Realize you are late. You are late to most things, but this is not like most things. This is different from the time you showed up fifteen minutes late to your married friend’s dinner party, and they had already served the salami and cream cheese rolls.
This is the kind of feeling you have always known you would feel and may have had your entire life.
Realizing you are pregnant is like blowing out a tire on the highway. You have to make calls, direct traffic, consult Triple A: Abortion, Adoption, have you thought of Abstaining?
Suddenly, the little things no longer matter. Forget that your rent is due in the morning; the photocopies are still in the printer tray at work; your waxing appointment is in forty-five minutes. Think, then, of only this.
Walk past the high school down the block from your apartment where all the kids are dying to live through something significant. Stare your neighbors in the face, examine their zippers and their cankles before retreating into your apartment. Stare at your boobs, then your vagina through the makeup mirror passed down to you from your great-grandmother. Looking at yourself in this way scares you a bit.
Could you take care of a baby? Is this something you could do? Your apartment has not been vacuumed in seventeen days, and the gas light is on in your car. But more importantly: Could you kill one?
Later that night, watch “Monsters Inside of Me” on Animal Planet until 3:00 a.m. Imagine the fetus growing inside of you, sucking nutrients from you much like a tapeworm, and changing everything. But whatever you do, do not imagine the fetus growing a head, a nose, or a big toe.
Will you tell John? No. He cannot know. He would want to keep it, want to love it, the way he loves you. He has never told you this, but you can feel it when he asks if you are okay when you get up in the middle of the night at his house, restless, looking for shelter in the bathroom. He buys to-go cups so that when the morning comes, you can take the coffee and run for your life. He stocks his kitchen cabinets with your favorite soup, rice, croutons, then points to the shelf with raised eyebrows.
No. John cannot know. Everything about him is a contradiction, and this is why you like him. Why you sleep with him. Why you now carry his baby. To others, he is intense and intimidating, and sometimes in public, he scares you. But when the two of you are alone, you are afraid of nothing. And this, says your therapist, is what matters most.
Of this you are certain: He would give it a name like Charlotte, Charlie for short, if it were a girl. Or Max for a boy. He would take it to the gym with him. John has been using steroids for years, but also loves Dave Matthews Band and desperately wants you to “Crash Into Him.”
Think of first birthdays. Think of sixteenth birthdays. Dear God, what if it is a girl? Could you teach her to buy condoms that actually work? Or, perhaps to track her cycle like your estranged aunt, who wears scarves as shirts and believes periods give women a supernatural power.
Several days later, eat sushi with John after he gets back from the gym. And in the morning, instead of waking to the smell of coffee, wake to blood all over the sheets.
He will be gentle and reassuring, following you around like a Labrador. First, to the bathroom, then back to the bedroom, transforming into a commercial, championing the effectiveness of his Tide detergent.
Call your doctor and tell her that you think you’ve lost the baby. She alternates between confusion and concern, saying that she did not realize you were pregnant. She asks you to come in.
At your appointment, stare at posters about breastfeeding, birth control, UTIs. Feel, somehow, like you’ve forgotten something.
Your doctor tells you that you were never pregnant. She says your period came later than usual, probably due to stress. Nothing to be concerned about.
Cry for three days straight. When John asks what’s wrong, tell him it’s nothing. Say that you are just in a funk, that you’ve caught a case of the blues.
Weeks later, while buying flip-flops in Walmart, he picks up a pair of $8.99 black and white baby sneakers and holds them up to you.
Do not make any sudden movements. Be very still and stare back at him the way you would stare at a spider descending the ceiling in your living room.
He points to the shoes and raises his eyebrows as if signaling to the croutons in his kitchen cabinet and says: “So, what do you think about kids?”