I Didn’t Steal a Child on Tuesday

Johnny LaZebnik
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readSep 18, 2020

Little boy on an empty subway platform.
Photo: Orbon Alija/Getty Images

I am 25 and it is 9:42 pm on a Tuesday. I am sitting in a Los Angeles subway station, which exists. I missed the train and the next is in 20 minutes, and I walk to a zig-zag shaped bench that was designed to be artistically interesting, but is mostly just a terrible bench. I sit down in a zig and open a book on my iPad.

A mother and son sit on the bench behind me, in a zag. They have just come from Costco and she is irritated that the basketball they bought doesn’t fit in the box. When the kid tries to lighten her bad mood with a joke, she curses in frustration.

I am 20 and lying in bed with my boyfriend at the time, and I am nestled into his armpit, which is a good place to be. We are sharing a twin bed, and it is hot, and sweaty, and infinitely preferable to being a comfortable temperature alone.

There is a moment of silence, a nice one, and then my boyfriend asks me what my goal is in life. It is not a question I have been asked before, and I think for a moment and then I tell him this: I would like to have a husband who loves me, and children, and a nice house with a backyard that is good for hosting friends of my children, and financial security.

He is upset by my answer — says it’s a selfish goal. My heart is beating fast because within the span of two minutes I have realized what I want most in life, vocalized it, and been judged for it. My heart is beating fast because I think he might be right — it is selfish. I am selfish. I ask him what his goal is, because he thinks he’s so Smart and Good, and he says that he wants to make a medical breakthrough that saves lives. I am annoyed by his answer, not because he is a hypocrite, but because he actually means it, because he actually is Smart and Good. He tells me that he didn’t realize he was dating someone whose dreams were so selfish. I tell him that I also want to write things that make the world a better place. That is apparently a more acceptable answer, and we go back to snuggling. It is still very hot in the bed but now it is also cold.

I am 25 and the mother curses again and stalks away down the station, apparently too angry to stay within five feet of her son.

I am 20 or so when I realize that if I want a child, I will have to plan for a long time, and fill out an application…

Johnny LaZebnik
Human Parts

Johnny LaZebnik is a television writer based in Los Angeles, California. Follow him @jlazebnik on socials or visit http://johnnylazebnik.substack.com for more!