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A split second 

It's safest to shop with a fairy grandmother

Daniel's mom is a Wal-Mart greeter, and I'm wondering if she can give me a company discount. Daniel and I have been friends for 500 years, so that should stand for something, not to mention those four seconds when I got her hopes up and cruelly let her think Daniel was the father of my daughter, but that was not really my fault. I can hardly help the fact that, when Mae was 1, she happened to look exactly like Daniel for some reason -- the exact same hair color and texture, the same-shaped face -- it was kind of eerie, and whenever we three went places together, people would joke and say stuff like, "Wow, guess I can't tell who her father is!"

And I could see Daniel was proud, because he loves kids and his gay ass is never gonna have any. So I was teasing Daniel more than anything when he handed me his phone so I could say hello to his mom that one day and I said, "Hi, Fay, did you know Mae's your grandchild?" Daniel was laughing, but I knew the instant I said it that Fay, in turn, for a second – just a split second – believed it, and in that one second, every hope in her heart poured out like an ocean of boulders.

Immediately I backpedaled. "No, I'm sorry, Fay. I was just kidding. I'm sorry."

Lord, I felt bad, because Fay is a sweet farmer's wife who led a life of hardship that only offered reprieve in the form of her two boys, whom she cherished like heirloom jewelry. She probably couldn't wait for the day she became a grandmother, but then Daniel's brother Darrell also turned out to be gay, and unfortunately, on account of how Fay raised them to be honest with themselves, they were not the kind of gay men who got married and propagated before coming to terms with their nature.

"Maybe they'll adopt," Fay said to me the next time I saw her, but she knows as well as I do that it ain't gonna happen, so instead I told her, seeing as how Mae is a grand-orphan on my side of the family, that we would adopt her as a grandmother, which brightened her spirits. "She could be your fairy grandmother," Daniel laughed. But laugh as he may, to this day Fay keeps a picture of Mae on her vanity so she can look at it every day. And she needs a new picture, I realize, because Mae's no longer a baby. In an eyeblink – just a split second – she became an adolescent.

So I'm thinking we should go visit Fay soon at her Wal-Mart, which is all the way in Lasara, Texas, but I'd sooner travel there than set foot in my own neighborhood Wal-Mart again because the last time we were there, the shirtless guy in line in front of us had his ass hanging out of his pants. All I did was mention it to him, because I know if I had my ass hanging out of my pants, it would be by accident and I would appreciate someone alerting me to it. But his response was anything but polite, so I refuse to set another foot in a store where the cashier defends a guy with his ass hanging out of his pants over someone who doesn't think it's asking too much to get through a visit in a store without a man pulling down his pants and sticking his butt in my daughter's face. Pretty much.

I'm already freaked out enough in department stores, thanks to my friend Polly, who gave me a parenting book in which the author describes a woman's adolescent son disappearing right out from under her as she was shopping for shoes. One instant he was there by her side, and the next second she was catching a glimpse of him as he was being led out a side door. That was the last time she saw her boy. Ever. In a split second he was gone. Today, when I think of that boy and his mother, my heart just breaks like a bone.

So if it were up to me and at all possible, I'd never shop anywhere ever again unless it was at a place where Fay could greet us. She could wrap us in her arms and I could give her a new photo of Mae, because Mae no longer looks like she did in the picture Fay keeps on her vanity. For example, Mae's hair is dark and a little wavy now, no longer the exact color and texture as Daniel's. And Lord has her face taken its own shape. Her eyes are so big you almost want to jump in and swim around. She looks so different now. Sometimes I go through my own baby pictures of her and caress them like little heirlooms. Here's one of her in my arms. Where did that child go? But isn't that the way it always is – one instant they're in your arms, and in a split second that baby is gone.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.hollisgillespie.com).

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