Issue 35, Final Fringe

Wanting

by Amy L. Clark Issue 8 02.08.2007

Over Thanksgiving weekend I sat on my father’s ailing couch and held the next generation in my arms. Her name is Cassidy, and at three months her neck can support her head and she is learning how to smile. She is the first child of the new millennium that I have met personally and she belongs to my friend. Although from the way Cassidy flailed those ten tiny toes and two fat heels when her mother tried to put little yellow socks on them, I am quite sure she will belong to no one in her lifetime.

My father looked at Cassidy blowing a perfect spit bubble between her fat lips and said that sitting there I reminded him of my mother holding me when I was tiny and perfect. I said: I am twenty-one years old. This does not remind me of anything.

My father looked a little excited and a little old; his eyebrows went up and his hands went down to his sides. In my arms Cassidy was not heavy. My father started discussing cloth diapers versus disposable with my friend. I did not say that we are doomed either way, because of chemicals in the first case or landfills in the second. But it made me think about the life span of our planet, which has had a good run, I guess. Cassidy reached for something only she could see, straining on my lap. I thought about how little time we have. The planet is heating up so quickly, and Cassidy is already three months old. By now I had wanted to buy a little baby outfit for her.

I had wanted many things, actually, though I am only twenty-one years old. I had wanted my friend to finish her education before Cassidy. I had not wanted to see the sparkle of a rock that predates her years by centuries on her left hand. Not yet. I had wanted first and foremost to slow the melting of the ice caps and speed the melting of ice around a certain organ embedded three quarters of the way up the torso, my own and other people’s.

My friend was talking about Cassidy’s father, how he has been working out of town for the last two months of Cassidy’s three-month life, coming home only on the weekends. How even when he was home in my friend’s bed there was the child crying. And when the father heard Cassidy at night he would bring Cassidy to my friend and then fall asleep again. My friend laughed at this, a short, clipped laugh. And my father laughed with her, but he gave me a look over the top of Cassidy’s head that said quite clearly: not you, not now, not ever like this. I smiled at my friend in order to make her feel supported, understood, lucky, despite everything to have this light, warm, squirming child who was sitting in my lap making a goo noise.

I had, I will admit it only to myself, wanted Cassidy to have a different father. I had wanted Cassidy’s mother not to be a mother. But in my defense, I had also wanted to be the kind of person who didn’t think those things, who didn’t judge. And if all that was not a possibility, I had wanted to participate in the formation of a new world where fathers at least would not have to be out of town so much to buy diapers and have health insurance.

So I snuggled Cassidy closer to my chest and looked at my father, who had changed a lot of diapers (cloth) in his day. I thought about the disaster that my generation inherited from my father’s and I thought of the harm my generation will inexorably and with the best intentions enact in Cassidy’s world. I was sorry that Cassidy had been born into an interval of terror, and I turned her around on my lap to face me. I whispered quietly into the six or seven wisps of hair on her head: I am sorry. I am doing the best I can and so is your mom. I will try harder to do more and want less. Learn how to smile, I said to her. Want everything.

Amy L. Clark

Amy L. Clark

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Amy L Clark has had fiction and nonfiction published in literary journals, including Hobart, Juked, Fifth Wednesday, McSweeneys Internet Tendency, and The American Book Review. Her story “All Stop” was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. Her collection Wanting is part of the book A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press).  She is a Writing Specialist for Northeastern University’s Foundation Year program and is the founder and president of the charitable Endowment for Unexceptional Humans. Her online home is www.overtimewriting.com, and she is still planning to be a rocket surgeon when she grows up.