Friday, June 22

Where is Jurassic Park?

My sister-in-law gave birth today. It’s the first day of summer. Winter is coming. Nine-forty-one. From now on, every year of my niece’s life will be measured, quite exactly, in the death and resurrection of summer. On and on. Summer’s decline and rising.
We were walking down the street. There was a child screaming at its mother. It was a hot day and the child screamed underneath a bridge where the railway rattled. The mother tried to reason with the child but still it screamed. We were on our way into town, she and I, this lover and myself. We had discussed children before, many months before, but now we were in love and were falling out of it, like a car boot open on the motorway. I looked at the child, smiled and joked—‘They’re lovely at that age, aren’t they?’
‘Yes,’ she said—‘I want one.’
There was no humour in her voice. There was only a tone of utter determination. A chill ran through me.
Let the writer note – for the reader and record – that they do not want a child.
I have heard, throughout my time, that it is something special to have a child and that it lends one’s life a meaning previously incomprehensible. To gaze down at the babe that grew from one’s loins (somewhat effortlessly for a male) is the most incredible feeling, they say. Sometimes, after I have orgasmed, I will stare at the tissue and think of its potential, of the civilisations that could sprout from my feckless enjoyment, and then moments later I will disregard it down the toilet and listen to the swallowing swirl of my latrine. How flippant of me!
My brothers are so good with children. I watch them interact and I don’t understand; how could one do that? Around children I am clumsy and nervous, unsure, not in the least bit comfortable. When my niece addresses me, I am quite blank of how to respond—
‘Where is Jurassic Park?’
‘Just off the coast of Costa Rica.’
‘Do people live there?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why?’
‘Because that’s where they live and work.’
‘Why doesn’t the T-rex eat them?’
‘Because the T-rex doesn’t live there anymore.’
‘Why?’
‘Because they all died out.’
‘Why?’
‘Because of climate change, probably trigged by a natural disaster.’
‘Why?’
‘Because of… When are you going to fall asleep?’
She held her soft toy and pointed at the sky—‘This live up there?’
‘No. The stegosaurus would have a hard time flying.’
‘Why?’
‘It doesn’t have wings. You’re thinking of a pterodactyl.’
‘Why?’
Maybe I would glance upon my child and see something of myself: a feature or facial expression, maybe a mannerism. The faintest hint of an inherited trait to reassure myself that the child was indeed mine and all my relatives gather round echoing the same thing. The poor thing! And I know that my interest in women with thin waists, wide hips and big thighs is built around evolution’s grip over my subconscious, yet still I resist. Give me those women and give me sense.
This world is not good enough for the product of love.
That is what it all boils down to: this world is not good enough for the product of love, and of my love.
This is an awful, sad and lonely place.
So I resist. I need love only to bolster my desire to survive.
But what if I could go to work and suffer – because work is only that – for the sake of another, of an infant who called me ‘Dad’ with a capital letter and who knew me as one side of an axis upon which the world revolved. If only for a few years.
Maybe the child would give me some hope for a world in which I have none!
The child’s life marked forever now in the fall and rise of summer, until its death long after mine.
Now she is an unsightly baby of red and wrinkly skin, but soon she will be a beautiful girl who I can buy books for and speak to in quiet moments when no one else is around, and I will walk past and bow down to kiss the top of her head, and she will make me smile and the smiles that I smile at her will be unlike those I have shown for any other human being. And for that, even across a distance, I will be happy for.

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