You worry about his intentions as your belly presses against your thrift store jeans. You know he’s said he’ll be with you, “Like a stamp on a letter.” You know he’s always come through before—except for the Ferrari; he hasn’t bought you the red Ferrari you want. You laugh as you begin to climb the four flights to the ratty apartment you share with him.
You wait up for him while watching I Dream of Jeannie episodes on your iPad in bed. When he enters the bedroom, you see he has a new tattoo: a boa constrictor around his arm. You remember he had a pet python when you first met. You want to wrap around him like a snake, and swallow him whole.
You wonder if his dreams are your dreams, or if he dreams at all. You dream of him feeding you warm crème brûlée by the ocean in an October storm.
On a rainy afternoon, while you wait to hear the ring tone that says it’s him calling, you grab the last beer and begin to sing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. You fall into bed after you have sung it through four times. When he enters the bedroom, you sing a refrain for him. He says a cappella suits you.
You call him every hour at the warehouse and leave a message after his voice says, “Whoever, whatever, whenever; that’s all. BEEP.” The first time you call, you say you’re having an affair with Brad Pitt and will be flying to Paris with him in an hour. The second time you call, you say you’re dying of cancer and will be dead—in Paris—by the time he gets home. Each time, after you hang up, you bite your nails. After the fourth call they start to bleed onto your white denim jeans.
You approach the entrance to the women’s clinic; hold the door for a crying teenager who is leaving. You look around for his truck, a rusty black Ford pickup with a chrome scrotum swinging from the trailer hitch. You see a cracked asphalt parking lot with a decaying tree stump in the center. You see rain clouds blocking the sun. You don’t see his truck.
You let your hand drop from the door handle of the health center, ponder it, touch it again, and walk to your rusty car. You wonder how it got so late. You take one last look for him before you slide the key into the ignition. You find All-night Country on the radio and drive home.
You think of when you ride the merry-go-round with him on the horse fly days of summer. You see him laugh like a child when he grabs the brass ring, hear him say he loves kids. You want to hear him say that again. On the back of the photo of him you keep in your wallet, you write in pencil, ‘I love kids,’ in tiny block letters, over and over until there isn’t room for any more words.
You consider that your belly might burst if the baby grows any bigger. You realize it’s too late to do anything about it. You wonder if he knows this, if he’ll help you up when you stumble, or walk on without you.
You wonder if he’ll give his first name to the baby if it’s a boy. You can’t stand that the baby will have his last name: Leftowicz. Who wants to pass that on? Leftover. Left-handed. Left behind. Left out. Left. You want the baby to carry a name like Dylan or Hendrix or Lennon.
You feel the kicking and turning of the baby. You begin to talk to it and play your favorite song on the stereo, No Doubt’s Just a Girl, volume at 10, so the baby can learn what you know.
You fear the pain that will come at the birthing. You wonder if his calloused hand holding yours will lessen the agony. You look at your naked left hand and imagine one finger sheathed in gold with sparkling diamonds—huge, stunning, white diamonds. You look at your right hand and see an orphan.
You put a box of Kleenex and the phone machine on a table next to his corduroy La-Z-Boy chair. You recline in it, practice picking up the phone and saying, “Hello, darling,” with a wispy voice. You don’t answer when he calls. You play his message over and over again until you fall asleep in the chair.
You begin to feel bloated, slow and uncoordinated. You wish he were here to help you bring in the wash before the rain soaks the sheets. You stick your head out the window and ponder the black, spitting sky. You look down to the alley and watch the rain carry red dirt down the walkway to the shed where you hide your cigarettes from him, under the buckets of potting soil. You close the window and feel the rain between your legs.
You take a cab to the hospital, speeding by the McDonald’s where you first met him. You imagine him ordering a Happy Meal with chocolate milk for your child, and a side of greasy World Famous Fries for you. You know he’s waiting for you at the emergency room, or racing behind you, or not. You want to taste his tongue after he’s been drinking beer and smoking Marlboros.
You remember some mother saying that the joy of the child in your arms removes the torment of birth from your memory. You wonder if the pain will stop when he comes into the recovery room, carrying chocolates and flowers. Or red wine—cheap, bold, red wine.
You burst from the taxi and look around for him. You think he must be seated in the crowded, green waiting room. He’s not there. You tumble onto a gurney; beg the nurse in dark blue cotton, “Take me to him.” You want to ask him what color he would like to paint the baby’s room. You want peach, with bone trim.
You scream to no one, “I’m pushing. I’m pushing as hard as I can. Christ!” You want his hand, and for him to say that everything is red, white and blue. You feel a contraction coming and ponder the irony of his nickname, ‘Buck.’ You feel a hand squeeze yours like a vise. You wrench your hand away.
You feel like you’re pushing a heavy load in the heat of the desert. You want him to carry you to the ice cream vendor’s truck. You crave two scoops of Cherry Garcia on a sugar cone.
Coolness returns to your brow. You look up at the lights that illuminated the coming, the lights that flayed you with kaleidoscopic colors while you pushed and pushed and pushed.
You faintly remember calling the attending physician a shithead, and telling the anesthesiologist “Go fuck yourself,” after he chastised you for accidently pulling the IV from your arm when you thrashed. You want him to tell you what you really said to them. You don’t want to do the work to try to remember.
You reach out and take the perfect baby. A boy. You try to see him in the baby’s face. You’re not sure. Maybe the blue eyes. Maybe the cleft chin. Maybe the needy lips. Maybe the baby’s face will change.
You wipe spittle off the baby’s puckered mouth with the sleeve of your aqua cardigan, the one he gave you for your birthday, the one that’s two sizes too big. You unbutton your shirt like you do for him. You coo, “Don’t cry little one, Mommy’s here.”
You consider looking up to see if he’s in the room. Instead, you look into your baby’s eyes. You begin to sing a lullaby. A cappella suits you.
Michael Fredrick Geisser writes in Warren, Rhode Island, in the tiny enclave of Touisset that overlooks the Kickemuit River. He lives there with his wife, Anna, and their wonder Westy, Kosmo. Mr. Geisser’s work has been published in Monkeybicycle, the Journal of Microliterature, Flash Fiction Magazine, the Grub Street Daily, and the book, “Befriending Death: Over 100 Essays on Living and Dying.”