Dogs regularly run away during storms but not before them. The coffee is cold. The children want cereal. The fern on the front porch tells morning walkers that I don't water her enough. The fern is not a true friend.
My fourteen-year-old son is a pianist who loves Gogol Bordello, admires Aristotle, and despises gender-reveal parties. He pauses in the middle of a fugue by Bach to grumble about Donald Trump. "I can't even practice," he says. I slide into the tone that must be doubled when resolving a dominant seventh into the tonic.
My neighbor makes Reborn dolls for money. The dolls are sold in a digital nursery. She offers medical services for the dolls when they are damaged. She refers to a damaged doll as a sick baby. It's important to find a cute name and market the babies.
Good marketing increases the chances of adoption. She is hosting a baby shower for a new baby next week. There will be cupcakes and name-guessing games. There will be a happy expectant mother. There is a registry my neighbor can share with me if I'd like to attend. If a reborn is created from a kit as opposed to whole manufactured doll, it may be called newborning.
As I load the car for a day's outings, the neighbor runs her hand over my youngest's hair: "You have beautiful hair," she says, "how would you like to donate your hair to a baby that needs it?" I tell the kids to run inside and water the toilet. I want to hug my neighbor and tell her that I'm sorry, we don't do reborns. Instead, I ask if knows a good place to pick blueberries. She doesn't.
In the car, we listen to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade, Op. 35”. The harp creates massive ocean waves that roil Sinbad’s ship. In the story you tell to save your life, a maiden must rise to the surface of whatever happens. Emma Goldman believing love would learn and grow stronger from freedom. Rosa Luxembourg believing that females could share power.
There is a private, glitzy club on top of Red Mountain that offers a panoramic view of Birmingham. I am curious, eager for trouble as child who wants to be forbidden. Trespassing is a boundary violation grown-up.
We stop for gas at a nondescript station and let my son fill the tank. I purchase a soda and four blue raspberry ring-pops; slip on a ring as I pay. One iced bottle of Coke to split among four mouths. We pass it around the car, cold sugar coating our tongues like that silence in a bathroom stall after a secret. "Where are we going Mom?" is an excellent question.
"Somewhere," I say, still deciding.
I miss the cordial misogynies of my childhood. Hatred of females is so blatant and subsidized that I dread answering my daughter's innocent question: "Mommy, what is a gentleman's club?" "I don't know sweetie. Maybe it's a place for gentlemen to go."
She watches the long black building smear past.
"But why doesn't it have any windows?"
"It costs more to cool a building with windows in the summer."
I change the music to Maria Tanase. Because I need a little Romanian to get through this part.
There it is: The Club. I drive up to the "Members Only" sign and pause. My kids can read now. They don't want to see the city if it means getting arrested.
I reassure: "There are no grounds for arresting children on the basis of trespass." We park and play it cool; rehearse the cover story in which I am an event planner scouting locations for a possible state conference in the fall.
My middle-schooler rolls her eyes--"That's a lie, Mom."
At the entryway, an electronic sign welcomes the members and spouses of the Alabama Coal Association. The kids look serious. On our way to the look-off point, we stroll past rooms with gilded mirrors and opulent chandeliers.
Seven elderly ladies in Sunday dresses perch around a glass table playing cards. "Those must be the spouses," my son whispers.
"Pretend we belong here," I reply.
The view is spectacular. To the left of the city, Alabama's aging Coal Contessas can feast their tired eyes on the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant, "the nation's largest emitter of carbon pollution", also one of the nation's last major coal-fired power plants. "What is that ugly smoke way over there?" my youngest wonders.
"It's the beauty of electricity and human invention."
The Contessas can see us through the glass window overlooking the patio. I am sure they know their kind. I am sure they are getting suspicious.
I cannot stop thinking about the babies or the image of a rose petal trampled into hay. An article online describes an incident where a reborn was mistaken for an actual baby and rescued from a hot parked car after being reported to police. There is the possibility of oxytoxin being released through cuddle therapy. Studies suggest that cuddling a realistic doll has a similar effect to cuddling a living baby. A sex doll may soothe more effectively than a wife. In one year, it may be inhumane to analyze the costs of objectification. Since objects fill a basic human.
After dinner, I unstrap my softest leather sandals and sit on the edge of the bed, near the bay window. The house settles, a scuffle of voices inches through the hall. I wait for him, replay old scenes in my head. That time he accused me of "doing something" with a co-worker. "I don't know what you did," he says, "only you know what you did. You're the one that did it." But I didn't do anything. No matter how interesting it would be to have done something plot-worthy, I failed to act in a way that contributed to rising action.
It is impossible to convince someone that you did not do something if they have not decided what the thing you did might be. Marriage is an ontological problem with epistemological applications. Marriage is an event that demands rigorous music. I turn on the Rimsky-Korsakov and pick up the thread from earlier. The Tale of Prince Kalendar. The hands of the harpist, a flock loosed into a field. And the bear of a man entering the room, the man asking what I did with the kids today. "You, lover of storied women, fool for the glorious tale, I have one. To beguile you. Here's how it happened..."
(What Happened on June 21, 2018 Project sponsored by Essay Daily)