The baby was kicking again. Sidney Lapert rubbed her aching abdomen, bruised blue-green lumps deforming an otherwise smooth sphere. A proper protruding tummy. It was bigger than she thought it would or could get, every day growing a bit bigger until all she saw was her bulging belly when she reached to tie her shoes.
Perhaps men had survived beyond their reproductive role solely for the purpose of tying a pregnant woman’s shoes.
Making her way towards the convenience store down the street, Sidney saw another bowling-ball bellied woman walking about, a man by her side. There was always a man by their sides, holding her bag, bending down to loosen her too-tight gym shoes. But Sidney avoided other pregnant women and she especially avoided their tired, sagging eyes. It was like spotting a racoon midday- two raccoons staring wide-eyed back at one another, pupils pinpoints. What was she doing here? Wasn’t the living thing in her kicking too?
But Sidney was wearing her slip-on shoes, a tan Van sneaker. The quiet walls of her small apartment had screamed in absence of company, forcing her out. Her friends from work had become simply coworkers with whom she now had nothing in common with. She hadn’t heard from them since insemination.
Sidney Lapert thought of the slippery semen sliding down the thin plastic tube which had been cold against her warm vaginal lips. They grimaced in anticipation. Her insides pulled together, knitting in tightly as pink plastic gloves peeled the tube from her grasp. The memory brought up a mouthful of vomit.
The Parents had given her a small black notebook shortly thereafter to record her experience, her diet of most interest and importance. Detailed nutrition records were required at the signing of the contract. Eagerly signing anything worth 20k, she agreed.
Over the course of nine long months she would write:
Monday: Breakfast- toast with avocado, Lunch- leftover pizza, Dinner- tuna salad. Half an hour walk, twenty minutes of yoga.
Tuesday: Breakfast- cereal with decaf coffee. Snack- granola bar. Lunch- leftover tuna salad. Dinner- pasta with tomato sauce. Dessert- mudslide ice-cream.
Wednesday: Breakfast- toast with avocado, Lunch- leftover pasta, Dinner- veggie burger. Four-mile hike.
Thursday: Breakfast- granola bar, Lunch- grilled cheese with tomato soup, Dinner- pesto pasta. Dessert- brownie.
Friday: No breakfast. Lunch- leftover pesto pasta. Dinner- pork sandwich. Desert- brownie and mudslide ice-cream.
Saturday: Breakfast- pancakes. Lunch- chicken salad. Dinner- veggie burger. Yoga in the morning, walk in the evening.
Sunday: Breakfast- yogurt with granola and fruits. Snack- green juice. Lunch- pasta salad. Dinner- pizza. Yoga in the evening.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. This was how the days, the weeks, the months blurred together into one long list. One long shift.
It kicked harder, stomping on her bladder. She would have to find a bathroom very soon. The closest store she knew, through some drunken instances, to have a public restroom was the little liquor store on the corner of Jester Street and Langlot Avenue. She pushed through the foggy glass door. The bell chimed.
The cashier and a gray-haired man turned to the sound, their eyes instinctually dropping from her chest to her ballooned abdomen.
She knew very well where the bathroom was.
The cashier knew very well who she was, too.
She nodded and made her way to the grimy but somewhat cozy bathroom.
On her way out, she reared to the right, making her way by the whiskeys. The cashier watched her with a crease between his bushy brows.
“Anything I can help ya with, ma’am?”
Sidney Lapert grabbed a glowing golden bourbon from the poorly painted, or perhaps peeling, metal shelf. She placed the bottle on the yellowish glass.
He looked at her.
“For my husband.”
“Hmmm. I see.” He held his hand limply by his waist, hesitating for an invisible instant. He then pulled the bottle to scan, glistening glass scratching opaque glass.
“That’ll be $31.50. Card or cash?”
Sidney gestured with the card she had preemptively removed from her wallet.
“Have a good one.”
After all had been said and done, Sidney Lapert had poured herself a total of three small glasses of whiskey- she had drunk them all, too. The little black book peered at Sidney Lapert from her nightstand. She felt warm. Not the warm she was always feeling, or at least these past six months which now felt like always, but a warm which radiated from somewhere within her chest. From her heart, perhaps. The little black book looked sad. The little black book was sad. It’s “decafs” and “salads” and “yogas” on the little squares which correspond to each little day were wiggling worriedly.
Sidney Lapert ran to the bathroom, lifted the toilet seat, and vomited up a chicken salad, a green juice, and three small glasses of whiskey.
She rinsed her mouth, brushed her teeth, and made her way back to the little black book. It was less sad, now. Under January 28th, she scribbled in small, slanted print “half a glass of red wine.”
* * *
Sidney sits with the kicking baby in her arms. She hadn’t ever heard him scream before.
She hadn’t ever called it him before.
The Parents cast their shadows over her, looming. The hospital light shines a bit less brightly than their silly smiles, but the bright light is still very bright. She closes her eyes. Her eyelids glow a reddish pink.
Sidney Lapert feels a weight lift from her chest. Five and a quarter pounds, to be precise.
The woman’s voice is fresh. Sidney does not feel fresh. In fact, Sidney had never felt so dirty in her life. A thought of a shower flits across the reddish pink but is quickly smothered by exhaustion.
The two murmur their thanks, or so she assumes, and place the little black book on her lap. They walk out the door twenty-seven hours before she will.