A group of women gathered around the jewelry counter, like clucking hens. As they gossiped and laughed, I hung big red banners from the ceiling. Anniversary Sale. Everything 25% off. My ladder wobbled just a little as I reached towards the sky to secure the sign with a cable tie. I disturbed dust-caked ceiling tiles and the particles floated around my face. My eyes watered and I spat out the dust.
Banners hung, I climbed down the ladder and wiped my dusty hands on my jeans. I could wear jeans on my job. The hens wore skirts or slacks, with silky and frilly blouses. They were adorned in dangling earrings and long necklaces. Their shoes had heals, and made clomping noises as they walked across the sales floor. My shoes had thick rubber soles, and usually a drop of paint or two on the bottom.
My back to them, I folded my ladder. All at once, they swooned, “Oh, how cute.”
My brain raced through the possibilities of what could be so cute to make them all squeal. The only thing I could think of was a puppy – a white fluffy puppy with a big red bow in its fur. Don’t ask why. I don’t know myself. I imagined that a customer, or employee with the day off, brought the said puppy in to show her off.
My heartbeat quickened. I smiled as I leaned my ladder against the side of the escalader, anticipating holding someone’s new little fuzzy baby. I crossed through rows of socks and purses, to the jewelry counter. The hens stood in a semi-circle “oohing” and “aahing” over the object of their admiration. I pushed in between them. A couple of them stepped aside to let me butt in on their party. My eyes widened, taking in the scene.
There was no puppy. Just a woman with her hands on a baby stroller. The pink, chubby baby lay under mounds of blankets, like an overstuffed burrito with ears. My heart sank. It’s just a baby.
“How cute,” I told the proud mother, half-heartedly.
As I left the hens to fawn over the baby that looked like a Taco Bell combo-meal, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I disappointed that the baby wasn’t a dog?
I didn’t have the answer, but that was the moment. The moment I knew I wasn’t going to be a mother.