Around noon Sunday, while I lay in bed having my third nap, the little tow-headed girls that live in the apartment next door began ringing the doorbell and running away.
I've lived here for about eight months, and while I've seen the two of them outside a few times, we've only spoken once.
"Do you have a black cat?" the smaller one asked, while riding her pink bicycle in circles around me. "I have a black cat," she said before I could answer, and then threw her bike down and ran inside.
Her elder sister was more interested in my dog, Jasper, and peppered me with questions about his age and what tricks he could do. (None, unless you count the parkour stunts off the furniture.)
The little one returned, holding a stuffed dog.
"I have a black cat. He's real. Also I have this dog. His name is Stuffy. He's real too."
"I can see that," I told her, fighting to keep Jasper still. "What tricks can your dog do?"
She began barking at me and running in circles, waving the stuffed dog around. Then their mother called them in and Jasper and I went for our walk around the neighborhood.
When I was in high school, I figured by the time I was 26, I'd be married and have three kids. Like many things I imagined for my future, that turned out to be both wrong and OK.
I like my life, I'm happy with my dog and cat, my friends, my jobs — and that's been enough for me. But over the past few months, as friends of mine have married and started their families, my feelings about motherhood have changed. Which is to say, the effort I've made over the years to not think about it no longer seems to be working.
The truth is, when people tell me they're trying to start a family, all I can think is that they're telling me they've begun boning in earnest. I'm not sure that's what either of us want me picturing, but there it is. Despite a series of long relationships, I've never really been in the position to think about having kids, and doing so seemed like a waste of energy. So I chose to focus on the things within my reach, to build the best life I can on my own terms, and to let the pressures of age and gender float away.
But I met someone recently. I'd be lying if I didn't immediately begin wondering if this was my chance, if maybe it was all right to dream about telling my friends the two of us had started boning in earnest and let them imagine things they'd rather not.
Each time the girls rang the doorbell this afternoon, I could hear their feet stamping away past my window and their squeaky little girl voices excitedly egging the other to ring the doorbell next time. I wondered for a while if I should open the door and then the ringing stopped.