This is how we become who we are: your mother and father meet and find each other attractive in their own unique way, and they do not claw each other’s eyes out yet, but play cards with strangers, take Jell-O shots and rum on the rocks. Sometimes she likes it with cola, but he always takes it plain (a trait you will inherit). They people-watch while eating and drinking, laughing at nothing that they will remember in a few years, or care to. She complains that the tomato on her chicken salad is mushy and too ripe. She says, “Let’s do a shot of rum. No Jell-0 but a real shot, and your future father says, standing up before going to the men’s room: “Hell yeah!”
They are twenty-seven.
They are college graduates. Statistically—means financial security, but statistics are always skewed.
It might lead to a better living environment for you so that you can consume the innerworkings of societal norms, like if the knife and fork go on the same side of the plate, or if you should join a group of friends from middle school to watch an equestrian event because Eighth-grader Ellen Parker is a rider and is sexy-hot, and that is when you feel the rush of competition from other boys looking at her—realize you probably have no chance.
But you got lucky and never inherited a weak gene or over-sensitive neurons from your drunken love-bird parents, genes that might’ve caused you to fall deep into a depression or mental confinement that hinders future decisions. You hate to see the snobbish around you growing up, but your parents have done well financially, which mildly puts you in the tough position to equal them or do better. Expectations squared.
This is how we get to be who we are on planet earth, and we suck oxygen and release carbon dioxide every second to survive long enough to reproduce.
Accidents happen, of course, and many of us do not get to live that long.
Drunken love birds careen together, shoulders nudging, intentional sarcasm to poke fun and it’s always good to be self-deprecating. Your father realizes this and, oddly, is proud to be free and say whatever he wants around your soon-to-be mother.
They retreat home. Air-conditioned room and they kiss each other with rum-tasted tongues and then undress, hands locked tight, and they will have no recollection six hours later in the throes of their hangover and temple pain, stiff necks.
She says: “I feel crappy.”
He says: “I feel it too, but I love you.”
Ten days pass and, feeling being run down, your future mother takes a pregnancy stick and dribbles her urine on it and waits 15 minutes.
“Mother-fuffer!” she exclaims. “Damn.”
She calls your future father but he’s on a sales call. She does not leave a voice mail. A half hour later he sees that she called and calls her back. He is feeling great, awesome, made a sale and will earn a good commission.
So young at twenty-seven; they both will look back and future father will say, “Honey, where did 2004 go?”
She nods her head, as if being sucked through life’s vortexes, bewildered, craving a drink soon; hunger pains chirping cheap pizza from the grocery.
She is unsure of this new whirlwind of being a momma, carrying something so small that will eventually be as big or bigger than what she is. She’s unsure of what hospital to choose, how much it will all cost after insurance, and setting up the baby room.
Fifty-fifty, she thinks. Isabella (girl); Thomas (boy).
All new to her, all new to him. All he can think about is work and the future date you might arrive.
Of course, they had made the decision to have you. Of course! They embraced it, though she would be lying if she didn’t think about alternatives. Here nor there.
Looking back one day you will realize how lucky you are. Anything could have derailed the process. Mom and Dad could have gotten side-swiped at a busy intersection coming back from the grocery and they could have died. In effect, you would have died.
You could have been born weeks early with a bad heart, lungs. Bad hearts beat out of rhythm, but your mind doesn’t know or hear the skipped beats. Good hearts are just as silent, more resilient.
You think about your existence as a young man. Are you even here at all?
You’ve read Sartre, Nietzsche, Locke, Kierkegaard, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Anything contemporary seems derivative.
You are born on ___ date. A Thursday.
You wiggle in a play pin as infancy becomes toddlerhood; you encounter coughs and sneeze attacks, and suffer through painful ear infections, where the ellipses of noises soon become new neuropathways that are less bothersome.
The years flitter.
Standing at a music concert with your parents, these old people that… you laugh and are in awe of—
I’m a rum baby.
Conception achieved. Yes—indeed—a manipulated conception but at least you get to enjoy this ride called life. How spectacular.
You dance and laugh with each other, and from the corner of your eye, a brown-eyed girl snatches your attention. You meet each other at the bar, and she asks: “You want to dance?” You say, “Hell yeah!” and reach your hand out to hers. In between dances you buy drinks for both of you.
“Let’s switch it up,” she says.
“You want a beer?”
“No. How about a rum and Dr. Pepper?”
And this is how we get here.