"Congratulations. Are you having a boy or a girl?"
I took a moment to realize she was talking to me as I stood before a display of baby clothes, trying to decide what my son would wear for his limited time on earth. The sands were falling through the hourglass as we spoke. Gabriel's days were already numbered.
Just a couple of months prior, the world had ended. The world that I knew had burned up and dissolved, leaving in its place a remnant of the earth that was cold and greyed by three words: "Incompatible with life." January 31, 2011 was the end of the world.
Didn't she know? How could she not see? How was she still functioning as a normal person in this post-apocalyptic nightmare?
All around me, everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing. They were shopping and laughing and talking on their cell phones, completely unaware that there was no real reason why would should even be surviving. The sun rose and set every day, traffic stalled, lights turned on and off, but every morning I had to will my feet to leave the bed every day and order them to take every single step.
There are days when life doesn't seem so bad. Sometimes it even seems pretty good. But I know that I've simply learned to live among the ashes.
For the last week I've been marathon-viewing season 2 of "Master Chef Junior." As I watched the finale, tears stung the back of my eyes as I watched the 12 year old boy, ultimately the runner-up, who is the kind of boy I imagine my would-be 3 year old son would be like. Samuel is a pudgy boy with wavy brown hair with a stunning culinary talent. He spoke with the vocabulary of an old soul and I couldn't help but think that the child Ben and I had created would be much like this little boy. But I would never stand in the rafters of the Master Chef kitchen and watch my son compete for this title. I would never listen to him argue a pre-trial motion in a mock trial competition. I would never stand in the lobby of a Los Angeles hotel while he auditioned for American Idol, or sit in the stands when he opened for the Mariners, or watch him receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I would never even see him ride down the street on the unsteady wheels of his first bicycle.
A world where these things were possible once existed, but it's over, leaving a shell of that world in its place, a world always threatened by the knowledge that everything could come undone in just one day, just one morning, just one doctor's appointment.
I turned to the woman next to me in Target. "A boy." She had no idea. She didn't know. This was the end of the world. It ended when I learned that I would have to say good-bye.