The first time I met Charley he said he wanted to live in Jackson, and though I thought he was joking, a week and a half later, he hitchhiked to Salt Lake City, and I picked him up outside of a liquor store. He was drunk, waving a sign and toting along a new friend off the streets. This new friend was a young attractive guy who was obviously a little insane. Charley insisted I get a motel room. Like an idiot, I did that, and Charley and I made out while this insane young man turned out to be a chronic masturbator, fluttering about the room, hiding in the shower or under a bed. I guess I was too love struck to let alcoholism and Charley’s random habit of charitably helping street kids get to me.
Only a week later I left Charley in my apartment while I flew to Tennessee to see my Nana, uncles and aunts, cousins, and my good friend nine hours away in D.C. At one point, a night in Virginia on my way to see Shannon, I stayed in an old colonial-style motel. My room looked like a honeymoon suite. I left my suitcase, drank a few wines and martinis at the sophisticated bar, and called Charley:
“I love you. And I think I’m going to be with you for the rest of my life.” I said something like that. And it’s funny to me because it hasn’t even been a year since we met (October 11th, 2015), and look at us.
“I wish you’d never gone to ‘Tawoes’ ” my mom begins. “Do you know how much money we’ve given you?…”
I imagined her complaints to her sister and Tracy- the gossip and chatter about these big irresponsible baby children. “I feel bad for Dakota.”
“Mom I’m stuck in a hospital and I can’t work. I need breastpumps. What’s the alternative? Insurance has covered almost everything.”
She says I’m irresponsible, irrational and disappointing. I believe she’s circling words in a thesaurus. When I see myself, I see monetarily challenged artist and writer. When she sees me she sees a string of bad decisions.
When I taught English in South Korea I almost had her respect. I wasn’t the world-traveling journalist I’d have preferred to be, but I was a teacher and I was working a decent, 9 to 5 job. This was something my parents could wrap their heads around.
Seems strange that people- even parents- define other people by their professions and external labels: artist, photographer, bookstore clerk, writer, wife, nerd, soon-to-be-mother, valedictorian, runner, politician.
I’ve been a regular wino, blogging in an internet cafe in Spain. I’ve been a raver and a backpacker, an architecture student and literature major, a journalist and a photographer. “What do you do?” What should I pick to define myself today?
Life’s a mosaic of arbitrary choices and the only way to really know a person is to spend time getting to know them. But who has the time anymore? We ask: “Where do you work?”, “When are you due?” or “Who are you’re married to?” We look each other up and down and ask, “Who’s your mom?”, “Who’s your dad?”, “Where’d you go for undergrad?”
If you mention your hometown is in Wyoming, or your English degree, or MFA, or pregnancy, then that’s who you are and will always be. The pregnant girl from Montana.
Last night I dreamt I was in Minnesota on a path I’d walked near my father-in-law’s condo, except I was hiding under a sleeping bag, trying not to be caught by my parents. This is funny because my mom called after my Tuesday massage: “We need a definitive due date.”
“Why? Are you coming here for the labor?”
“Yes and we’re staying a few days and then taking you back to Jackson.”
“Wait what? Who decided that?
“Charley can’t take you. He doesn’t even have a license.”
“Charley’s my husband; he will get a license this week and take me back.”
“Tracy said he’s in recovery and no that’s not going to happen. You’re coming HERE.”
“Don’t tell me what’s happening. What the FUCK. I live in New Mexico now. My HUSBAND is going to drive here and take me HOME. He’s getting a license-”
“CLAUDIA, WHEN ARE THEY INDU-”
I hang up. I feel like I’m in high school again. I’m a 33-year-old pregnant teenager.
It’s hard to put a foot down when you have no money and your husband doesn’t have minutes on his phone. Mom is a short, round dictator with crochet needles and Mary Kay makeup.
Raeanne calls. She says my little dog Lady isn’t at the house. She tried calling Charley but he didn’t answer.
“I’m sure she’s ok,” I say. Is she okay??
Turns out Charley is with Lady at the library. He’s taking her on a date after he checks messages on Facebook. I am partly thrilled to talk to him and make sure he picks me up and takes me back to New Mexico, and partly annoyed because he’s talking to five other people- including his ex baby mama and the guy who introduced us and thinks I’m ruining Charley’s spontaneous bachelorhood.
