I sat cross-legged on the floor under the dangling naked light bulb; three tests arranged in front of me like obedient children at school assembly. We’d had an argument about how to approach the tests. He’d wanted me to take them one at a time after we knew the results of the one before. I’d wanted to take all three at a go.Now he was in the bedroom, sulking, pacing. And I was in the bathroom counting the cracked tiles on the wall, the minutes stretched out like sickly sweet goody goodies pulled between sticky fingers (before we grew up and they foolishly changed the recipe).
‘If we can’t agree on this, how will we raise a child? A child. A child. A child. A child. A child. A child. A child. A child.’
If I repeated the word enough times, maybe it would do that thing that words do when you speak them over and over again, lose meaning and coherence and just become a funny sound.
When we had walked into the neon lit convenience store earlier that night and made our way through plastic wrapped orange snacks, before we got to the pharmacy section he’d stopped me and asked,
‘Should we discuss…”
‘No,’ I’d replied.
If it was negative we wouldn’t need to decide whether to keep the child or not, and I wouldn’t have to possibly hear the wrong answer leak from his mouth. No illusions needed to be cracked.
I was young then.
The pharmacist didn’t look at me funny when I’d asked for three pregnancy tests. She’d simply packed them alongside the plastic cups that he had picked up.
‘We’ll have something to celebrate no matter the outcome,’ he’d winked at me in the way he knew used to make me swoon.
The bottle of champagne had travelled with us, wrapped in my purple lesso to protect it from breaking along the journey of our one-year anniversary trip. I’d sat in the car and he’d closed the door after me. He drove into the inky night and I’d wondered when the child had been conceived. Was it that evening the power had gone out and the rain thundered and my flesh tingled and my legs shook and the jasmine candle burnt through the smell of sex and I didn’t think I could take anymore but then there was more and more and we didn’t care anymore and instead of reminding him to pull out I’d wrapped my ankles around his hips to pull him in.
He’d pulled up outside another neon sign and pulled up the emergency break.
‘I’m hungry,’ he’d said.
I’d waited in the car, feeling a human being growing in my belly as he waited for the chicken to be ready. And when he’d plonked the large paper bag with chicken grease stains on my lap, I had wanted to cry. This is not how it is supposed to happen, I had thought. He’d started up the car again and switched on some music. Coldplay played on the radio. We’d found a cheap hotel. Somewhere I could take the tests and he could eat his chicken and we could drink champagne out of plastic cups whether we passed the tests or failed.
‘Are you ok?’ he’d finally asked when we closed the door of the hotel room behind us. ‘You don’t seem ok.’
‘I don’t know,’ I’d said.
‘It’ll be ok,’ he’d said, pulling me into his arms.
I’d said nothing.
‘You know, we’ll start a family’, he had said.
‘What if I don’t want it?’
‘Well…..’ he’d started, and then said into my hair ‘I told you you shouldn’t have stopped the pill’
I had felt the vein on my forehead swelling up with fury. I’d pulled away and stared at him in his eyes.
‘So this is my fault?’
‘I don’t know why you’re being so difficult. This is nobody’s fault. Look we don’t even know anything for sure yet,’ he’d said.
‘The pill made me crazy. You saw that. You saw how it made me.’ I’d picked at my cuticles, trying to draw blood, trying to distract myself from this deeper pain as the illusion began to crack. ‘Do you know what it’s like to feel crazy, to feel like you aren’t in control of your own body?’
‘I’m telling you it’ll be ok,’ he’d said.
And I’d felt raw rage roar through me.
‘That’s easy for you to say. You can walk away. I can’t. I’m stuck in my body with this thing growing in my body needing my body using my body taking over my body.’
‘This thing is a child. Our child,’ he’d reached out for my arm, ‘Baby, take the test. Let’s not argue until we know for sure.’
One moment. One fucking moment of weakness. And here we were. Me alone in the bathroom. And him alone in the bedroom. I thought about throwing the tests in the toilet. About closing the lid. Then flushing. Walking away from all of it. As if there was a way that if I didn’t see the results, they wouldn’t be real.
Instead, I pulled out a long piece of toilet paper and tore it into three. Then I wound each strip around the other braiding it into one, focusing on the tightness of each weave, concentrating on keeping the paper taut and not allowing it to tear. I had just made a soft bed out of the paper towel braid for the tests to rest on as they decided what they wanted to be, when there was a knock on the door. He walked in with two plastic cups and handed me one. Then he sat next to me cross-legged on the floor under the dangling naked light bulb; and we stared at three tests arranged in front of us like obedient children at school assembly.