I’m in a funk. Have been all week. Birthday coming up. Ugh.
I know Lisa B. Adams says we should be grateful for every day, every new gray hair, every creased inch of our still-alive but increasingly inelastic skin. And she’s right–obviously. I don’t need to have cancer to know that. Yet today I sit in a pool of self-pity so thick it’s almost like a spa treatment. All I need is some mud and a few cucumber slices to complete the picture.
I hate aging. Not for the physical changes, really, although those are no great shakes. Rather, it’s for the simple reason that I can’t procreate anymore. Given my druthers I’d have three more kids, maybe four. Each one breastfed, kissed excessively, stared at rapturously, worn in an Ergo, and given my full attention and care for the first three years of its life. (I’d also have a housecleaner, of course. Live-in, preferably. And super anal. But that’s another post.)
My body, however, is on another track. And it ain’t towards fecundity.
Speaking of tracks. A couple of days ago I took MJ on a public transportation “adventure.” It was to the courthouse downtown. I needed to set a date to contest my rolling-stop-sign ticket, and had been unsuccessful in doing so via the court’s “convenient” automated phone system. (“We’re sorry, we are unable to locate a citation number matching your birthdate. Please try again.” What? To be born?) Thinking it might be nice to explore the train system located three minutes from our house, we decided to take the Gold Line to Union station and “figure it out” from there. (I decided, rather. MJ is simply a helpless captive to such whims.)
Union station was as spectacular as everyone says. MJ had had her face painted earlier in the day–to look like a killdeer, of all things–so we got a lot of stares as we stared at the high ceilings and funny leather seats. Finally I turned to the task at hand: what train would take us to traffic court? Guess what? None. The building in question turned out to be in the downtown equivalent of Siberia. A helpful security guy suggested that, in order to get there, we would have to take a bus. But only one, lucky us.
“Bay 5. Bus 40,” he said, while staring bemusedly at MJ’s striped countenance. “It’ll take you straight there.”
So we went to Bay 5. And, after an interminable wait, finally boarded the M40. So much for convenience. It was a loooong ride.
During it, we fell into conversation with the woman sitting across from us. She was middle-aged, with bright, intelligent eyes, a head scarf, and high-top sneakers. On her lap she held a six-month-old baby girl. She told us it was her granddaughter.
“She’s beautiful,” I said, almost enviously.
“I know. Thanks. How old’s yours?” she asked, nodding at Myra-Jean. “Nice face, by the way.”
“I’m a killdeer” said Myra-Jean.
The woman looked at me questioningly.
“She’s a–never mind. She’s three.”
The woman nodded abruptly and shook a rattle for her charge. “You have more?”
“Kids?” I sighed a bit and smiled. “No. We got started late.”
She cocked her head at me. “How old are you?
“About to be forty-five.”
She raised her eyebrows. “No shit. What took you so long?”
I chuckled. “It took awhile to find the right guy.”
Pursing her lips, she nodded. “I know about that.”
There was a silence. The bus driver called “Venice Boulevard!” A man with a bicycle rose and moved up the aisle.
The woman turned back to me. “Me, I had my six some time back.”
“Lucky you.” I meant it.
“Yeah. I’m fifty-two. They’re all grown.”
She smiled down at her granddaughter.
“Wow. That must be…something,” I said.
“It is. It is something.” She nodded. Her gaze fell out the window. I turned my head to look. There wasn’t much there. Just things moving by fast. And yet, not fast enough.
After a few moments the woman turned away from the glass, took out a small board book, and began to read it to her grandkid. For the rest of our ride we all watched, rapt, as the woman pointed at pictures and articulated words carefully and loudly in two languages.
“Cat. Gato. Cat. Gato. Cat. Gato. CAT. GATO.”
The baby, head thrown back like a Pez top, watched her moving lips with wide, almost astonished eyes. I reached over and took Myra-Jean’s hand. My one and only daughter’s beautiful, precious hand.
“I love you, killdeer,” I whispered.
MJ looked away from the book and up at me, her head a slightly bigger Pez top. “Mama?”
“Yes, my love?”
“I don’t much like the bus.”
I pushed a hair off of her forehead. “We’ll be there soon.”
And we were. When we got to our stop, we rose, waved goodbye to the woman, and descended the big rubber steps.
“Nice talkin’ to ya’ll!” she called.
As the doors closed behind us I heard her resume reading:
“House. Casa. House. Casa. HOUSE. CASA.”
The sound dwindled, then disappeared as the bus sighed off down the street. We found our way to the courthouse and stood in line, for some time. Finally, I asked a woman behind glass for a trial date. She gave me one. It seemed very far in the future.
I knew it would be here in no time.