Let us dispense with all things superfluous and suffice it to say that in the bitter wake of mutual recrimination and hopelessly consternated tears they make the magnetized love of absolute acceptance and limitless forgiveness, headily giving off their most concentrated warmth, climaxing in rapid succession and then, repose.
Each met the other in the same place they met each other. It doesn’t matter anymore; it never did. His forlorn family’s low estimation of his admittedly deficient judgement led them, in their bottomless prudence, to conclude he had succumbed to the wiles of a conniving single mother who would clip his wings and harness him to her petty neediness. Meanwhile, her harried mother bitterly conveyed to her ex-husband the sub-optimal news that once more their hapless baby girl had entangled herself with a loser. Familiar stories, each.
They weren’t much more certain of each other. Like a typical student he cut that woefully disheveled figure that mistakes puerility for charm. Because of this, she suspected his standards bordered on canine and that his broad-mindedness would precipitate mischief. Indeed, her unmistakable allure offered him precious little occasion to impute charm to blemishes, a habit he had cultivated over a series of relationships with brooding types as self-esteem deficient as himself. In contrast, her every gesture evinced that carefree femininity he had always taken as a signal to suppress his expectations and keep his distance.
Of course they couldn’t be constrained to use contraception. (What other criteria is there?) He often joked, nervously, that if she were to conceive, he would marry her and join the service. And when it happened he sat at her flabbergasted mother’s table with her hand in his and declared without even the minutest betrayal of equivocation that to his way of thinking abortion was not an option. Her mother, like his own parents, had not been prevented by the advent of the pill from snuffing her fair share back when peace and love were in vogue, but each family’s dismay at his obduracy only solidified his brittle sanctimoniousness.
A mere week thence, as he sat late at night in sweatpants and a tanktop in the driver’s seat of his chewed-up car in the skeevie parking lot of a 24-hour coin-op, that threadbare confidence came undone as an exponentially magnified inventory of every selfish luxury of the solitary life he stood to lose struck him suddenly with the overwhelming force of a bullet train splattering the viscera of a lowdown dog. In his late twenties, he was still plodding through college on his father’s support. Insufficient for his own upkeep, he wondered how he would ever support a family. He estimated his chances of ever saving enough to have a life, alone or otherwise, as exceedingly low. Suddenly, these constraints took on the appearance of mitigating factors, and a weight seemed to float from his shoulders. No, this pregnancy just wasn’t possible, he thought. In a sense, it wasn’t even happening, because it couldn’t. There was only one option.
The following afternoon she dropped by his ratty one-room after work, as usual, and as they lay spooning she mentioned that the night before she had the most unsettling dream. “We were together, and it was you I saw in front of me, and we talked like normal, but somehow, it wasn’t really you, and I woke up really scared.” He grunted and shrugged but was too preoccupied to consider what she had said even just long enough to dismiss it.
“I’ve been thinking,” he rejoined, deciding to rip the proverbial band-aid right off, “We should probably just abort this one and decide how and whether we want to proceed together without the unnecessary pressure of a pregnancy.”
In an infinite nanosecond she had gone through all the stages of grief but acceptance. It had all seemed so simple to him the night before, and in his solipsism her reaction came as a genuine shock. She streaked out the door and across the parking lot, howling, blubbering, shrieking, beet-red, radiating tear-steam and nearly choking on drool, while he sat up in the bed, enveloped in a surreal, otherbodily numbness. Icy resolve to disregard the unanticipated obstacle her feelings presented gave way eerily to a sense of having penetrated the membrane of a metaphysical continuum devoid of all human warmth and future hope. In a tingly storm of nervous electricity he told himself that she had no right to demand of him everything her pregnancy necessitated, that anyway there could be no backing down because things couldn’t possibly be worse nor get better than he had just made them. On the phone his parents concurred, as they had the night before.
Her mother, meanwhile, now had all the proof she needed that no one gets very far through life contented and entirely sane, that this right of passage would therefore be necessary, and that it was all his fault. He hadn’t disappointed her there. His only distinction was his amplified despicability, that he’d sprinkled his false assurances so liberally with the righteously empty platitudes her daughter had been taken in by.
His name would have been Michael. Perhaps it always was and always will be.
He would have been born petite and handsome, and not cried at all but given his parents a contemplative look when he was placed on his mother’s chest, as if to say, “Ah yes, you two again.” As if the spark with which he’d been entrusted was as old as time and space. He’d have been thoughtful, discerning and vigorous, with saucerbrown eyes and dimples, a guileful smile and a tender disposition. He would have been adored by his parents and lonely older brother.
He is crying out to them.