case you're wondering. I let her in on a secret that blocks taste better and make you vomit less, and she seemed pleased to learn this. Either that, or she'd chosen that moment to explode in her Huggies. The expressions are eerily similar.
Between the lulls in my niece’s self-imposed humiliation-by-cake and her unintelligible baby talk, my thoughts drifted from my brother's house in the Sticks, to a small Fiat Punto on west coast of Ireland.
I scanned the living room, starting with my brother, shifting to his wife, and on to my niece. Brother, wife, my niece. Brother, wife, my niece. Three times, I did this. And then, BAM!, back to the car being parked in Donegal town. There have been plenty times in the last two years that I’ve thought about that trip, probably far too much to be anything other than self-defeating. Never, though, had I looked at it the way I did this Saturday.
I've always held firm on my stance that I never want to have children, mostly for selfish reasons. But, if Emily and I had worked out-which, is of course the little bit of Optimist that hasn't been beaten out of my brain by the Pessimist-that's exactly what I'd be dealing with today: kids.
I've always said that having kids, for me, would be a scary ordeal. One that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. My friends, maybe, but that's only because they deserve it. It's not to say that I want kids right now, or that I'm ready to settle down and find an acceptable uterus that will pop a litter of 13 or 14 tiny-handed, non-back-talking little slaves. No, it's just that sort of thing never scared me when Emily was around.
"If I ever wanted to have a child, what would you say if I asked you to be the father?" she asked.
"Would I have to change diapers, or deal with ball-rash?" I replied, part joking, mostly not. I didn't want to deal with either.
"Not if you didn't want to," she said with an unwavering voice.
"Great, where do I sign up?"
Not that I think we were supposed to end up together, whatever that means. Or that I'm all grown up, because the minute I think that, take me out back and put bullet in my skull. Or get me unbelievably drunk, just something to make me forget that I said it. This I beg of you. The last thing I need right now is a baby. Well, that and a drippy penis. Either would be equally horrific.
So, the last few years could've been a complete 180 from where I currently stand. I could be married with a child, and another on the way. This doesn't even make me flinch, or feel uneasy in the slightest. It would've been fine, for awhile.
We would've been great for a few years, but I always held on to my belief that, no matter what happened, we'd get divorced. Don't ask me how I came to this conclusion, I just did. Perhaps it just comes with knowing someone that well. Regardless of that, this question always surfaces:
"If I could alter time, would I go back and do things differently so that we could end up together?"
Even with the unavoidable divorce thrown out of the recipe, my answer is a most defiant "NO!"
Why do I think this way now? Hindsight, my friend, hindsight.
The last two years of my life would've never happened, and that's not something I'm not readily about to release from my gnarled fingers. I never would've met some of the key people that have been, or possibly will be important in my life.
I wouldn't have spent a glorious week in Puerto Vallarta, drinking good beer and having sex in the shower. Or for that matter, I never would've spent a weekend in Key West, drinking bad beer and having sex in the shower. I may have been passed out in the Key West shower with the cold water hitting me in the face, but in my mind, I was having sex. I love my mind sometimes.
In fact, I never would've met Crystal at all, and though we aren't speaking at the moment-I'm not entirely sure why-I still cherish the time we spent together. Time that would've never happened if I'd continued to be another one of Emily's lemmings.
And I know I was. I was a fucking lemming. Anyone on the outside could see that, but I didn't want to. As much as I would've liked to be with her, I am happy with where I've come from and ultimately where I'm going. I may not seem that way all the time, but I am.
I still don't know what I'd do if she finally understood how unbelievably good I was to her-which, for once, I was-and decided to come back to me, or if I saw her walking down the street. I honestly don't. Part of me would like to punch her the face, an another, softer part of me would love to give her a good hate-fucking, but who says I have to choose? Both would give me that warm, fuzzy feeling that I very much crave right now.
Sitting there, on my brother's couch, I finally understood why people have children. And for once, I felt a tinge of jealousy towards him and the family he has helped create.
Just as I came to terms with all this, my brother handed me my smiling niece, and that feeling of jealousy was swept away as she swatted my head with her fat, cake-covered palms, and promptly threw up on my shoulder.
God, I fucking hate kids.
C. Anderson Guthrie is a writer and poker player from Minnesota. You can visit his poker blog: Pokerama-rama.