And this will be the last chapter I post. For real.
Sunbeams pushed through the usual June gloom, and my bedroom blazed bright with morning light. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand—a little past eight o’clock. I should’ve been zooming off my freeway exit by now, but sandbags had weighed down my arms and legs, and I struggled to leave the bed. Couldn’t tell whether Truman had slept beside me or not—the sheets twisted around me, and the comforter had been kicked to foot of the bed frame.
Morning sunshine filled the kitchen. Weird: Los Angeles never saw sun in June until late-afternoons.
Truman had cooked himself breakfast, the stink of eggs and burnt butter clues of his presence.
As I reached to open the refrigerator, I noticed that Truman had used words from my magnetic poetry journal to leave a message on the door.
Diamond goddess soars
Frantic turtle dreams
I worship magic
You twirl in purple
Use my sausage
Silliness as a peace offering.
Right before Truman had left Los Angeles to climb Everest, I had contemplated divorce. Not the kind of divorce with screaming and shrieking, and calling each other vulgar names. Not the kind with the destruction of expensive suits and the torching of vinyl record collections. No. The 25 percent of me that wanted a divorce desired the kind of separation where Truman and I continued to sleep together; saw movies together on Sunday afternoons; gossiped and goofed around. We would remain friends, and any man or woman that tried to come between us would have hell to pay because we were the loves of each other’s life. We just couldn’t be married anymore.
I blamed his crazy schedule and his constant flaking on my divorce imaginations. More than work, I blamed his resistance to having a baby. It seemed that his body, along with his mind, had refused to even entertain the thought, and after five months of late-night gropings and early-morning quickies, and close to $600.00 spent on pregnancy tests, ovulation prediction kits, incense and lingerie, I still couldn’t get pregnant.
Not that five months of trying and nothing happening was a great span of time.
Not that Truman knew I was trying in the first place.
On month five, day twenty-three of my conception adventure, Monica said, “You’re insane.”
“I’m not,” I said. “I’m as barren as the Arctic.”
Monica shot me a frustrated glance, then rolled her eyes. “You must not be doing it right, then.”
“What do you know?” I snapped.
“My momma had five kids,” she said. “And she didn’t consult no calendar, or scrutinize her cervix or none of that. Idiots have babies every day.”
“Something’s wrong,” I said. “Either I have bad eggs, or Truman has lazy sperm. I bet it’s because of all his extreme sporting. He probably sprained a testes or something. Maybe if he went to see the doctor, and squooshed a little puddle of himself in a cup—”
“But then you’d have to confess that you’ve been trying to get pregnant on the d.l.” Monica pointed out. “You’re freaking out, Nic. You read too much, that’s your problem. You always think that something’s wrong with you.”
In the past, I have self-diagnosed scabies, Legionnaire’s Disease and a hernia. In reality, I had a heat rash, a wicked virus, and a pinched nerve.
The baby dance reminded me of seventh-grade P.E., with the cool kids choosing teams for dodge ball. I never got to be captain. Hell, I never got to throw. As bait, I stood in the middle of the court with knobby, ashy knees, wearing too-small gym shorts, ducking a rubber ball rocketing through the air at 55 miles per hour. Most times, the ball would hit me in my face, breaking my glasses. The other kids would laugh at me, and I would retreat to the bench in tears.
Twenty-five years later, my eggs represented the seventh-grade me I had longed to be. Except that sperm had replaced rubber balls. My eggs dodged those throws. Stupid eggs. They needed to get hit to win.
“It’s not like I’m 25 anymore,” I explained to Truman in a rare moment of censored honesty. “All eggs have expiration dates. Keep something for ten years, it comes back in style. Keep it for 20, it’s a classic. Keep it for 29? Antique.”
“I just want us to do everything we dreamed of doing before the kids come,” Truman reasoned.
By ‘us’ he meant ‘him.’ By ‘we’ he meant ‘him.’ And then he drove to Beverly Hills BMW and traded his Audi sedan for a Z3. Babies couldn’t ride in two-seat sports cars. They rode in Volvos, Saabs and Fords. Didn’t matter. Truman loved his Z3 (and then, the Z4). Who needed a kid when you had a BMW and a great career with a crazy salary?