Nurse Julianne has a soft voice and two fake flowers in her hair. She tries to hunt down a notary for me, which I need to make a vote-by -mail registration official, but she says the case worker insists there’s no notary in the whole hospital. How is that possible? How- in the political year of an orange fascist businessman, a stoned caveman, a yuppie anti-science hippie, and a tough, qualified ex-first lady- am I supposed to not vote?? And shouldn’t every hospital have a notary in case of something like this?
Mom calls eight times.
I think about how we fought and argued as far back as when I was in kindergarten. I think about how I always had sided with my dad, and echoed his insults. I think about how she’d bragged about me to everyone at my wedding, like I was some gifted genius artist and she was proud to know me. I wonder what kind of relationship I’ll have with my own daughter. Will she respect me? Will I love her more than anything I’ve ever known?Will she want to be around me? Will I be her friend?
I read an article that says Adult Swim’s executive vice president and creative director Mike Lazzo purposely has only 1 in 34 female staff writers because “when you put women in the writers room, you get conflict, not comedy.” It reminds me of losing a newspaper job to a guy with half my experience because they wanted “male energy” in the room.
I read about how Trump said, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her,” and it reminds me of an old man who sent me creepy notes at music camp.
Trump called a former Miss Universe- Miss Piggy. He boasted about his assets and well-formed daughter while failing his casinos, airlines, vodka, steaks, mortgage, tv show, marriages, and hair. With a squeaky Queens accent, Trump is still talking and getting away with being a big orange dick. Why is this bothering me so much?
Maybe because these staff writers aren’t that entertaining or funny, and this deceitful businessman has the gall to call Hillary Clinton incompetent, weak, crooked, sad and pathetic. Maybe because this narcisstic pumpkin man has the gall to call my president weak, horrible, incompetent and ridiculous. Maybe because this fat mediocre golfer has the gall to call Major League Baseball “so ridiculous”, evade his taxes, lose a billion dollars in one year, and still have all this power and persuasion while I struggle to get my life in order from a hospital room.
It terrifies me that I can raise my baby to be kind, intelligent, compassionate and responsible, and she’ll still likely grow up losing a job to a mediocre opponent or being insulted by a narcissistic fuck boy. Our immediate gratification, capitalist society rewards white male elites, business majors, intellectual dumpster divers and frauds. And sometimes it rewards something beautiful and real, as a concession for all of the bullshit.
I once interviewed a 100-year-old woman who’d said, “As long as I’m well, I’m happy to live, but if I’m ill or sick I’d rather die. … I still feel life is interesting.”
It seems like the newborns and centenarians get it. Somewhere in the middle people forget that life is about the little things: “Simply living.”
At 7am, October 5th, Dr. Luikenaar comes in. She sounds stressed. She says the high-risk doctors want to induce me. She starts planning on the next few days and my eyes widen, nearly falling out.
“What about the 16th?” I asks, panicking.
No. With my severe preeclampsia we need the baby out now.
“Wait. But my tests have been good.” Still panicking.
High blood pressures!
“Is this more about health or the insurance?”
She’s annoyed. The high-risk doctors want this. It’s for my health and the baby’s health.
I can’t argue, but I want Charley to be there. “Let me get a hold of my husband. I want him here.” My eyes are bulging from impromptu anxiety, and my hair is sticking straight up like a Dr. Seuss Who. We finally agree on starting the induction process on the 13th, and delivering the 14th. That’s nine more days.
My phone charger dies and I get a new one- bright gold- at the gift shop. Charley’s phone is still dead so I write a Facebook message he may or may not get.
“hey charley … the doctor talked to the high risk doctors … Can u drive up 13 … I NEED YA HERE NIGHT OF 13th AND ADAM HAS GOT TO LEAVE ❤️”
Raeanne calls. She’s on her way to see the dogs and is okay with watching them full-time when Charley comes. She sends a picture. Lady’s wearing a sweater. I miss them more than anything.
I keep having contractions. What if I don’t even make it to the 14th? I haven’t called mom back. Maybe if I don’t do anything and just stay in this bed forever nothing will happen. “Get up and get going,” my centenarian friend would say. She’d probably hit me over the head and tell me to wake up. Is she still alive? I hope so. I hope she’s well and “simply living”.