Nat is pregnant. Nothing remarkable is happening to my body besides the fact I’ve gotten fatter. We’re all used to that now. This started well before the virus. It’s her body where things are happening: my pregnant wife. There is a 6-inch boy-to-be somersaulting inside of her right now. That’s my kid in there. Life.
We’ve been quarantining with my parents for over two months. Two months is how long it takes to be in a room watching a movie together, hear your father fart and have no one feel the need to remark on it. I could cry, or at least mist up, probably, if I kept really thinking about it. The closeness. All of us on pause from the inertia of before, with nowhere to be, in a room watching something dumb. Remember, we’re all going to (you know what).
We garden too, me and my dad. Dig out dirt from under a pile of dead leaves. Worms are a black gold bellwether. That’s what he mutters when I pitch some good looking soil into the barrel as he sifts through for rocks. Black gold. Black gold. We take turns wheelbarrowing the stuff to the little, planting square. Pick up speed with the barrel on the approach to the little hill. Watch out for the lilies, son. We plant rows of breakfast radishes that the deer won’t eat.
Dad grew a pandemic goatee.
Mom started talking about her past. Her mother wore Chanel suits to school meetings. Her mother had had a secret marriage and received electroshock therapy too. Grandma had TB and doctor cracked her ribs, while she was still awake, while she lectured him on the subject of pain. Old violence. Psychic scars. Darkness given and taken, buried, and transformed. The details are news. There are monsters in my blood. This we knew. Mom bangs the serving utensils on the glass salad bowl like Quasimodo ringing the bells of Notre Dame. Something buried rattles its chains. Remember when Notre Dame was on fire?
When we started trying for a kid, we didn’t even really get started. First time. Bingo. Swish. Bullseye. These are all things we call our unborn son. I thought we’d have a little padding built into the equation. Wasn’t ready for it to actually work so fast having heard how hard it can be. Nat had a dream, took a test, and woke me up at 5am to tell me she was pregnant. I kept saying “Oh my god,” pulled her close, and then we went back to sleep.
In quarantine, grocery deliveries feel like Christmas presents. We gather around the kitchen table and announce the items with glee. Parmesan cheese! Arugula! Mango! I try to remind myself we are fortunate to have things to eat at all. We take turns cooking and watch Jeopardy while we eat. When a square guy buzzes in to answer “What is chronic?” I laugh. The question was about enduring pain.
Our first sonogram was 2 days before the city went on lockdown. I got to see and hear his heartbeat. Weeks later, on the way to the next sonogram, our car hydroplaned 360° across 4 lanes of highway traffic in the pouring rain. Nat said that through the spin I just repeated “everything is going to be ok” while pumping breaks, spinning the wheel, and looking out the back windshield. I counted 3 cars swish past us as we spun. I’m relieved I resorted to comfort at triple death’s door. By then we had sanitizing protocol, and masks, and I wasn’t allowed into the doctor’s office to accompany her. Watched the fetus in electric blue on baby TV through my phone screen and shed a tear.
That was the week her mom, who had been staying at our apartment, accidentally left the burner on for 3 days, gas spitting, and almost blew up the whole building and everyone who was mandatorily at-home in it. Yes, that was the week. Same week Bernie bowed out. Bad things in threes. I lean on superstition when it suits us to quiet Nat’s mind. I’m an expert in making people feel better. Worse too. Balance, baby.
The world’s a fuck bubble but I get to spend time with people I love. I get to cook with Nat and massage her legs. There’s a good reason I can’t find a new job. There’s a better way to live a life. I wonder how much of this unquestioning quarantine participation is reinforced by a subconscious desire to just stay home for a while. I think a lot of us have just been wanting the world to stop. Opportunity indulged.
I tell myself that creation is violent by definition and have reckoned with my own blip of an expiring self to the point of dispassionate pablum. Maybe the virus was in our hearts all along. Shhhhhh. I can speak in the language of nothings because often I feel like nothing–that nothing is the real anything. Dad gets a call that he has “curable” cancer. That feels very real. It puts me back into this body.
I remember that pain isn’t going away. Is there something biblical that says it’s a sin to sing the pain of the world without dancing feet? I remember watching a little cousin play at the beach when I was an older kid. Boy got crushed by a wave and looked to me to signal the appropriate response. I understood then that if I looked concerned he’d cry, and if I laughed so would he. We laughed.
One day I’ll say to my son, “The glass isn’t empty, it’s full of air.”