The subway is a caterpillarized Tower of Babel. A pair of lizard-skinned men are berating each other in Spanish; a dark cluster of Asian tourists wrinkle their faces and point at sites on their starched map. The brightly-colored woman next to me twists her tongue to argue loudly with a thickly-set man ten feet away.
There are Caucasians, glaringly guilty in their casual sandals or ambitious business suits. Each sun-bleached face betrays no character at all; staring into a book the color of his skin. I wonder at the phenomenon that these men waste moments of their lives staring blankly into anonymity.
I am frigid and resentful of the climate-control forced on me by mass transit. My knees feel naked against the crisp windless vacuum. Upstairs, the heat oppresses; I welcome the sensation of my thoughts, feelings, nerves, senses being compressed, slowly melted into one teeming organ curling inward under the immense pressure of an ovenous cavern. With the advent of air-conditioning, we are one step closer to becoming a species of cold-blooded psychotics: clean, pure, shiny, strong, impervious to ur true state of being, but taken in and driven mad by society's perception of a perfect world. I relish the thought of sweat pouring down my back and making my pants stick uncomfortably. I am caught off-guard by a cascade of hazy nausea, and think reflexively back to my morning meal.
Then I remember that there is another, more mysterious creature swimming amongst my muddy organs, and another wave of nausea hits me. This new, dark formation causes me more concern then an overturned plate of ham and eggs lodged within my interstine.
Michael has taken the news of a baby with restrained eagerness, but that was to be expected, considering that it is not his baby. I had patiently explained to him that a baby needs 24/7 care and feedings and washings and sleepings. With a baby, forgetting to eat would not simply mean being suddenly hungry at two o' clock in the morning; it would mean denting the nuclear family's structural component of a sit-down dinner and irrevocably damaging the baby's Id. Though he had countered my coagulating fears with a verbal splash of idealism, his sweet sense of selflessness had done nothing to deflect my thoughts from becoming lost in the quick abyss.
The remainder of my commute to work is short and marvelously humid. Once arrived, I cope with the boring blur that is my occupation by striving to be as productive as possible. I file papers and lick envelopes, deriving crisp comfort from the right angles of my cubicle. As I gleefully decipher my boss' cryptic notes and traansfer them into shining white testimonials of efficiency, my ming implodes inward to thoughts of my uterus, where another superior creature is scribbling away, relasing bloody dangling participles and shooting out tendrils of split infinitives that I am powerless to control with my meticulous grammar.
* * *
I have an appointment at the pre-natal clinic at seven. The office is four miles away; I walk across the park and note the dribblers and toddlers out for an evening stroll. I scrutinize the smallest ones, the ones whose eyes are still crinkled in an affront to the novelty of the setting sun, and mentally measure the sizes of their heads. My eyes travel across from their carriages to consider the circumfrences of their mothers' waists. I consider the distance between my own slight hipbones and cringe.
The toddlers frighten me; they sprout their own tiny personalities as surely as their teeth scissor through silky virgin gums. They are already melancholy or eager, dispassionate or friendly. They have shed the universal wonder of babyhood and are now subject to the merciless scrutiny of individuality.
From the toddlers, my eyes stray to the punked-out teenagers lounging on a park bench, and then to the faceless white members of the business class. I catch the mixed aromatic cocktail of a shirtless man doubled over in some sort of chemical withdrawl. Will I bear an artist or an accountant? A mathematician or a murderer? And is this child someday going to confront me with the ageless Frankenstinian plea: Why am I here? Why did you make me?
During the first days, when I had begun carrying a tampon in my back pocket at all times as a talisman of luck, an abortion emerged as the right choice. I am twenty, I have a good job, but I still see college as the best option. And I cannot even be counted on to feed my cat.
I convinced myself before drifting off to sleep one night that an early-term abortion is not murder. After all, I reasoned, every sperm is a potential child. Does a condom symbolize familicide for an army of children? What was the difference between my body deciding it didn't want to be pregnant and expelling an egg in an undignified puddle of blood or my mind deciding likewise and making arrangements to expel the unformed fetus through a rubber tube? It is all the same: potential life foregone. And of course, the misgivings I had over bearing a child would be more difficult to abort than any helpless clump of tissue.
The nurse at the clinic asks me if I smoke. It is a charity-run outfit; I suspect that these matronly women and grandfatherly men are here to alleviate the guilt that they feel because of their anti-abortion stances. Services are cheap to free. The black girls with ripened midriffs had ben eyeing me suspiciously in the waiting room; I am white, with nice clothes and a neat haircut. I have arrived, after two years of city-life clothing experiments and an aassortment of temporary hair colors, at a look of distinct middle-class conformism.
The nurse asks me again; I smile demurely. I have quit smoking, I inform her, because of the baby. She nods approvingly. This is a lie; I have never smoked. But I want to sacrifice something for this child. I want to be good at this. Everything counts.
* * *
The checkup has gone uneventfully; there is not much to tell Michael. He strokes my back as I recount to him the details of my day.
It was not until I had decided to continue the pregnancy that I notified Michael. I am one to harbor secrets, as he reminds me now, asking me when I plan on tellling my parents. But I cling to the last vestige of dignity left in the eyes of my family. Although my parents think me many things, stupid is not among them. It would be small comfort to my mother that I could have underwent a quiet abortion.
Thankfully, Michael has not asked me exactly what I plan to do about the sperm side of this fetus. Edward had presented himself to me as a pillow to cushion me from Michael's stark need. Early on, I discovered that Edward is a breathing catalog of all my bad qualities. He is intelligent but vague, artistic but uncreative. Edward lets his life pass him by; like the white men on the train, he stares at the advertisements as he is carried through a predictable tunnel. I gew quickly bored with Edward and his dust-covered goals. Because he no longer had any part in my reality, I lost my earthly concerns during our scant pre-orgasmic moments together. Thus, fertilization occurred.
* * *
The trains nearly brush against each other this morning. I think about each moment that we live just inches away from disaster. We live out our lives just barely missing contact with other passing organisms. We crash and burst into chaos, killing one situation as we create a new setting for our lives.
I had celebrated the day of the cancelled abortion quietly, sifting through racks of infant clothig at Sears. Having taken the day off from work for the operation, I had spent the morning of the appointment playing video games. Each sparkling battleship I hit exploded like a defenseless embryo.
An adoption is still not out of the picture. I cannot arrive at a decision; still, a righteous voice inside of me reminds me that I have avoided the coward's way out. The baby lies undisturbed in the womb, no different than the future child of an upper-middle-class stockbroker worlds away from my life.
Babies are physical parasites until the day of their birth, when they learn to eat and excrete. Then, they are mental parasites, feeding off their parents' emotions and characters. I am terrified at the thought of being somebody's mother.
* * *
I see Edward at work and resolve that by treating him as an ephemera, I have implanted him irrevocably into my life. I want to discuss the future. I want to look beyond the scope of my convex selfishness. I want my baby to have grandparents.