I don’t remember why he asked.
I was putting on my coat, and he was sitting at the table, writing a check. He addressed the envelope. I’d never seen his handwriting before: small and slanted all ways and like. . . like a boy.
I’d been watching Friday t.v. garbage downstairs while he was supposed to be packing upstairs.
“Have I ever shown you this?”
I look up, and, somber-faced, he’s making a little teddy bear goose-step along the banister overlooking the dining room.
“ I’ve had him since I was in first grade.“ Even from a distance, it’s clear the little guy’s been loved. “I had to retrieve him from my parents’ house.” And he disappears back to packing.
While Pete’s packing his toiletries, I call to him, “What’s that little bear’s name?”
“I’m not telling you.”
But after a few minutes of guesses and promises and hints and bartering, with an almost-embarrassed half-smile, he does.
And it’s adorable.
The heat’s too much downstairs, so we move upstairs. Pete’s sprawled on the sofa, all hands and feet and elbows, and I’m sharing a rocking chair with the little bear.
I thought it was all over, but I want to be closer to Pete. I try to ignore it.
It’s getting late; he has an early flight. He plays one more made-up ukulele song, and I assure him that this is really the way he’s going to get all the girls. I put on my coat, and he sits down to write a check.
Without looking up, he asks me if I want to have babies.
“I. . . I don’t know,” is the best I’ve got at first. It’s such a hard question.
I want all the things that make you think it’s a good idea. You know, things like bedrooms and health insurance.
“We were talking about it at work one day,” I tell him, “and I told them I’d never be one of those women who has a baby alone.”
And that, of course-- a boy who makes me think I could do it. Should do it.
“Do you? You do, right?”
“I don’t know,” he says, still writing. “I used to think so. But now I don’t know. I need to figure it out. I need to figure out my whole life.” Then, “I meet a lot of women here who I don’t think would make good mothers.”
“I’m no good at kids until they can, like, stand up,” I say.
It’s hot, wearing my coat.
“Would you want to be with a girl you didn’t want to have kids with?”
“I’ve thought about it. Yeah.”
And it makes me sad to think of him settling. Of anyone settling, really. Because if it’s gonna happen eventually, maybe I should go ahead and let it happen now. Save myself some trouble.