When we are halfway between the monkeys and Animals of Asia at the zoo.

“Mom, Shanna is pregnant.”

I thought it slightly strange that Jordan, age nineteen and entering his sophomore year of college, out of nowhere, wished to meet on a Tuesday afternoon. I don’t know, I always liked the zoo, Mom. Can’t we spend time together?

My son indeed liked the zoo as a child. He’d race me to the elephants, cackle at the kookaburras, count stripes on zebras. I took him here almost weekly after his dad and I divorced, and it never lost the thrill.

But I’m a fool. Jordan brought me to his sacred space so that I’d match the scenery if I screamed and flailed.

The questions tumble out in the steadiest tone I can muster:

“What are you doing about school? Money?”

“What are Shanna’s plans?”

“You are too young!”

Too young, I emphasize again, while we stare at a pile of orangutan poop. A child next to us clutches a black and white balloon in the shape of a panda and sucks his thumb before jamming it up his nose.

I jut my chin in the kid’s direction as he bursts into tears. “See what you are getting yourself into?”

Jordan responds, also measured, as though he’s memorized a presentation:

“I’ll find more work, Mom, and get my degree. That’s not changing.”

“We both want to keep the baby. And I know we’re young.”

“I’ll move into Shanna’s place.”

I’ve met Shanna only once. She’s a psychology major. Jordan’s is physics. A collision of the mind and space, and my world exploded into particles because two intelligent people didn’t factor in birth control. And now a particle grows within Shanna. A tingling pulses down my legs, like muscles waking up after a long sleep.

We drift through the park in silence amidst laughter from people who don’t have to experience this. I was simply a mom before monkeys. Somewhere around the Snake Lair I was a middle-aged woman struggling with night sweats, proud of my son and happy to be near him, the freckles on his nose that I created deepening in color from the hot sun. I still want to be proud of Jordan, but that’s asking a lot.

I roll “grandmother” around in my mouth. Grand is rocky and uncomfortable. The worries and hurdles of raising a kid feel fresh. I haven’t evolved for this next phase of life. Surrounding us are parents with younger children, their sticky fingers covered in drippy ice cream. I held those kinds of hands once. An ache rises in my chest as I strain for a joy that doesn’t exist.

Two realities can exist simultaneously depending on how one looks at the event, and didn’t Jordan tell me about that theory? Something about a cat being both dead and alive. I cling to my old reality and hope that Jordan and Shanna will change their minds. If he’d never told me, or at least not today, can I remain “just mom?”

Jordan takes my hand as we near the tiger pen. How is he calm?

“It’s almost feeding time.” He points out two zookeepers hauling a bucket behind the enclosure. The tiger paces in anticipation, tongue gliding across yellowed teeth. I giggle and startle us both. A large packing box with an online delivery logo lies askew in its pen. Even big cats need a box.

“Are you sure about this?”

Jordan doesn’t answer but leans into me, his tousled head a foot taller than mine, but he’s always a boy to me. He’s my boy who named the stars, hurled paper airplanes off the roof, and crawled into my bed carrying stacks of books he intended to read before he could even spell. My boy.

Raw meat rains over the railing in a bloody shower. The tiger pounces on it. Primal instincts for survival kick in despite the routine of its handlers. The tiger is focused, shredding flesh, oblivious to us. Why do personal crises consume humans?

Like he’s ten again, Jordan is mesmerized by the tiger feeding. He prefers simplicity in nature, the order of the cosmos. He finds the formula to solve complicated problems, he always has. Jordan accepted his two realities. The rules of physics rarely change. And then: a discovery.

“Nobody said this was going to be easy. But I think I might, you know, be a good father.”

He’ll prove it. I understand this. I trace the knobs of his spine before my hands settle at his waist. The tiger finishes its lunch and pads to the box, jaw straining from a yawn. A baby is not easy, no, but the principles are the same: feed, burp, nap.

We hold each other, my son and I, and our universe expands.

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