Grandpa always said a first date should be lunch, no drinking, no drugs, so I took Jill to a diner. We sat down at an open table and started talking to each other:
“Are you single?” she said.
“Yes. And you?”
It was a good start.
We finished our sandwiches and walked back to her studio. She made tea and we sat on the couch and talked more:
“Did you like your sandwich?” I said.
“I did. And you?”
“I liked my sandwich a lot.”
I pulled a smooth move and touched her behind the ear. She said, “Wait. Before we go any further, I need to tell you something.”
“You can tell me anything,” I said.
“I have a son.”
“I love sons. When can I meet him?”
“Right now, after we have sex. But before you meet him, you should know something about him. He’s feral.”
“How did you come to be the mother of a feral child?”
She took an index card from her purse and read from it:
“I wrote this down so everyone hears the same story. Back in 2001 I was sleeping with a guy who worked in advertising. I got pregnant and he was like, ‘I’m taking a job in Vancouver so I can spread his shit out and grow.’ I scheduled an abortion and he was like, ‘Don’t do it!’ He said the world needed our child because we were two magnificent people and our baby would be a genius, and if I had the baby he would send me money to raise it. He said he would come back to the city once the baby was fifteen years old and less of a hassle to deal with. So I had the baby and the guy started sending money. So much money. I was twenty at the time, you see, so this money was booze and clothes money, not baby money. What I’m saying is, I partied every day and it was amazing.”
“How could you party every day with a baby at home?”
“I tied him up in the closet and ignored him. It’s terrible.”
“You kept a baby in your closet for ten years?”
“I’m a terrible mother, haha!”
“Don’t feel too bad. Some mothers kill their babies. At least you kept yours alive.”
“That makes me feel better. Let’s have sex.”
We did and that was fine.
Jill went to the bathroom to take a shower. I was back on the couch, drinking tea. I heard the shower come on and then there was a loud thud, like a big book falling off a shelf.
“Are you OK in there?” I said.
There was no answer.
I walked to the bathroom to find a terrible scene: Jill was sprawled out in the tub, legs bent over the edge. She was bleeding greatly from the head. Her tongue was sticking out and she looked dead. I checked her neck for a pulse. She was dead. I was frightened, but I composed myself. As Grandpa would say, if things don’t work out with a girl, you need to forget about her and move on.
The lunch date had gone from romantic (the kissing), to exciting (the news of the feral child), to mysterious (the sex), and then to deadly (the dead body). This would’ve been a great “how we met” story to tell our grandkids if things had worked out between us and Jill hadn’t died.
The voice came from the closet.
And then again: “Lunchable.”
It was Jill’s feral child, and he was hungry. I took a Lunchable from the stack of Lunchables in the cupboard and slid it through slot in the closet door. I was also hungry and Lunchables were the only food in the apartment, so I unwrapped one and dug in.
“This Lunchable isn’t half bad, huh,” I said. “It has all you need: you got your crackers, your ham, your cheese, and your cookies.”
This kid probably wants to be free, I thought. I opened the closet door and untied the bungee cords that had been wrapped around his ankles. He was a thin weasel-y boy, and he was naked. We went into Jill’s room and found a pair of ratty jeans and a Polo shirt. They fit the boy well.
“Thank goodness the girls dress like boys these days or else you’d be wearing a skirt, buster.”
“You’re my kid now. Let’s go home.”
The next day a buddy told me about an art thing with girls I should check out. Artists were going to be lying on the floor naked and the audience was supposed to wash their bodies. I like art sometimes and naked people most of the time, so I said I’d check it out. I arrived before the art had started. There were ten black mats on the floor and ten women milling about, taking off bras and socks and what not. Next to each mat was a mason jar filled with water and a stack of small linens. There was a sign on the wall that said, “Clean the bodies or lay and be cleaned.” It was one of those You Can Be The Art Too things. A big guy in cut-offs started talking: “Listen everyone: we’re about to start. You should be lying down on your mat. Do not move when a viewer cleans you. Do not talk. Your eyes must be open. You are to stay still for exactly one hour.”
It was time to clean the bodies. I walked over to a girl and knelt on the floor next to her. I dipped the linen into the mason jar, pulled it out, and let a few drops fall on her stomach. She didn’t flinch. She was beautiful. I wanted to make her my wife. I stopped making art and walked over to the guy in cut-offs.
“How much for the girl?” I said
“Which one are you interested in?”
“The girl I cleaned.”
“Ann. The gem of the show. Two thousand dollars.”
“I’ll give you twelve hundred.”
“My price is firm at two thousand dollars. She will be worth twenty times that in five years. Don’t you know anything about art?”
“How do you know will she be worth more in five years?”
“Two reasons: One: the guy who did the show is a bipolar faggot who’s going to hang himself one of these days. I just hope he does it in my gallery. And two: Ann is only twenty years old. Women improve with age. Well, the good ones do, at least.”
“Is Ann one of the good ones?”
“That’s the gamble.”
“How long would I own her?”
“Forever. Or until you sell her. Or until someone steals her. Or until you she leaves you because you’re shitty. Are you shitty?”
I bought Ann. I told her she’s my wife now. She said that was fine. She got dressed and we took the train back to my place. Inside, Jill’s feral child was leaning against the fridge eating a Lunchable.
“You have a kid?” Ann said.
“It’s Jill’s kid,” I said.
“A girl I got with yesterday. She’s dead.”
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t know. Want to give him one?”
Ann named him Ann. “It’s the only name I’m into.”
Ann liked my apartment, but said it needed decorations. I said it already had decorations. She said a dartboard is not decoration. I offered to buy more dartboards to fill up wall space and she started crying. She said she had a great idea for the walls and taped her sketches of weathervanes to the walls. She liked to talk about what the weathervane sketches meant. They meant her dad usually. I hated the weathervanes and we fought about it:
“I can’t get any deep thinking done with all these distracting weathervanes on the walls.”
“Deep thinking? We both know you’re just drinking and carrying on until the nukes start flying.”
“I think deeply all the time.”
Ann started taking baths with Little Ann and not inviting me. They would go on long walks at night without me. One night I was eating dinner in the kitchen and I heard Ann tell Little Ann, “That’s why he’s angry all the time. I’m not sure he’s worth it” and I said, “You’re not worth it!” and we didn’t talk for a week. And then another week. I finally gave in and said I’m sorry for everything and that she could keep the weathervanes on the walls, but only if she agreed to invite me when she takes baths and walks with Little Ann. She said yes. She enrolled Little Ann in preschool where he learned more words and soon he was walking around the apartment saying them.
Tags: How I Started a Family