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The cat on the table and the child in my head

I’m chopping vegetables when she starts crying, a plaintive meowing. She paces across the kitchen table, coat gleaming, belly hanging, begging for my attention. “I’m sorry, Cat. I’m fixing dinner. I’ve got nothing for you.”

In my head she’s a little girl. Three or four. Her eyes wide and pleading, “Mama, play with me!”

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’m fixing dinner. Papa will be home soon and I’m hungry! Would you like to help?”

She peels the garlic and breaks heads off brocoli stalks. “They look like tiny trees!” She is gleeful. I’m in awe of her strong little hands and the pleasure she takes in such simple tasks.

And then I chide myself for being so stupid. Getting lost in childish imaginings. Children are not in the picture. Not now, not for years, maybe never. Maybe because you never know and maybe because it just seems impossible. The other day I asked Michael, “How will we know?”

“When I have a job and we have health care and we’re ready to buy a house and we’re not worried about paying bills every month. Maybe then.”

Maybe we’ll wait until we’re in our forties and adopt. I can see myself, like all those women I watched in Manhattan with long silver hair and ethnic children. I could love any child I held in my arms, I know that.

By now I’ve peeled and chopped a whole garlic bulb, but I don’t care. I sprinkle it over the vegetables, slide it into the oven, set the timer. I over-season everything. Fresh cracked pepper makes raw chicken black. Kosher salt, onion flakes, garlic powder,¬†oregano, basil, sage smells like pee but I sprinkle on three-times the amount you would anyway. The chicken will come out of the oven crunchy for spices but I don’t care. I like it that way. Just like I like my food burned crisp. Everything tasting like it came out of a campfire. Smoky.

I reach for another beer. Dinner is in the oven but Mike won’t be home for three hours at least. I’ll eat alone while I balance the budget. Wait up for him. Reheat a plate for him. Press my face into his neck while he eats. Breathe. So glad he’s home.

This is my second installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments, begun by Heather of the EO. You should totally join in.