Story Time is a series of posts in which I share a nonfiction or fiction story as means to flex the short story muscle. The following story is nonfiction.
A baby waved to me but I did not wave back.
The baby was in a small blue car that the baby’s father was pushing, one of those hybrid baby vehicles that should be baby powered but the parent—the pusher—does all the work. Both were on their phones or at least the child was play acting that it was on a phone, its left hand to the ear while the right hand aided in reckless driving by waving to me. I did not wave back. That baby should have been watching the road.
(Well, the sidewalk. There were other people walking. The baby should have been watching the road.)
The wave was special, I give the baby that. The baby’s hand got caught in its chin and then thrust out, to me, an inviting hello. The baby blinked three small blinks: open, shut, open, shut, open, shut. Was the cold wind irritating the small baby eyes? Was this a signal to someone behind me that the baby was hoping to communicate with? Was this baby trying to capture something? When I was a child, I would rub my eyes until what I saw behind my eyelids turned purple, a swirling of the last image they saw. I imagined that was me taking a picture in my head. Maybe this baby thought the same.
Why the wave? I was looking down but not at it. This one part of a group of children wasn’t even cute but was notable because of its long baby hair, which was confusing and I could not figure out if the baby was male or female. I assumed male but I retracted that thought. It was baby. The baby’s gender is baby.
I kept walking and I looked back at that baby and it was still staring at me and I kept walking and it kept staring. Did I have a baby shaped something on my face? Is my face a baby? Do I have a baby face? I’ve been told that. I still get carded when buying wine but no one confuses me for a baby.
“Hey!” the baby must have been thinking. “Look at my face, my non-gendered child face, my flesh thing that is blinking at you as my bottom part opens to make nonsense noises into a phone, which is something I do not understand but it is something that I will do because I am a small human and it is my job to imitate.”
Why did this baby wave? Does it know that a person my age, at almost thirty, is at an age where lots of babies are related to them in some capacity, by family and friends and friends of friends of friends? Does this baby see me and hear my mother asking when I will have a baby? Baby, I’m sorry: I cannot have a baby. I am a man who likes other men and that does not equal baby unless I have a lot of money in which case I can buy a baby by taking a baby that is already formed or pay a lot more to form a baby. Both of those sound ridiculous and like I’m selling myself, whoring to an identity where sex equals baby. In my world, sex is not for baby making.
But I know babies. I am good to babies. I am Man Who Knows Babies, who is Friend Of Baby, who is Uncle Of Baby. I am good to babies. I get them good gifts and, soon, I will babysit them and go “Wow, babies. Am I right?” to other people, rocking nothing in my hands but commiseration that, yes, I can hold baby because I am a Baby Holder. Will I hold you, wavy baby? No. I do not know you and I am not compelled to know you.
Maybe that was why this baby waved and why I did not wave. Yes, baby, I saw you. You saw me. You saw that I am Potential Papa and I saw you were my Maybe Baby. But are you my baby? No. You were not my baby because my baby is the empty spot in a basket, a cool depression on a chair, a quiet in the other room. Sorry, baby. I believe that is why I did not wave back.