I was wondering how on earth anyone could even consider the superhuman feat of having more than one child today when I remembered the Store Detective Messenger.
It was dinnertime a few months back and I was in the Monoprix buying one of those pre-made tagliatelli plates with rubbery salmon on them and a few sad chives. Kiki was about five weeks old and I had her stuffed inside this sort of pink burrito cushion thing we termed The Pink Uterus which was stuffed inside this black backpack thing that was on my front. A frontpack. Anyway she was safe deep inside there but I still felt weird and unstable being out on my own. The Love was in Berlin and it was the first time I'd been alone with Kiki and myself and motherhood. So of course I found myself in the Monop buying crap takeaway.
I knew I looked like an amateur, an impostor, a baby-stealer. What was I supposed to do with her? How was I meant to cope without the calm assuredness of The Love, without anyone to bounce off?
I felt scared, loose, dangerous. I held on to her tight in the refrigerated section. I selected the least sad plate I could find. And when I turned there was a man there.
It was the store detective. A slender, refined man of african descent with lots of badges on his uniform. What did I do? Did I really look that suspicious?
I moved away from him towards the nuts and spreads. He followed me. I really didn't know what he thought I'd stolen. I felt that familiar guilt of being just a guilty person, one who gets nervous when going through customs wondering if they'll find the stash she never packed.
I looked at him with a weak smile.
"Errr, oui monsieur?"
"How old?" he asked.
"What?" I replied.
He pointed to Kiki who was fast asleep inside her pouch.
"Oh," I said. "Five weeks."
"Don't think," he said. "Have another."
"Excuse me?" I said, wondering if I'd understood his French.
"Have another," he repeated. "Before you think about it. You can never think about it, especially between the first and the second. It's just important not to think about it."
"How many do you have?" I asked.
"Three," he said. This surprised me. The gravity of his expression told of droves of children.
"Just don't think about it," he repeated again and then turned and solemnly returned to his duties.
It was one of those strange moments where it feels like a messenger has appeared to pass on words from somewhere entirely else. As though the message never belonged to anyone. It was just meant to be yours and could have come to you in any form.
As I left the store I said au revoir monsieur to the man who was now positioned next to the sliding doors, hands clasped neatly in front of him, face vacant. He acknowledged me in a tiny way without nodding or saying anything at all. As though we hadn't shared the slightest intimacy.