and I hope he realizes that my words have a way of becoming real. I will have nine kids someday, and a bunch of dogs, and a few cats, and chickens. Yes, chickens. In New York City. In our huge backyard. I will become a writer. I will continue to live life as a grand adventure. And if, somehow, these dreams don’t come true, it’s because they’ve altered into other dreams, and not because I’ve failed.
He nods his head. Half of the time, when I tell him my dreams, he acquiesces, murmurs softly that he agrees,that he understands, that he’s on board. The other half of the time, he tries to compromise with me. Three kids instead of nine. Two dogs instead of five. No chickens. A house in Brooklyn, not in Queens. Or maybe Staten Island. Or – ooh! – a condo in the city.
No, I say to him. This is the way it will be. Nine kids. Adoption. I’ll eventually trade nursing for writing full-time. Huge meals every night, lots of organic food, a ritual of baking cookies every Sunday with the kids. An open-door policy to all of our friends and family. At least one guest bedroom. Crazy nights out with our friends, drinking, dancing on tables, bar-hopping, club-hopping, fucking in restrooms, while my parents watch the kids. Fresh mint and basil in the garden and picnics in Central Park or Prospect Park or Cunningham Park or Flushing Meadows Park on lazy afternoons… I have it all thought up. I know exactly how my life – our life – will be.
As soon as the words leave my mouth, I wonder if I’m being domineering. Condescending. Rude. Annoying. A bad partner. Because surely, good partners don’t act like militant despots. But I do.
There was a time, I’m sure, when I wasn’t this way. I lived with men and didn’t feel the need to micro-manage. I didn’t suffer from panic attacks at the thought of him messing up again. I didn’t cringe every time I told him to take a break from playing video games to check on the baby. But then again, I’ve never been a working mom before.
The worst part is, I can’t tell if it’s as bad as I say. I don’t know what’s real anymore. I know that he’s constantly reading fan fiction and playing video games, but I also know that he spends time with our son and takes care of him and gives me massages and draws me baths – all without my having to ask. I can’t tell if there’s really a discrepancy. Is there something wrong? Is he dividing his time well? Responsibly? Practically? Or have I turned into my mother, always jumping the gun at my father and nagging him and finding flaws in him that may or may not be there?
I remember well all the things my father told me about relationships.
Always trust the one you love.
Without respect, there can be no love.
Your mom thinks the worst of me, and I keep on trying to move past all the bad I’ve done but she just won’t let go of the past and what the fuck am I supposed to do?
All of it is etched in my brain. And I wonder about me and Rob, about our relationship, about how I always parallel it to my parents’ relationship and how that isn’t justified or right or healthy. I think about how, yes, we’ve both fucked up, but honestly, if we were measuring fuck-ups, I’d probably come out on top. I’ve fucked up more. Quantifiably, qualifiably, there can be no mistake: I take the prize.
Deep down, I can’t shake the feeling that Rob’s done something, something horrible. Something akin to cheating on me, but worse, something-
He asks if I’m blogging, and I tell him yes, and a few minutes later he puts down his Xbox controller and interrupts me mid-run-on-sentence.
“Love,” he says to me, “I know you tell me that you want someone who wants the same things that you want, but you’ve got to understand: What I want is to grow old with you. And if that means nine kids and a bunch of animals, then so be it. I’d rather it be two dogs and two cats and okay, you can have as many chickens as you want, but what I’m saying is, I’ll adjust what I want in order to make sure I grow old with you.”
And just like that, my dream is adjusted.
Nine kids, two dogs, two cats, chickens – and a man who loves me more than I think I deserve.
I can live with that.