By Dana Masden
When summer feels so hot it’s all anybody wants to talk about, Mary, seventeen, tells her mom she’s not sure where she fits. (Because of the gender binary). Her mom stares deep into her mug. Her mom prefers hot coffee—not iced—despite the heat, and despite the fires to the west that blow ash thick enough they have to brush it off the car.
“Jesus, Mary, you’re pregnant.”
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
“One thing at a time, please.”
Mary scoffs, because—why can’t both things be true?
She will give birth in a field, the swimming baby gliding out right onto the earth itself because if there is one advantage to doing it young, it’s this: she and this baby are one thing, they are fluid. Pro-choice, maybe, but there is someone inside her (named Cornelia, or is it Sid? A boy.) who will be someone. An indigo baby is what Isabella’s psychic mom says. Someone who will save the world.
Fall cools to winter and she never once pukes. Her belly is a hard mush that nobody wants to see until it rounds to a ball. She prefers to go out with her bump to public places where nobody knows she is young. School is bearable but only this. If others speak about her, their voices hardly make it above a whisper. She knows her baby loves her like nobody else ever has. She gets her hair cut, shaved on one side, down to her shoulder on the other. She sees the blonde dry heap of curls on the floor as proof again that she is doing it right—she is a warrior. Her eyes are blue as the ice she scrapes off the windshield. There will be someone who looks like her, who will love her. There is no choice but to love one’s mother.
When she comes home with the half-hair shave look, her mother is crying again. Again she must comfort her. Cornelia won’t have to do that.
“What’s wrong?” She puts her hand on her mom’s shaking back. She looks up and sniffs. “What’s wrong?” Mary asks again.
“Oh, I don’t know,” her mom replies. “There’s just been another thing on the news, is all.”
Spring brings that snow sky that is kind of pink, warm only in color. Her belly is an enormous package; she sees now why all the maternity clothes have bows on them. She does not sleep and the quarters are so tight in her belly that she never even feels him kick anymore. One night, he pushes against her so hard that she cannot breathe. Her ribs will break, her pelvis, her insides are ripped away like tissue paper, the pain is blinding—even worse than they said, like experiencing a new color. There is no field or purple light, just blood and piss and shit and the shakes and when she looks down, she sees the baby’s feet, not the baby’s head. She sees that her mother is crying but it does not matter.
See, she thinks. He’s arrived.