I drove to Chik-fil-A right after work to meet the rest of the family. I wanted to take advantage of spring break at work and the lingering spring daylight in the air to get some reading done.
There were dozens of other people ranging around the counter, desperate to order. I looked at my watch and decided to take a gamble: I ordered a milkshake to consume before the kids arrived and I would have to share. I sat down at a table and settled into a New Yorker article about teenage sex offenders (hard to focus on amidst the noise of kids yelling, people chewing, chairs scraping the ground). When the employee delivered my shake I hoped he wouldn't glance at my article and see an unfortunate word or phrase.
The restaurant filled with kids and families from one of the Christian schools down here. Soon A and B came bounding in, with L hoisting J in her carrier just behind. Shamelessly I pushed my empty milkshake cup away from me and got up to find a table for all of us. Reader, I littered.
We managed to secure a four-top such that I was sitting directly in the path of the sun. A blade of light was stabbing into my eye as the thrum of people around us raged on. The kids were tired and fickle; B blocked the doors of the play area and A whimpered when it was time to eat. My salad was virtuous but unpleasant on top of my hastily-consumed milkshake. I had succeeded in not sharing but I was paying a price.
A few minutes later -- after joylessly eating dinner, after the kids suffered around us, as the sun sat resolutely in my line of sight -- we left. I went back to my previous table and retrieved my milkshake cup to throw away. I explained to the women sitting there why I had abandoned it and they laughed politely.
We staggered out into the Maryland evening. There are five of us now, L and me and three kids, the latest one, Josephine, born in November. She looks like Alice with Barrow's blue eyes. I walked L and the kids to the minivan -- also new; also, burgundy -- and packed them up and went back to my car. As I got closer to home I rolled down the window and listened to the music, work work work work work, the milkshake heavy in my gut, the money we spent on dinner frittered away. Inside the house the kids were fragile and irritated, always on the brink of crying or else fully over the cliff, but soon enough they would be asleep. Three kids in a bedroom, the humidifier whirring, three warm bodies damp and restless in the night.