It really did start off as a school project, but I haven’t been in school for over a decade. I wanted to see how people treat you if they think you’re a mother, a young, single mother. And yes, I wanted to know how it would feel to be a mother, to push my blue, sun-shielded baby carriage around town, for the bus drivers to lower their ramps for me, to hold my little bundle of plastic.
They don’t look like plastic, though, they look real. Monica, Tiffany, and Stacy. Noah and Mark. They were each manufactured with care by a company that values authenticity. They have rosy cheeks and chubby knees and you should see the way they look at me. They even close their eyes when you put them down to bed. Really they just blink if you hold them at a certain angle, but I like to imagine they’re asleep, dreaming about the day we had together.
One time a woman gave me eighty dollars. She handed me a wad of cash, said, “You need this more than I do,” and walked away. I tried to give it back but she just turned and left. I used the money to buy them clothes. I couldn’t in good conscience spend it on myself and anyways, Stacy needed a new hat.
I have five now and another on the way.
Have I shown you my pictures yet?
Oh, I see. No, I don’t want to hold you if you’re in a hurry. Maybe next time. You can meet the new little one. I don’t even know what I’ll call her yet. Or him. I don’t know the sex. I asked not to know the sex. It took a lot of arguing with the comments and complaints lady, a lot of phone calls and emails. They finally agreed to send me one at random. No checking off the boxes for eye color, hair color, you know, boy or girl. I prefer to be surprised.
Emily F. Butler is a high school librarian by day, stand-up comedian by night. She currently lives in western Massachusetts.