This piece of paper I remove from the compartment of your wallet where you store bank-machine receipts and the claim slips for your bike (tune-up, $39.99) and that suit bag (repair, under warranty, free) you bought so impulsively before the conference. Someone else’s handwriting, the piece not quite spherical, like a gibbous moon, a small droplet stain near the bottom right, the words a parody of a simple list, the stain providing a faded period,
how pure you tasted.
These flowers that arrive anonymously while you are at work, the shop’s logo on several gold seals that hold the ribbon in place,
SOMEBODY LOVES YOU
on the box, half of the O of LOVES a crescent looking backwards. I remove the flowers from the water-soaked block of something that they are stuck in and arrange them in a vase. I ensure that the tips of everything — yellow roses, baby’s breath, greens — are suspended in the water in the vase. The convex curves of the transparent glass distort things a little, so I have to bend and narrow my eyes to confirm that the tips are submerged, and finally add more water.
We are both developing a belly, yours from pregnancy, mine from not being able to lay off the sweets. I am becoming flabby but your belly is tight, portentous, apparently always about to reveal some secret. Your belly button seems to be stretched uncomfortably, has almost disappeared, the edges turned slightly outward, a shallow crater which my tongue passes over tentatively.
I feel unnatural and inferior when we make love. My body is jiggly from the results of too much bad food, but yours is quite literally full of life, exuding health and naturalness. I insist on keeping myself covered with a T-shirt, while you loll and roll in your healthy glory.
You are a careful pre-mother. You have given up alcohol and even the very occasional toke we used to have. You have replaced running with walking. Our fridge now contains more than one fruit juice, a Brita jug of water, and 1% milk (“not too fatty, not too lame”). The last time you got drunk we were at that snooty Italian restaurant, where the owner makes his rounds among the tables, eliciting titters and the occasional false guffaw. As I refilled your glass, you cradled the globe with your hand, the stem between two fingers, and said, “This wine is going to my hair”.
Tonight you have poached cod, steamed green beans and potatoes, a slice of cholesterol-free seven-grain bread, and a glass of 1% milk. I have leftover pizza and Kraft Dinner, neither of which I feel the need to reheat. I sneak a little more salt while you are checking the performance of our mutual funds in the Globe. Security, Income, Growth, Aggressive Growth. I have spent an hour today trying to convince my Investor Service Representative (“Please, call me Andrew”) that I don’t want to lose the money I invest. “I am risk-averse,” I tell him, adopting his own lingo.
“Why would you want to earn so little on your money when you could realize long-term growth in the neighbourhood of 15 to 20 percent with some of our more aggressive investment products?”
“Well,” I tell him, “I am just looking to save a little for the future and hoping that I don’t have to put money into some glass factory in South Korea in order to do so.”
We eventually compromise on a Balanced Fund. I need some balance somewhere. My eating habits are getting a little ridiculous. I started my day with six of everything, imposing a numerical symmetry on this disordered diet: sausages, eggs, slices of toast, pancakes. A pot of coffee. The pizza and KD are the main course of a dementedly unhealthy meal which I have been eating all day — potato chips, a full half-litre of Häagen-Dazs vanilla, a large bunny I get cheap at an after-Easter sale at the chocolate specialty store next to the bank (“Take them home so we don’t have to melt them down!!!”).
One of the advantages of your being pregnant is that we no longer have to confirm to others that we are “trying”. A typical interrogation was:
THEM: So, you guys, are you expecting yet?
US: No, not yet.
THEM: But you’re trying?
I always imagined one of two situations when I heard that word. One was interpreting “trying” as something like “really trying”, and I pictured me straining on top of you, teeth clenched, thrusting forcefully like some Olympic athlete striving to break the record. The other was interpreting “trying” as “solving”. I imagined that we had absolutely no idea that pregnancy was brought on by sexual intercourse, and so we went through a series of experimental activities attempting to conceive: rubbing butter on your forehead, sleeping with socks on our hands.
I have already given away the green and white striped loveseat to that guy who lives with his mother on the fourth floor. I remember feeling apologetic for the worn arm, the synthetic stuffing sticking through, but he just shook his head, saying “That’s nothing, we have cats”.
You and I had quite an argument when you came back from the conference — “Wiring the Dory: Old and New Technologies in the Age of Information” — and saw the rest of the furniture re-arranged, and only indentations in the carpet where the loveseat had been.
“What the hell happened?”
Yesterday I attempted to take advantage of my unfitness in order to hurt myself. I ran up and down the stairs between floors in our building. On the way up for the second, third time I expected my heart to seize with each step, my face to constrict into that pantomime of pain we have seen countless times on TV. I expected to have just enough life left in me to lower myself to the stairs with whichever arm is not grabbing futilely at my chest, lower myself only for the final jolt that will knock the life of me. I expected to be found in a fetal position by someone going to check her mail after returning tired, nonchalantly, from work.
Instead, I ended up only with a sweaty T-shirt, a cut ankle from the metal stairs, and tight thigh muscles today. I consider that if I did exactly that four times a week—made some pathetic attempt to hurt myself—I would be following the exact regimen my doctor recommended at my last check-up. In six months I might be fit again and would have to seek out some other method of self-destruction.
Geneen, I am so tired of making lists. Ridiculous lists of belongings I want to get rid of, sublime lists of how I might possibly react when the wet head of some other man’s baby starts to poke out from between your legs. Will I simply fall down from the sheer manifestation of irrefutable evidence? Will I forgive the facts, the circumstances, and simply take care of the child? Or will I recognize my own reflection in that little face, as in one of those minimizing mirrors?