I have a bad habit that I’m not going to fix. When I drop popcorn on my lap, I eat it, as though my folded knees are a continuation of the bowl. Funny thing about laps, how they appear and reappear, and mine is full of snacks.
I can lift pinkie and chew slowly, but in the end, I still eat like a child, messy. Once, recently, I had a cold and ate a pork knuckle from the fridge with my hands as I sat on the couch. My husband had started it the night before over beers and now I gnawed it with a cough syrup chaser. I wonder, if someone peered through the window, what the painting would look like. Braless woman in fifteen-year-old t-shirt with pork grease smudges on her glasses, pork skin shreds on her chest and lodged in her teeth. On the TV, Mad Men repeats judged me with their stiff drinks and roasts trussed up with string.
After the pork, after I fought the cold with meat and Mucinex, I went to the movies with a friend. Days before, when we made plans, she told me she was pregnant.
The last time a friend told me she was pregnant, every time I showed up at her house for the next few months, I brought a sack of cheese. I’d never been pregnant but by God, my pregnant friend would have cheese. She would know she was loved and she would know that someone cared when she was hungry.
My newly pregnant friend looked like honey. She looked golden. I was struck by the too muchness of the moment and it made me awkward. I was cheese-less and nervous. I complimented her leggings as she stood on the precipice of fundamental change.
On the way to the movies, she wanted bananas and then she didn’t. At the theatre, she wanted a hamburger and then she wanted a fungi pizza, which is just a dressed up way of saying mushroom and truffle salt, and then she wanted a hamburger again. She wanted a ginger ale and I wrote it carefully on the paper order slip. When it took thirty minutes to appear, I was irritated. “She’s pregnant!” I wanted to yell at the waiter. “Give her everything she wants and needs in a timely fashion and be extremely kind!”
If she wants a mushroom pizza, by God she will get a mushroom pizza.
Before the movie, she offered me her unopened ovulation kits. There was a little hope in her voice. I knew that hope. Recently my friend with the cheese watched me as I inhaled the fading fumey baby smell of her toddler’s head and said, “For the next one, we’ll both be pregnant, right?”
I want a hamburger and I want a pizza. Then I want a hamburger again.
I want everyone I love to have the beautiful babies they want, and I want my pregnant friends to get their ginger ales on time.
And sometimes, I want someone to tell me what to do and make me think it was my idea. I want someone to say the perfect thing so I finally know my order.
In the dark we sloshed ice waters and watched a movie where everyone was flushed and falling in love and eating fruit off of trees. The sky was always dangerous, that humming grey of the hours before summer storms when the air laps at your bare legs and you can do anything, as long as you do it before the first crack of thunder. Then it’s over and it’s regular summer again and you’re soaking wet in small clothes and big rain.
In the movie, everyone wore white and blue. They drank coffee from Moka pots. They stayed up all night having sex in fields or on pushed together mattresses. They danced under bright lights to songs everyone is allowed to love when they’re in Europe.
In the theatre, we ate popcorn served suburban-basement-style. Alamo Drafthouse popcorn shows up in a huge silver bowl that could never have any other purpose than housing hot kernels with butter and salt. Two people can have their hands in the bowl and never cross paths. I always eat it until I’m sick and then I can’t eat it again for a month. I leave oily fingerprints on my clothes. I leave a trail of popcorn that starts in the bowl and ends at my knees. My hands smell like butter and my gums taste like blood.
Everything happy is a little bit sad. It’s like I never know how to hug a friend tightly and tell her I love what we’ve been doing, this version of us as friends, and I’m looking forward to the next one but I’ll miss this, too. And I never know how to ask, how did you know? You, with the shimmering glaze of full moons and honeyed donuts, flushed and pretty and sure. Doesn’t parenthood sound like the literal wildest thing in the world? Doesn’t it feel dangerous, like grey lightning nights when anything can happen? Why does it all still feel this way to me?
It’s hard to think so many imperfect things, much less say them.
I’m grateful to be so close to my friend that I can eat popcorn off of my lap in front of her, even when I’d rather say the perfect thing. It is the tight hug of snacking.
When the lights came on, I turned to her and said, “Is there food all over my face?” and she said, “Of course not.”
“I bet it’s everywhere,” I said. “I bet it’s all the way up to my forehead.”
The end credits were silent and people had started talking again, but we were the only ones laughing. Someday there will be real kid faces to wipe, and maybe we’ll laugh at that, too.