Detroit streets feature an endless miscellany of distressed buildings and gravel parking lots primed for me to occupy for a conversation’s worth of time. I awkwardly swerved into a dusty parking lot and created a circus of projectile pebbles and discarded pink-slips just to speak to Jenny. My gaudy arrival would surely awaken the parking lot’s depraved inhabitants so I urged Jenny to get to the point as she answered my phone call. My intention was not insolent; it was to obscure any semblance of the pitiful longing I felt for her. Our most recent separation was on account of Jenny’s frustration with my lack of initiative. I was twenty-months removed from receiving my graduate school degree and gaining acceptance to a handful of esteemed doctoral programs but I was still slogging away as a bartender. I explained to her that I hadn’t found the right job yet or the right doctoral research path to embark upon but the reality was that I did not want to relinquish the final vestige of my youth. I did not want to trade in a tip jar and late nights behind a bar for 401Ks and fears of downsizing. I was not ready to cross the Rubicon directly into adulthood. I felt like the envy of my friends, the free spirit who was spending his quarter life crisis mixing drinks in a dimly lit bar instead of withering away beneath the flickering fluorescent lights of a corporate cubicle. But my spirit’s freedom, flame, and innocence were destroyed by the two most ominous words I have ever heard escape Jenny’s lips, “I’m pregnant.”
My hands fell from the steering wheel to my knees and my heart sunk even lower than that. My throat closed up to the point that I had trouble asking one of the most insensitive questions ever uttered: “Is it mine?” I knew it was mine but was hoping beyond hope that she had cheated on me. I would rather have lost all the trust and faith I had in Jenny and our flawed relationship than become an expectant father. As soon as I asked the question I was treated to a cacophony of cuss words and crying proving that I was indeed the father. Once she regained her composure we sat in silence, our breathing as the only reminder that we were still connected. Not only was I at a loss for words but I was at a loss for desire to speak words at all.
My solemnity was interrupted by a man with a wagon full of jars knocking on my car window. In Detroit there are intersection businessmen everywhere: guys selling fireworks, rugs, off-brand clothes, black babies, and almost anything else you can think of in an attempt to escape the untouchable caste. This bearded fellow was no different, so I rolled down my window and before I could tell him I wasn’t interested he began selling me a snake-filled jar. He had jars full of assorted serpents; I was being sold snakes in a jar by a bum with my pregnant ex-girlfriend on the phone and I started to cry. The snake-jars put me over the edge. I really wanted one; I was never more interested in an intersection CEO’s ware than I was at that moment. But I had to subdue my id because I was now responsible for someone else’s life. I am a father now. The version of me who could buy snake-filled jars at the drop of a hat was gone, so I wept.
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