“You need to start thinking rationally”, mom says, reminding me that she was in the military and that she’s an American.
She gets surprisingly mad so of course I keep going.
“I mean I love being American but fuck America.”
“I don’t want to listen to this Claudia, I’m going to go.”
And she hangs up and I go back to staring at the ceiling in my hospital room. All I was trying to say is I’d rather live in another country that had free preschool and maternity leave. I’d rather live in France.
But seriously, how can you hang up on a pregnant woman?
I’m “very pregnant” now. I mean there are stages of pregnant and regardless of how far along you are some people always have something to say about your body like it’s an installation at the MOMA. But “very pregnant” is when everyone- discretionary or not- can’t help but look. It’s when your belly has turned into a pageant queen.
Dr. Luikenaar catches me on a walk modeling my pageant queen and when I tell her my ear’s been aching she leads me to a room in the ER to check it. I have an ear infection somehow picked up from doing nothing and going nowhere. She prescribes antibiotics. More pills.
If I had been feeling sunny outside in the perfect 70-degree weather, I am now feeling impatient and sad in my room. Tracy sends a Facebook message. Today two of my dogs were fixed and they are recovering nicely but this has all been very hard on Charley and Charley may or may not go to rehab.
I feel forgotten. Lost. “I’ll keep you updated,” she says, like I’m a family friend. She says not to keep asking Adam to have him call me because Charley’s sleeping (it’s 7 pm). “One day at a time.” AA references. That’s cool. Fuck me.
I’m starting to think maybe Charley won’t be here for the labor.
Jeanine starts her shift at 7. Jeanine thinks I look down. She habitually giggles. It’s annoying. Stop looking at me. Stop giggling. I’m fine.
She giggles. Stop giggling, goddamnit. My new antibiotic looks like a spaceship- it’s enormous and I have to sit up straight to swallow it. I still think it’s stuck in my throat. My ear throbs. My head throbs. My heart throbs.
People keep asking “is the father in the picture?” and “Are you able to get out at all? Does this drive you crazy, being here this long? You are driving me crazy. It’s YOU.
Just answer like a magic 8-ball.
Am I depressed? “Yes, definitely.”
Is the father in the picture? “Most likely.”
Are you able to get out much? “You mean walk around the hospital? Without a doubt.”
Is this driving you crazy? “As I see it, yes.”
Do you sometimes want to say fuck it and run away and then remember you can barely move? “Reply hazy try again.”
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you’d stayed at the paper and never met Charley and gone to, I don’t know, France? “Better not tell you now.”
I need less black bile in my veins. But this life is absurd.
Some children are real assholes. But many, it seemed in my past experience and current observations, have a fine balance of curiosity and optimism. They are the Shakespearean fools of society- questioning and playing and dancing around conformity. We get older and slow down and expect less and feel proud.
If I think Charley is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I should prepare myself for Dakota. Babies are adorable smiling marshmallows one minute and screaming dictators the next. As they get older they observe everything with the patient curiosity of Jane Goodall in Tanzania surrounded by chimps.
Then hormones turn questions into rebellion and college turns rebellion into insanity and baby is very large now and very independent and smart and insane and 600 miles away.
Oh god I’m having a baby.
Jeanine puts four drops in my ear and as they settle in, with my head tilted sideways, I hear the ocean and long for Muir Beach. It’s that longing time of night. Anything could be next. A place. A food. A boy. A song on the piano.
My life feels very arbitrary.
I should write a song about that. And about these contractions. “I never saw myself this way two years ago,” the song begins. “I never thought I’d have a baby or marry a bozo.”
I have another contraction and my belly tightens into a rock.
The ocean hums. “That sucks” it says, elegantly, with virbrato.
I think about a boy I loved one Halloween. He was a Jewish Indiana Jones. He said my kiss was like the cherry blossoms falling on ponds in Japan. I said his kiss was like the Kool-Aid Man smashing a hole in the wall. He asked to marry me the way a drunk person pretends he’s in a movie. I said yes.
I wonder where he is now and if he’s happy and if he still compares kisses to cherry blossoms or if that was just for me.
My life feels very arbitrary.