I’m eating breakfast at the kitchen counter when he comes in and says, “You’re pregnant.” He sets down a pregnancy test and I pick it up like it’s a slice of toast and I bring it into the bathroom and shut the door. It is negative. I splash water on my cheeks and I come out and I say, Oh my god, we’re having a baby, in my best surprised voice. “I know,” he says. “I already bought a crib online.” I watch his body move as he turns and opens the door. It is stiff. As stiff as the door. I go to the window and look out and I see him out in the yard. I see him digging a hole next to our failed attempt at a vegetable garden with a toy shovel that he stole from the turtle-shaped sandbox next door, and he is sweating.
When he comes back in I’m asleep on the couch and he shakes me awake and he says “Get dressed, we’re going to the hospital. You need to get an abortion. I just met with a banker and there is no way we can cover the costs of having a child.” He is right. We’re living in a studio apartment and our dishwasher is broken and our shower takes twenty minutes to heat up and I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in a year and a half and he works at a call center and I take online surveys and I don’t know the first thing about properly installing a car seat and we don’t even have a car. We go to the ER and he calmly explains our situation to the receptionist. I watch the stripes on the back of his shirt zig and zag as he speaks, like they’re dancing. She shakes her head and tells him to take a seat. I think she tells him to get out instead but I don’t argue with what he says, I never do. It is easier that way. There is a lifetime movie about a couple who is about to have a baby playing on the TV in the corner. Except they have a two bedroom house and an SUV and a family who throws them a baby shower at a venue on the ocean, and there are little storks with blue and pink ribbons tied around their necks strung up everywhere, and a cake shaped like a baby stroller, and not one person has a pimple. I sink back into the chair and I pick up a brochure about Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease and I only make it through the first panel when he tugs my arm and tells me that we have to go.
When we get home I notice a mound of dirt next to the hole he was digging earlier and he says, “The baby has died.” He says, “We must bury it.” He says, “I will call a priest.” I say, But you don’t know any priests. And I am right, he doesn’t. We’ve never even been to church. He grabs his messenger bag off the chair by the door and he leaves. He doesn’t come back for a very long time.
We’ve been together since that time I was a taxi driver and I was driving him to his friend’s place on the west side of town and I never stopped. He said, “You missed the turn.” He said, “I could be a murderer you know. I could be a rapist. I could be a psychopath.” I said, That might be nice, I’ve never met any of those kinds of people before. What do you think murderers eat for breakfast? Do you think they buy scratch tickets? Do you think they go to fairs? Do you think they like cotton candy? He said, “I know where we can go.” He said, “Pull over and let me drive.” And I did. And he took me to a dead end an hour away. And at that dead end he crawled into the backseat with me and he kissed me harder than anybody had ever kissed me and he said, “You taste like melancholy which is also kind of like stale chocolate” and he said, “Take off your shirt I want to see your breasts in the moonlight” and he said, “Your nipples are as sharp as thumbtacks” and then he fucked me and I fell asleep and when I woke up in the morning he was on top of me looking down at me and he said, “Don’t worry,” and he held my face like I was the smallest thing in the world, like he just discovered me. Like I was always his.
I fall onto the couch and turn on the TV. The lifetime movie about the pregnant couple is still on. They’re in the hospital and they’re about to have the baby and the woman isn’t even sweating. They’re wheeling her to her room and the man is by her side and he’s rubbing her neck and she is smiling and holding her tummy and every time she passes someone they say Good luck! or You get em girl! or they give her a really exaggerated high five and I think, is this a football game or a maternity ward? I think, boy, this is the happiest hospital I’ve ever seen. I think, is everyone getting paid extra to be this nice? And then I remember that this is a movie and they are just actors and I bet in real life this woman wanted to walk the red carpet but she was only good enough for the lifetime network and then I feel bad for her.They’re in the room now and the woman is in the bed and her family is there and they’re holding balloons and one of them has a six-pack of cupcakes and all of them are radiating happiness. Like this is a game show and they all won six million dollars and four corvettes and a jet-ski and they’ll never have to worry about paying their electricity bill again. Sometimes I think I want this. Sometimes I want this life with the Coach wallets full of cash and the Ferraris and a husband who works 9-5 Monday through Friday and on the weekends takes me and the kids out for ice cream, or to the beach, or on a vacation in the Alps because he can. Sometimes I want it. But then I remember that that life takes choices, takes decisions, and I think that this is easier. Being with him, here. Watching these other lives when I feel like I might want them, just to get a taste. Just to convince me I don’t.
He comes home and I am standing at the stove making a grilled cheese and he says, “Pack your things. We’re moving.” I turn off the stove and open the fridge and begin throwing food into the trash can across the kitchen like it’s a game. He says, “Don’t you want to know why?” I shrug. It doesn’t really interest me. He says, “The neighbors.” He moves closer to me and he says, “The neighbors know about the baby.” He puts his hand on my shoulder and he says, “I killed the baby.” I try to look surprised but not too surprised, I don’t want to give him the wrong impression, I don’t want to freak him out. I put down the carton of eggs I’m holding and I stand up with his hand balancing on my shoulder like a parrot and I cup his cheeks between my hands and I can feel them oozing through my fingers and his eyes are saying things that I’m pretending not to see and I kiss the tip of his nose and I say, in my best soothing voice, I say, Don’t worry.
Chelsea Harris received the Follet Graduate Merit Award to attend Columbia College Chicago, and received her MFA from the Department of Creative Writing. Chelsea was named to Glimmer Train’s top 25 list for their Very Short Fiction Award and has had work published in Cigale Literary Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, Habitat Magazine, and is forthcoming in Quaint Magazine. She is also the editorial assistant and event coordinator at Fifth Wednesday Journal.