An Annika Strang Story
By my own precise design, I have always aspired to be what women’s magazines pithily refer to as a DINK — double income, no kids. My own mother says that kind of thinking can only lead to being a SKANK — single, killjoy and no kids What she fails to realize is that I would make a rotten mother, so rotten, in fact, that I’m expecting a discrete note from Child Protective Services urging me not to procreate as preventative matter. Any day now.
As a little girl, I never birthed dollies from under my jumper with make-believe c-sections administered by elementary school midwives. My scabbed knees never shared a sandbox with the League of Jennies who spent recess assigning each other life-mates from a quarry of fourth-grade boys. I never used the ersatz origami of the cootie catcher to make mystic prognostications of my reproductive success.
I was intent instead to play home-taxidermist whilst skinning my stuffed animals. I dreamt of having to put down a pantomime horse in the desert, peeling away its synthetic hide and exhuming the two dead boys within only to bring them back to life with cold washcloth compresses.
These Frankenstein melodramas were the closest I ever came to playing house. The nesting instinct just wasn’t with me (unlike my dopey cube-mate Vera who applied for maternity leave despite the fact that everyone but her seemed to know her pregnancy was hysterical ? she even seemed to show a bit, but it turns out she had just lapsed on her gym membership).
It should be noted that my schedule is so regular, one could set the atomic clock to it, which is why being a month late has induced in me nothing short of pure panic. And a vague thrill. Like a whodunit.
It all began when I had gotten Chinese take-out for myself and the gentleman in question. Heady from mulling the missives from our fortune cookies (and slouching toward his bedroom, I asked my date, “How long do you keep fortunes?”
“Until they don’t come true,” he muttered.
Yes, he was tastefully wistful, but vital, a swaggering cynic – all gunpowder and coffee grounds. The kind of man I’d fall for if I felt like falling for that kind of man.
So when the accident occurred (bringing with it an eerie admixture of devil-may-care complicity and the benightedness that is the wet nurse of passion), a pillow-talk confessional ensued.
“What if it turns out you’re?” he began, his words echoing through his Old Bank District loft. He never finished the sentence as if mentioning the situation specifically would wake into actuality.
Now, I don’t like to have “sit down talks” prior to their need, but when one must, they include such tactics as mentioning mutual friends with babies and discussing how the various fathers have participated in raising the thing. Or at the very least I need to get a bead as to where everyone stands on prenatal rights.
The ideal response from one’s man is something akin to “I think Mr. X is a great dad —I only wish one day that I too can have that kind of relationship. Someday.”
But no more words came. Instead, the gentleman in question’s hand met mine in the cool beneath the pillow and his fingers blindly traced the knuckles of my ring finger, causing it in that moment it became the most sensitive part of my body.
Despite my years of baby-bashing, of lampooning those in my cohort whose lives were seemingly capsized by little grinning demons, who seemed to have them so completely in their clutches like so many baggies of Cheerios — all I wanted to do was have this man’s baby. I wanted to have his baby more than I wanted to have him.
Sometimes being a woman makes me feel like I am piloting some simultaneously ancient and futuristic vessel that I can’t quite control. Hence the pregnancy test, the divining rod, the keel.
Pregnancy tests, it seems, don’t so much reflect reality as determine it. The test, in fact, can make you pregnant – it’s a pair of dice tossed from a cup of pee. Will it have blue eyes like his or brown eyes like mine?
I rolled snake eyes. Thank god.