The only reason I had enough pee to take the test was all the wine I’d been drinking. In fact, it was hard to even think I could be pregnant given how much poison I was swallowing day after day, I figured I’d be inhospitable. Regardless, I walked to the 7-11 across the street from my apartment, next to the closed-down Starbucks and white-owned Asian restaurant. I always feel embarrassed when I see people eating there, a fish tank within a fish tank. I tried to pay for the test with my Clin card, the debit card they gave me to pay me for the medical studies I do, but it was declined, so I pulled out a $5 bill from my pocket that had been rolled up into a tight straw. Sometimes you gotta laugh at yourself.
There are some parents who say their babies chose them. Like they were sitting up in heaven, just being their tiny baby selves, keeping watch down on earth, finding the perfect parent, and when the parent became the parent they needed, they would swoop down and shoot themselves up vaginal canals until nine months later, they would be born perfect and have their perfect life.
I struggle to see how that would be the case for me. No baby in their right mind would choose me, which made me think my baby was already mentally ill. This is the third time I’ve been pregnant without wanting to be, and I wonder if that’s too many times.
I met up with Louise at Tony’s for lunch. She was already there when I walked in, sitting at our white-clothed table at the window. She looked trapped and beautiful like a specimen in a jar. I sit and Lou stares at her lap, hiding her eyes. I take this to mean she is mad at me so I start explaining why I’m late and that I brought my wallet so I can cover my part of lunch, she doesn’t need to worry.
She looks at me exasperated and says, “God. I’m not mad at you. I lost the baby.”
I honestly had forgotten she told me she was pregnant. I must have been wasted when she told me. It happens all the time: a big swath of my memory goes AWOL.
“Oh shit,” is all I can say at first.
She orders a steak even though we’re both poor. It’s the right thing after a miscarriage, to fill yourself with the blood of another animal. I couldn’t hear everything she said about losing the baby because I was too busy thinking my guilty thoughts about having everything she wanted. She sawed at the meat without caution. Her plate pooled with blood.
I worked a shift after that, a normal few hours at the tv station, back in the studio hanging lights, making a set for a cooking show. I was two months pregnant, embarrassing because between the pregnancy and my weight, I was already showing pretty good. At the top of the stairs on wheels we used to move us around the studio ceiling, I pictured myself falling off. Then we would both be dead. I saw something falling on me—an untethered Arri monolight perhaps. Or, if I laid at the right angle, a falling wrench would do.
My bike accident on the ride home was not intentional. Maybe it partially was, but as I flipped over my handle bars in traffic I did at least hope I wouldn’t die. Second to that, I hoped nobody saw me. The man in the Volvo who almost hit me picked up my bike and told me I needed to straighten out the handlebars. In my state of shock, I got out my bike tool just to show him I knew how to adjust it. I know how to do everything all by myself and I’m not in trouble.
It was John who found me, one of the best case scenarios, but he was dropping off a cash deposit from work and couldn’t match my emotional state. This fury of wishing for death and finding life and hoping I would miscarry too. I just wanted God to do the right thing.
John sat me down in the bank lobby while I waited for Louise to pick me up. The tellers counted out bills behind bulletproof glass as a baby and its young mom pushed through the glass front doors with a stroller. The tellers all stopped what they were doing to admire the baby.
“What’s her name?”
“Oh, his name?”
“Are you getting any sleep?”
Watching this while my body slowly spooled up to what had happened to it in the crash was exhausting. The baby gurgled and mawed. After getting passed to the last teller, he screamed a pitch so high I covered my ears. I wondered if this baby had chosen this mother or if it was a tether down to the bottom.
I didn’t feel like telling my boyfriend, Harlan, I was pregnant yet. He was the first nice guy I’ve ever dated and I was worried he might want to keep it, or that his wanting to keep it might make me want to keep it. And then what? Put the baby in the closet of my studio apartment? Get married? Get real jobs? The other concern about having the baby was that I wasn’t entirely sure it was his. I mean, I was pretty sure, but I hadn’t quite maintained monogamy.
When Harlan came over, he brought a magnum bottle of white wine, some bactine and bandage wraps for my road rash, and a tiny ziplock of MDMA. I weighed my options and then I emptied the bag onto the back of an old textbook and cut the pile into lines using my Clin card.
Har sprayed down the raw meat of my thighs with disinfectant, smoothed a layer of triple antibiotic, covered it with gauze, and wrapped it up with Ace bandage. His heavy hands felt good on my body.
I offered him the first line and I took the second. The powder hit the back of my brain like scattershot. The euphoria set in just as the nausea did.
I felt really good for the first time in a long time. I wondered what the point of suffering was, just to prove to somebody else, God maybe, that you can take it. Maybe my delight was worth fighting for, a direction to move in. But first, I needed to barf.