A New Year
Day Twenty-One of Thirty Days of Writing
I had taken the train up to Chicago with S for a New Year’s celebration. S was in from San Francisco visiting for the Christmas holiday. My plan was not to tell anyone about my condition during the trip. There would be so much to catch up on that I figured it would be easy to dance around the subject.
About an hour into our train ride, S’s contented silence broke me. “So, I have some news.” I chirped up. “Oh?” S queried as his eyebrows became arrows directed at me. I couldn’t help but think what a good therapist S was going to make. “Yeah, I’m pregnant.” As per usual with unexpected news, S didn’t believe me. “No you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.” Of all the reactions I had been anticipating, a sibling-like argument was not one of them.
“I’m sorry but I refuse to accept that.” He was crossing his arms. I remembered reading somewhere that people do that when they feel vulnerable.
“S, I’m really pregnant. Just over three months. I’m supposed to figure out the sex of the baby next week, even though I already know its a boy.”
I could see the gears ticking in his head, he was working out the timing, and he was about to ask who’s baby it was anyway, so I went ahead and explained the whole story.
“Yeah, that’s a word for it. Now, I need your help. I don’t know if I should tell J. I wasn’t going to, well I mean, not right now, not over this break.”
I had a terrible feeling about telling J. We had just been able to reconcile, to get things a little back in order, and I had a gut feeling that he was not going to be excited about this news. I knew it was selfish to want him to be happy for me, but it wasn’t even really that I needed him to be happy for me. I wanted to be able to explain to him how amazing it felt. Yeah, this is not going to go well. What could I say, “It feels like my whole past is irrelevant now, like everything could be remade, like I’m getting a second chance at life, like I actually want to live life. I can finally appreciate all that life has to offer.” J was part of my past and I was sure hearing that would not strike joy into his heart, which was ultimately what I wanted. It hit me that maybe this feeling was why so many expecting parents posted a million pictures no one else wanted to see all over the internet.
S and I debarked our train and took a cab up to the north side. I couldn’t help but think of all the other cab rides I’d taken around the windy city, the days when I used to take cabs just to talk to the drivers, just to listen to their stories for a few minutes. One had fallen in love with me. One had gone grocery shopping with me. One had been a political speech writer and one, a surgeon from Bangladesh.
When we made it to J’s house it was cold. It was the first time since March that I’d felt cold. I’d been outrunning the winter all year, but it had finally caught up to me.
We went up to his apartment. It was about to be a new year. A whole new chapter of my life was about to unfold and I realized I wanted more than anything to be able to share it with the people I loved. It was late so we all caught up for a little bit in the living room. S was going to sleep in J’s roommate’s bed since he was out of town. I was going to take the reliable old orange couch that looked like it belonged on the set of That 70’s Show. It was the couch that had briefly resided in my last house in Colorado, when J had lived there still. I wanted to tell him the truth, even though I knew the truth was going to hurt him, because in a different set of circumstances and outcomes, he might of been the father of my child. There were actually a few people who could have been the father of my child, not in actuality, but in the sense that I had been lucky in life. I had known great love early and often, like I was sent here on some doomed mission to face all those I’d known in past lives and try this time to make amends.
S retired and J and I stayed up talking. The conversation opened up a space where I knew I either had to tell him or to fake my way through a conversation with him. If there was one thing I was good at (and I wasn’t good at many things) it was not faking it. A lie becomes an obligation to live out that lie, to preform it for the sake of the one you designed it to spare, and so, inevitably, it becomes a curse to both of you. I owed him the truth, which does set you free, even if it punches you in the face first.
After I told him he walked to the Dunkin’ Donuts under the L stop but not before saying, “I can see that you’re happy.” When the door closed behind him, I knew a door that had stayed open for years between us had also closed, and closed forever.
I drifted off mumbling to my belly.
The next morning was the last morning of 2015. I woke up on the orange couch, with the lake hovering all frost blue outside the window. S, J, and I dragged ourselves to the grocery store, our feet freezing along the way, to get supplies for the dinner we were going to cook for everyone that night. The whole walk there I was worried about the baby. I worried about him on the train. I had worried about him in the cab; what if we crashed? Every little action seemed so dangerous. I knew I was going to have to get over these irrational fears, but I also relished the idea that I had something so great inside of me to protect. I guess most mothers probably put their kids on pedestals. That’s probably how we get psychopaths. Was I going to raise a psychopath? There were so many things I felt I needed to learn. I recognized it was going to be difficult for me to ever say “no” to my child. I would have to learn that before he got here or else totally ruin him.
Our friends came over. We made dinner: pasta and garlic bread, and fish. J’s favorites. My partner was driving down from Michigan that night to meet me. He had gotten us a hotel room and I hadn’t seen him in two months so I was itching to just give him a hug. We hadn't met face to face since I’d dropped him back in Michigan at the beginning of November. He and I were going to drive back to St. Louis after our weekend in Chicago, and then begin finalizing our plans to move to Portland.
J had told me that morning that he didn’t want my partner at the party. Since it was at his place, I figured I would just leave and meet my partner when he got into town. He was getting in late anyway. However, while trying to be understanding of J’s feelings, I was also a little mad. Why couldn’t he accept this next step in my life? We hadn’t been together or even talking for more than a year. It was so easy for me to be happy for him, but it was not the same for him. I knew that this was a critical point for me. This baby had reprioritized everything else in my life, and anyone who couldn’t respect that had to get out of my way. There was so much work to be done.
It was the fist New Year’s I’d spent sober in a very long time, nine years to be exact.
We discussed new plans, new adventures we were seeking. We reminisced about the old days, the crazy days we had barely lived through, raging through the streets of the windy city with the energy of the wind herself.
I was so happy, because I was beginning to realize that I was about to get to do everything I wanted. A whole life of possibility was unfolding in front of me and all I had to do was keep walking.
Right after the cheers for the new year, the group parted ways. J was very drunk. I caught a cab up to Evanston to meet my partner. He was angry that I had missed the moment when the old year became new. He’d wanted to share it with me, and with his son. I was so happy to see him that I couldn’t stop hugging him. I felt, laying in his arms, falling asleep to the noise of the city, that I had my own family. Every part of my body responded to his mere physical presence. Like the baby too was excited, like the ice on the street outside could no longer contain its exuberance, like the fireworks were for us, like the scene at the end of a movie where everyone gets what they wanted even if they didn’t know that they wanted it.
If there was one night I could live inside of forever, it would be that bridge between 2015 and 2016. A culmination and a fresh start. The perfect crisp turn of a page. The certainty of knowing exactly what it was I was living for, and exactly how much I would sacrifice to keep it safe.