And so it was that I found myself on BART, gazing intently at an advertisement for gay adoption. The poster showed two happy gay men cuddling with their son. The photo gave me a great idea: Since I am single but would like to have a child (and because I believe all children need an active father figure), maybe I could find myself a gay couple interested in co-parenting with me. I've looked at the sperm bank option, but it just doesn't feel right. This way, we could live like happily divorced people do, sharing the time and financial burdens involved in childrearing.
I quickly conjured pictures of the four of us gathered around the Sunday dinner table, our one night a week when we'd come together as an alternative family. I imagined the fathers hiking with the kid. I thought about reading a book called My Two Dads to the lil tyke. For the first time in a long, long while, I started looking forward to something. I sussed out co-parenting on the Web and, sadly, didn't find much. This was gonna take a while.
I couldn't contain myself, so I e-mailed my mom the good news. I knew it would take her some time to digest my decision, and I wanted to give her plenty of advance notice. She usually writes me back immediately, but the computer was eerily “silent” for a few days. Uh-oh. I got a bad feeling in my stomach. My great idea wasn't going down so well with her.
When my mom finally responded, I couldn't face opening the message right away. I decided to read her e-mail at the Hi Dive, the bar I was going to that night. It's a little shack along the Embarcadero right underneath the Bay Bridge, with a cool amber glow emanating from it. That part of the city is always deserted at night, which adds to its lonesome charm. From the outside, the bar reminds me of the cover of a Hubert Selby Jr. novel, with the bridge looming overhead like an urban iceberg.
Inside the Hi Dive is sort of a different story. The place isn't a dive, for one thing. It's a smallish room with windows that face the bay and a bar along the opposite side. It isn't chichi by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn't the place transients hit for their 6 a.m. drinks, either.
I showed up without cash, and the bartender told me the advertised ATM wasn't working. This was problematic, since the Embarcadero is a creepy area to walk around in search of a cash machine, and I would need bus fare to get back home. I'd seated myself next to three guys, and decided to offer to buy one of them a beer on my credit card if they would give me $1.50 for Muni. Problem solved.
I ordered a Jameson's from the can-do bartender, and proceeded to open my mom's e-mail. Reading it made me cry. She was not amused by my idea for creating a family. She quoted the Serenity Prayer, and said that she always regretted it when she tried to force things that were not meant to be. She believes that you have to read the signs sent your way. My mom opined that I'm a talented writer, and that I should be working on a book instead of a child, because that is something I have control over. She added that I'm either naive or in denial, and that either way I must not really be the hip, sophisticated woman that I present to people.
I think what made me most sad is that my mother is always right. While everything in my life that has been worthwhile has been the direct result of me taking a risk, it's also true that you shouldn't try to force outcomes just because the one you have hoped for — a family — isn't panning out. I couldn't help but agree with my mom's idea that synchronicity exists.
My mind was moving too fast, so I decided to chat up the gents who gave me my Muni fare. They were professional types, with a nerdy streak. It turns out that two of them were literally rocket scientists, working as aerospace engineers. “What the hell are you doing out here?” I asked, referring to the out-of-the-way bar. They said that they lived across the street, and that this place was pretty much the only spot for a drink in the area. We got to talking, and here's where more synchronicity came in: They both went to school in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the town I grew up in. What a coincidence. Here's another one: In Champaign, there's a bar called the Hi-Dive, which was opened up by my ex-boyfriend's best friend. Jay, the guy on my right, commented that he'd been thinking about the Illinois bar earlier; I'd also been thinking of the other Hi-Dive when I walked in that night. (Goddamn you, mother.)
We chatted some more, but it was getting late. I said goodbye and headed down the street toward my Muni stop. I had succeeded in forgetting my troubles and my mom's missive, and was looking forward to reading my book on the long ride home.
A couple came up behind me. They looked really young and were a bit scruffy around the edges. “Do you know if we are heading toward Fisherman's Wharf?” the woman asked. I said yes, but that it was several piers down, so I hoped that they liked walking. I couldn't help myself and asked why in the heck two hippies were interested in going to the Wharf at eleven o' clock at night. “I'm pregnant,” the woman answered, rubbing her hand on her belly, “and we heard that they have free food there when the restaurants close. I haven't eaten in a day.” They seemed to be at their wits' end, walking all over the city looking for food. I wondered what got her to the state of being homeless and pregnant.
So, what was her fate? Was she destined to be poor and pregnant? I was further confused.
If everything happens for a reason, what's wrong with making things happen if you plan them well in advance? This will take a while to sort out. I shall see.