Some Futures I Thought I Might Have

by Emma Barrie

Age 3

I will never not like toys.

Age 5

I will grow up and get married. Mom will live next door to us, so when we take trips together the airport driver will only have to make one stop in his limo. Mom and I will also have Walkie-Talkies as well as a pulley system that goes from my window to hers.

Age 7

I will be a veterinarian. I will save the lives of small animals by hugging them tightly and talking to them in a baby voice. I’ll take care of puppies and I’ll hold stethoscopes to the miniature beating hearts of newborn monkeys in diapers. Ugly animals don’t get sick, and so I won’t have to care for them. I won’t have the knowledge of an elephant’s vagina, and my finger will never go up a horse’s butt.

Age 10

I will find a trunk in my parents’ attic. In it, I will find a photograph of two babies. The back of the photograph will be labeled “Emma & Samantha, May 4th, 1987.” I’ll realize I have a long lost twin. Alongside the photo will be half a gold medallion. I’ll know that somewhere, Samantha has the other half. I’ll adorn myself with the gold medallion, and spend my life searching for my twin sister. One day, I’ll be in a coffee shop and I’ll see a girl across from me. She’ll have my face, and we’ll both pull our medallion halves from our blouses. We will join them together and weep.

Age 12

I will be at a coffee shop, sipping my latte and reading Dostoevsky. Matthew Perry will notice me from another table, and he’ll be looking at me and not the prettier girl behind me. Neither of us will say anything at first. Then we’ll both be in line for more coffee, but I won’t have enough change. From behind me I’ll hear, “Hey, she’s covered,” and a hand will reach past me and pay the clerk. I’ll blush, but in an adorable way, where instead of my face getting red and gross, it’ll just get pinkish up by my cheekbones. My hands won’t get clammy. Matthew Perry will say, “This one’s on me. You get the next one.” And I’ll say, “The next one?” And he’ll say, “Yeah,” and wink.

Later that night I’ll be ringing Matthew Perry’s doorbell. He’ll let me in to his mansion, and kiss me on the cheek. I’ll go weak at the knees and almost fall over, but I won’t. And then we’ll be on his couch, cuddling really hard. He’ll want to watch You’ve Got Mail, and I’ll say, “Me too!” and then we’ll laugh about how silly it all is. How funny and simple life can be. Then we’ll hug tightly. For hours. “You are the best person in the world!” he’ll say to me. “No, you are the best person in the world!” I’ll reply, and we’ll fall asleep.

Age 14

I will spend my college years learning sign language. I’ll gather together the deaf children of the world, and teach them to sign the lyrics of Joni Mitchell songs. It will be both educational and inspirational. I will be a teacher who does not follow conventional teacher rules and who practices tough love. I will be the parent they never had, because they will also be orphans. I will take them outside the classroom, where I’ll teach them the signs for “grass,” “tree,” and “happiness.” Then I’ll teach them all to play instruments, and together we’ll form a traveling deaf orphan children’s band. When they finally all perform “Circle Game,” I will cry.

Age 16

I will get out of this fucking city. I will arrive in a small, adorable college town where it always appears to be autumn. I will jab a pencil into my eye so that I’ll require a prescription for thick-rimmed glasses, and then I’ll be attractive, like those models in advertisements for glasses. My room will be full of books and sweaters. Stacks of books and sweaters will reach the ceiling. I’ll turn down date requests from older men because I’ll be too busy reading and wearing sweaters and making coffee in my French press. Between classes, I’ll be working on my novel about my love/hate relationship with the city in which I grew up. Someone will see me writing my novel in a coffee shop, and they’ll come up to me and tell me they want to give me an advance on it because they have a “good feeling.” After it is published, my novel will be a big hit. Immediately. I will be awarded the prize for Best Book, and I’ll be praised for being an accomplished author by 21. My writing will be compared to Chekhov’s earlier work and Roald Dahl’s later work. In one review, a critic will say, “Everyone in the world should read this. Read it, if it’s the last thing you do.”

Age 19

I will live a modest life with my live-in boyfriend. We will never get married, or conform to any other social conventions. We will have a baby out of wedlock, and name it Cassidy or Bob. We will drink coffee and orange juice from mason jars and read the New York Times. He’ll be a painter and a carpenter. I’ll write drafts of my novel on a typewriter at the kitchen table and get paid occasionally for freelance work. I will still have stacks of sweaters and books, but they’ll be contained in shelves and dressers he built with his hot, blistered, workingman hands. When our child gets older, it’ll be our best friend. We’ll all stay home on Sunday nights and play Pictionary. We’ll give it its first sip of wine.

1 Week Ago

I will be in my house, making instant coffee. The doorbell will ring, and I’ll open it up, and on my doorstep will be a massive stroller containing one infant. She’ll be cute and brunette and tiny, and look just like me as an infant. She’ll say, “Surprise, I am your child, and you didn’t even have to give birth to me. Aren’t I perfect?” And I’ll say, “Wow, yes, you are the cutest. That was so easy.” And I’ll never know the pain of an 8-pound being stretching out my insides or my outsides. My feet will not get bigger to carry the weight of another person, and my hormone levels will forever stay intact. The baby will not cry. It will not shit. It will only urinate in small, manageable amounts. And it will giggle. Also, the stroller will have been free. Those are very expensive.

Emma Barrie has written for the New York Times and This Recording. And Matthew Perry, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late.