Things I’ve learned about you thus far: you are not a morning person, not really, but you’ve learned to adapt because of your job. This is the first vacation you’ve taken in five years, and you’re kind of in-between things, doing gigs here and there but not committing to anything, to any restaurant, full-time yet. You like to sleep on your back, one arm thrown to the side, the other resting on your stomach. You have very expressive eyebrows; they fly up and furrow and arch and dance and wiggle whenever you’re amused, surprised, annoyed, etcetera. You’re a private, guarded person, but you wear your feelings on your face.
There are three things I usually try to slip in on a first date just to get them out of my way, but I’ve only told you the first two thus far: this LA thing is temporary, and I plan to move back to Brooklyn as soon as I can. I travel a lot, as much as I can. Neither is a very dramatic confession, just things about myself I like to make known, and you’re fine with both — you’re based on the east coast as is, and you like to travel, too.
The third, though, doesn’t fall from my mouth as easily as it usually does when I’m meeting someone for the first time. I don’t want kids; I’ve never wanted kids. Children do not factor into my future life plans at all.
We’re sitting at a bar in a taco joint in Santa Monica, eating fish tacos and scallops tacos and shrimp tacos, and it’s been four days spent together, and I still haven’t told you. I don’t want kids. It’s not that hard to say, but what if you do? And what if it’s as non-negotiable for you as it is for me — I don’t plan to change my mind about it, and I don’t want you to try. I’ve never liked babies, and I’ve never had much patience for children, and it’s never much appealed to me, that life of parenthood, of being obligingly attached to another human being for life. Normally, I don’t feel so weird saying that out loud, just move on from it after I’ve said it, but I hold my breath this time. I don’t want this thing between us to end.
I do like babies, you say, scooping more guacamole onto a half-eaten tortilla chip, but I also don’t think I want kids. I used to want that whole thing — spouse, children, house in the suburbs with a fucking white picket fence. You know. Typical all-American dream.
I wait, keep holding my breath.
At some point, I finally figured out that I wanted it because I thought I was supposed to want it. I kinda don’t, though. I mean, at one point, I’ll have to decide what to do and take a more stable job, and, yeah, of course, I want a family of my own, but that family looks more like me, my partner, and our dog. You pause; I breathe. I sometimes feel bad about it, though. I think my parents think they fucked up somehow somewhere, like I’d want all the “normal” things if they’d been better parents.
My mum thinks I just need to meet the “right” person.
I don’t know. Kinda used to think that, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m selfish, but I’d rather be able to go places spontaneously with my partner and have that kind of freedom.
I don’t think that’s selfish, you say, your voice quiet. It’s not selfish to know what you want, just because it’s not what other people want for you. Or expect from you. It’s your life.
There are maybe a million other places we could take this conversation (or, maybe, more realistically, five), but I break eye contact, hop off my chair to get more pineapple salsa. It’s sweet and spicy, and I’ve been pouring it liberally on my tacos all night, dipping chips into it, wanting to take home a giant jar full of it. The tomato salsa is good, too, the tomatoes crushed and blended with something so satisfyingly spicy — it’s hard for me to find spicy that’s actually spicy.
I take my time, as much time as I can take filling tiny salsa cups, and, when I come back, you’re still sitting as you were before, legs crossed, chin resting in your palm. You’re wearing your usual uniform of a T-shirt and skinny jeans, baseball cap backwards, watch, ring, simple charm necklace, black ankle boots, and, even in such basic simplicity, you look more put-together than most other people, including most other people in this room. When I sit back down, look up and meet your eyes, you reach over and take my hand, give my fingers a squeeze.
It’s okay to want what you want, you say, and I think the fact that we’re here, sitting together in this half-taqueria, half-restaurant, knowing that we’ll go home together is evidence enough of the fact that we accept that to be true, that it is indeed okay to want what we want, who we want. I’m not going anywhere, you say, and then you inhale sharply and let out a short laugh. Well, I have to go back to Boston in three days because of work, but you know what I mean.