Back then, I had respected my husband’s decision to wait, and enjoyed our last-minute trips to Santa Barbara and Las Vegas. We’d talk, laugh and hold hands all the way. I’d gaze at him, and think, I could do this forever. Drive around the country with the car’s top down, my hair blowing in the wind, listening to Earth, Wind and Fire, eating meals cooked in a kitchen by a chef and not by a teenager with a deep-fryer and catsup packages. And I liked my quiet, clean apartment, and I enjoyed buying designer handbags and six types of gourmet cheese instead of diapers and onesies.
Because the alternative sucked. My friends and co-workers with children were miserable people. Madison always had an ear infection or diarrhea. Connor’s teeth were always coming in or falling out. They couldn’t see a movie. They couldn’t go out for dinner. They were too tired. Too poor. Too everything.
Truman and I—we had each other… Until he found other people to hang out with.
The more he climbed, jumped and explored, the stronger my desire to buy diapers and paint the guest room pink and yellow. I envied my neighbors as they walked their kids up the hill to the reservoir. Would they go out for Italian later? Or would they drive to Target for toilet cleaner and paper towels, leaving the store sharing an Icee and a bag of popcorn? My gaze lingered after them, and I coveted the intimacy I had experienced with my parents for only three years.
One morning, I ‘forgot’ to take the Pill.
I ‘forgot’ that next morning, too. And the next.
Before his departure to Nepal, Truman told me, “I’d be content if it was just you and me for the rest of our lives.” Then, he kissed me, slipped his hand up my skirt, and ordered another pitcher of sangria.
A month later, Truman returned to the States, and we pounded each other as though two years had passed. Those moments in bed (and in the shower and on the patio) had lacked an agenda. I wanted to be with the man I loved more than anyone in the world.
And then it happened.
Or didn’t happen.
On the way home from work, I stopped at the village market at the base of the canyon to buy another pregnancy test. Just to be sure. I also grabbed a bag of barbecued potato chips, five Slim Jims, and a six-pack of Diet Cherry Coke. Just to be greedy.
I glanced over my shoulder.
Jacob Huston, my neighbor, towered over me.
“Hey.” I threw a National Enquirer over the pregnancy test, and smiled. “You’re home early.”
Jake’s whiskey-brown eyes flicked to my shopping cart. “Have time to go next door for coffee?”
I shook my head and inched closer to the check-out counter. “We’re supposed to be going to dinner tonight.” A lie.
Jake grinned, and the corners of his eyes crinkled. “Who? You and Truman? Really?”
My cheeks burned. “Don’t sound so surprised. We’re going to a new place over by the studio.”
“And he’ll show up tonight?”
“Be nice, Jacob.”
“You and I have had more meals together than you and your husband.”
“Lucky, lucky you,” I said. “Unless you’re complaining.”
He held my gaze, and said nothing.
My heart fluttered like it did each time I saw him. “I should go. Have to gussy up.”
He bowed and stepped aside. “Please. Gussy away. Call you tomorrow?”
“Yep.” I placed my basket on the conveyer belt, but didn’t empty it until he had wandered towards DAIRY.
A clerk with spiky gelled hair and pudgy skin as pale as rice paper rang up my items. “Arnib” lifted an eyebrow and smirked as he scanned the pregnancy test. Another young Black girl in trouble after having wild, drunken sex with a rapper.
After Truman’s return, sex had been wild and sometimes drunken, but he was far from a rapper. He folded his socks, brushed and flossed his teeth with disturbing zeal, and had never fired a gun. I didn’t tell “Arnib” this. Maybe he disapproved of my other purchases. Five Slim Jims combined with that much Coca-Cola couldn’t be good for anybody.
At home, I dashed up the stairs to the master bathroom. I pried open the box, and read instructions I knew by heart:
1. Aim stick under urine flow.
2. Hold stick in steady stream for three seconds.
3. Place stick on flat surface for two minutes.
Two minutes later... A blue plus sign. Light-light blue like the other six tests, but blue.
I drank another cherry Coke and four glasses of water. Sat in the kitchen and pretended to watch Judge Judy on the plasma television set bolted above the sink.
How about Jack for a boy and Zoë for a girl?
What’s CelluTech’s Family Leave policy?
Should Mo or Lei be the godmother?
My bladder filled again, and I raced to the bathroom to pee on the bonus stick.
Another blue plus sign. Light-light blue but blue.
I slipped the positive pregnancy tests back in the box and stashed the box in the back of my lingerie drawer.
Lei should be the god-mother.
And Zoe. Definitely Zoe.