Bryan lay on the floor of the nursery, staring at the neutral-colored walls, dreading the thought of painting them blue. His stomach hadn't settled since he'd gotten the news - they were having a boy. Granted, he'd seen lots of cute little baby boys in cute little baby suits, but everyone he'd seen over the age of two had became a testosterone-fueled little tyrant.
Tipping his head back, Bryan stared at the shelf David had added on hearing the news, and he was determined not to wallow about it again. The old glove and the baseballs made Bryan sad. David had so many good memories wrapped in those trinkets, and was eager to share them with his son. Whether with a boy or girl, Bryan had nothing from his childhood that he wanted to share. Every memory he wanted to make with his child was new and fantastical. He couldn't imagine being chauffeur to a son, going to games every Saturday, chiding the boy for littering the corners of his room with smelly gym socks. Soon enough, he'd be inundated with twenty-four hour talk of sports and fantasy leagues. The antique dining table would become a foosball table.
Bryan's mother had let the take-over happen. Their living room couch had been covered with throws featuring logos from various sports teams. Anything pretty or delicate had broken by horseplay before Bryan had reached age twelve. She'd had a small vanity, tucked in the corner of her bedroom, and she'd open it on Tuesday nights, stare at herself, put on earrings and make-up... and then dad would take her out to some restaurant wearing a sports jersey and grass-stained jeans. The only time Bryan had ever seen his dad in a suit was at his funeral, when he was lying in a coffin. The words 'over my dead body' had floated ironically through Bryan's head all through the service, and he wished his mom had just buried the man in his favorite football jersey like he'd asked.
Bryan knew David kept a lot of his manly things in boxes. David let Bryan do the decorating because David didn't care; he didn't care if his throw pillow were brushed suede or cheap cotton with a crocheted football logo on the front. But now they were having a boy, and everything was coming out of the boxes. It all had to be sports, balls, and testosterone-driven displays of manhood.
"Why are you lying on the floor?" Shania asked, standing over him and leaning into his view.
Bryan inhaled sharply, and tried not to blink. There was just enough mist in his eyes to create a tiny tear, and he didn't want her to see that. He took a few deep breaths, waiting until he was sure his voice wouldn't crack before speaking.
"It's part of my creative process," he said, folding his hands behind his head, trying to look suave and introspective rather than pathetic. Shania looked around the room, and with a shrug, she lay down next to him, resting her head on his stomach. Bryan laughed, glad for her company. Shania was like the little sister he'd always wanted.
"Maybe you should abandon the frogs vs. monkeys debate," she said thoughtfully after a few minutes. "A Pegasus is much more inspiring. Or a unicorn."
Bryan chuckled. He could picture this room like the cover of a fantasy novel, with ancient, moss-covered trees, a purple sky, and mythical creatures peeking out from the woods. Until he came to that shelf with the baseballs. Then everything fell apart, and the magical baby-world was gone.
"It's a boy," Bryan said quietly. "David wants the done-to-death blue theme with baseballs."
"A hundred years ago, pink was the preferred color for boys, and blue was for girls," Shania pointed out. "Pink was the color of warriors."
"Somehow, I don't think that argument will work on David. He lives in this century," Bryan quipped. "I wouldn't be surprised if he put a TV over the crib so the kid could watch sports twenty-four seven."
"What if the baby doesn't like sports?" Shania asked innocently.
"All little boys like sports," Bryan said, rolling his eyes.
"You don't like sports."
"I'm… different." Bryan choked on the last word. He said it all the time, but it hurt more now, because it was a reason for his child to reject him.
"Well, what if your little boy is like you?" Shania asked simply.
Bryan's lips parted in surprise. Shania, unlike most people he encountered, had the uncanny ability to render him speechless and make him feel better at the same time. What if the baby was like him? What would David do? Would David accept a kid who chose marching band and drama club over football and hockey? Of course he would; David was awesome like that. And why shouldn't their child have a chance to explore the entire world, free from gender stereotypes?
Picking up one of David's baseballs, Bryan pondered the trinket, and felt creativity spark. Bryan had been given dozens of baseballs as a child, and he'd always glue them to set-drops, cut them apart, or find some creative ways to use them. David would kill him if he took these balls out of their little plastic cases, but as a decorator, Bryan could work with that. Bryan smiled, picturing the ball balanced on the nose of a seal, swimming in the blue ocean, with icebergs in the background.
"Hey, Shania," Bryan said, smiling excitedly. "Want to go shopping?"