A recurring fear of mine is that I will somehow end up with a child. Not “with child”; that’s a solvable problem. What I worry about is being handed something that I cannot give back. In most states, you can legally relinquish a baby at a police or fire station, a hospital, places where they would be safe and cared for. As they get older, it becomes harder to abandon a child and get away with it. Of course, we’re just talking about the physical here.
Though there are infinite permutations of facial features and arrangements, strangers look alike all the time. All of my doppelgangers are children. They’re in parking lots. They’re on the bus. At any moment, one of these children could take my hand in their small, sticky fist and claim me as their own. To protest would be cruel.
For months now, I’ve had $60 in my purse, nestled beside a handwritten ticket from my cobbler. He is usually dependable, efficient. "Monday," he will say, or "next week," his words thick with accent, gruff but kind. His shop is filled with old stickers and business cards, photos of him drinking wine at the French cafe next door throughout the years, Precious Moments figurines about fatherhood and fishing. There’s a cat, or maybe two, and infinite, replicating piles of shoes.
"In 35 years, this never happened," he tells me, my shoes still unsoled after months. "You shouldn't let someone treat you like this."
But I do. When I return the next week, he’s outside, smoking. He shakes his head, unrepentant.