They weren’t supposed to happen at all, you see. The doctors told Mary that nothing could grow inside her. The doctors told me that I was shooting blanks. We used to hold hands and smile sadly at each other. “What luck!” one of us would say. “That’s just like us, to both be messed up,” the other would reply. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so painful, if we hadn’t felt so worthless. “Well, at least we have each other,” one of us would say, and then our hearts would break all over again, simultaneously.
That summer I took Mary on vacation to California. I thought it would help to get our minds off it. We strolled through Venice Beach, gawking at the street performers with their giant snakes, and their fiery hula hoops, and their body glitter. There was an old woman sitting on a bench reading palms. She was bundled in scarves and several layers of skirts, and large baubles dangled from her earlobes; she was the very stereotype of a sideshow fortune teller, missing only a dimly-lit tent and a crystal ball. It was a total rip-off—ten dollars per palm—but Mary insisted.
Mary held out her hand, and the old crone dragged her dirty fingernails along the lines that I so loved to kiss. When the woman spoke, her breath smelled of garlic. “You are a lucky girl, my dear. Your greatest wish will soon be fulfilled.” Mary looked up at me, a hope glistening in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in years. Before I could object, the hag snatched my wrist and twisted it towards her. After staring for a moment, her face grew grim. “You don’t know what you want. You think you do, but you don’t.” I tugged my hand away from her and put my arm around Mary’s waist. “Right, right. ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ I get it. If you think you’re getting another ten dollars out of me, you’re crazy,” I told her. We walked off to get some ice cream, and Mary scolded me for being so mean.
As it happened, the old woman was perfectly correct on both counts. A few months later, Mary went to the doctor. She came home with a present for me—a little black and white picture showing not one, but two tiny lumps. She sat on my lap and kissed me. “It’s a miracle, Brian! It’s what we’ve always wanted.” I didn’t know what to say, so I downed the rest of my wine and brought her up to bed.
Davey and Dale are six years old now. Six years old and I’ve never learned to love them. I’m not a bad father—they’re my children, and I do my duty towards them. But everything went wrong when they came along. I took a job I didn’t want so we could afford a nice house. Mary quit her job to take care of her precious twins. They’re all she talks about. She got fat. I don’t mean to be shallow, but she did. I’m not holding up too well, either. My hair gets whiter every year. That would probably happen anyway, but I feel like it only started when they were born. I can’t help correlating the two. They’re so rambunctious, and curious, and messy, and they never stop. They never stop. I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep.
When I think back on that day at the doctor’s office, when he told me I couldn’t have kids, I feel nostalgic. When one of the twins grabs my hand and calls me daddy, I feel nothing. Regret, maybe.
Sad story. Sorry about that. It happens. Had fun playing video games at Ben's last night. And now that all my grad school applications are in, I CAN START WORKING ON MY NOVEL AGAIN! Hooray! Watch that word count, people, because soon it's going to go up and up and up.