My second published short story.....
Picture the dream I had last night. You and I are sitting at an outdoor café table in a city somewhere in Europe. Cars and trucks rush by our table, which is close to the curb. Somehow it is clear that we live in this city, that we aren’t here as tourists.
I am pregnant, and I have met you in this café to tell you the news. I am crying at the thought of what I will have to go through if I decide to keep this child, of having to give birth alone, of the lies we will have to tell. Worst of all, the fact that you will never, ever be able to be a proper father to the child (which is a boy – somehow we already know that).
Then, I realize that this is what I have always wanted, and it is within my grasp, lying close and real and irrefutable within my belly. Something that I long ago gave up hoping for, except on some nights, late, after drinking too many glasses of wine. How can it be described to someone who has never felt it, the need that defies all logic, all pragmatism? Your mind is possessed, all your quiet pleasures turned sour. You become half-mad, giddy with craving and absence, and your body feels as hollow and arid as an old bone.
Yet now, in the dream, my mind begins to grasp that this craving has been answered, that I have taken on an extra dimension, like when you stand between two mirrors and can see your image replicated into the farthest reaches of infinity. And it occurs to me, perhaps the three of us can raise him together. Maybe she will agree, knowing how much you want children. Seeing in this event a release, freeing her from the pressure you have been putting on her to have a baby herself.
But my surge of hope collapses as quickly as it rose, and I see with desperate clarity that this child can never be born.
I haven’t said any of this to you. After telling you the news, I am crying too hard to speak. You are sitting opposite me, watching me cry, looking beaten and sad and saying nothing. Does it hurt you, my reaction? Do you wish I could be happy about this, if only for now? Or are you regretting how messy and sordid and human our grand passion has become?
Then you do something that takes my breath away. Without saying a word, you lean down and lay your head against my stomach. I cannot tell if you are listening for the sound of your baby’s heartbeat or asking to be comforted. But as I wake, I can still feel the warmth of your face against my belly.
I am still moved by this tonight as I sit at your dining table, twisting spaghetti around my fork. The candles are reflected in the facets of our wineglasses. I am ravenous as I always am when I’m unhappy. She keeps her glass and mine topped up, but she makes you fetch your own beer from the kitchen. She is talking, animated, laughing at something I’ve said. Her long hair hangs down her back as elemental as a fox’s tail. She and I are friends. We understand each other.
The three of us are suspended, enclosed, at our own feast. This ritual joins us, three different needs, each met two ways. At once a miracle of equilibrium and a terrible risk.