“Mom, you are a crazy stalker,” you will probably say when you read this.
In some circles, yes, obsessing over a woman you never met but saw once at a zoo four years ago would qualify someone as such, but here me out:
The summer of 2009 was a tough one. We were in this spiral of fertility treatments, cycles of hope and then bad news and then, what? You want us to do what now the next round? Wait what happened? Why? I need to do what? Okay, and that costs how much? My heart didn’t hurt all the time, only when I exhaled. Your father was on-call as the resident magician, whipping into his bag of tricks to keep my mind off things and help us stay positive. He even managed to wrangle a smile or two. He truly is gifted.
It was Labor Day weekend and I looked like a heroin addict. During treatments you go for these daily blood tests and because my veins are thin and “not good,” as I was told (thanks! even my veins suck!), my arms were permanently bruised. Paired with the purple circles on the tops of my thighs from injections, I was not up for the beach and seeing everyone else not looking like they’d been pelted by baseballs, another reminder of how not normal I am.
“Come on, we’re going to the zoo,” your dad said…
(He truly is the best.)
It was there where I spied a blonde woman about my age, wearing a dress that I had, a maroon bubble jersey dress from Anthropologie. She was there with her husband and her baby whom she was pushing in a stroller. She had these sunglasses on the top of her head, her blonde hair in a low pony.
I saw this family everywhere. At Tiger Mountain. Madagascar. The Reptile House (which your father refuses to go in, don’t worry, I’ll take you).
At the food court I saw them parked under a tree. I watched them like I had just watched the gorillas. They were smiling. Laughing. Each drinking a draft beer.
By that point, your father had to acknowledge my stalking. “That will be us one day, babe, I promise.”
…You may have heard me say this the past eighteen months, “I want to go the zoo and have a beer, like that woman.”
Well now you know why.
And yesterday, we did it.
We took you guys to the Bronx Zoo and your dad bought me that beer. We cheersed on a metal bench underneath a tree.
“We did it, babe.”
“We did it.”
And I drank my beer slowly, taking it all in. I did not want to leave that bench. I did not want to leave that zoo. There, in that moment, in those gated walls, I had everything I wanted. I was that woman. And it felt so good.