I.

In this fantasy I have a wife, pretty but not too and just an inch or two shorter than me, and who a few years earlier thought about taking my name but did not. She treats me to dinner at our favorite little place and informs me with eyes bright and smile impish that she is, and therefore we are, expecting. We have not been trying in that tragic way, of course, because everything about our marriage is easy and chill and unfraught. She may have conceived during a camping trip, during which there were no insect bites. I being a good feminist and sensitive to the matter of which of us is now shouldering the greater burden do not refer to her pregnancy as experienced in the first-person plural, but when we call my parents to deliver the news—news which they have never pressured us to deliver but which I know will make them so, so happy—she tells them “We are pregnant!” anyway. I experience no anxiety regarding the impending and irrevocable change now divebombing toward me, nor does she: Easy, chill, and unfraught. I reap all the benefits of the Patriarchy but am able to feel—erroneously, but sincerely—uncompromised in doing so.

II.

In this fantasy it is evening; a threshold has been passed at the Company. We are drinking in exhausted recognition of the occasion―a major project completed, an industry event attended, an important deal struck. My boss is a woman at once mercurial and monastic, a terrifyingly effective and keen-eyed professional with (in her words) “high standards and low expectations.” And across the table at which we have consumed enough alcohol for candor but not so much that anybody’s memory of the conversation will be impacted, she—a woman who conducts her entire professional life in a language she does not speak natively—regards me with warmth and gratitude as she thanks me in front of the team for my hard work, praising my talent and effort in equal measure. She admits that the company’s recent achievements would not have been possible without my contribution, and states unequivocally that hiring me was one of the best decisions she has made as a professional in the field.

III.

In this fantasy it is an open mic night at a well-attended cafe—or perhaps there is a sudden cancellation at a tiny comedy festival. My cool stand-up comic friend, having secretly suspected that I would be capable of a really good set, convinces me to take the stage unrehearsed. Reluctantly I do, not wanting to disappoint him or leave him in a bad place. I scribble down a few notes. When I go on, there is an agonizing minute or two of stumbling awkwardness, but eventually I find my stride—a wry, confessional monologue with hardly any ums or uhs in which I admit to a mild paraphilia, or to regrets about my own conduct during an inadvisable marriage, or to my clumsy attempts to be a good friend and/or partner despite mental health obstacles (which make me seem relatable rather than broken). I am funny and sympathetic and the audience likes me because in admitting my failings I have forgiven them, and their laughter returns that absolution to me. I walk offstage and my friend shakes his head and my hand and calls me an asshole and there is real affection in his voice.

IV.

In this fantasy, having saved a year’s salary, I quit my comfortable office job in an effort to escape the specter of complacency that has haunted me all my adult life. I apprentice myself to an automotive restoration shop specializing in the distinctive unibody recreational vehicles manufactured by GMC in the late 1970s—or alternatively, in the mid-’80s tent-roofed “Westfalia” editions of Volkswagen’s Microbus. With my savings I buy and restore my own example of such a vehicle as I learn at my apprenticeship the mechanical skills I will need to maintain it on the road. When it is complete, I set out. I travel for years with a dog and a cat. My Instagram is featured on several prominent photography blogs, but I am too enlightened to notice (although not so enlightened that I stop posting to Instagram). I am never once lonely.

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