“I want to get pregnant,” the little boy said. He pushed back his hair, and watched his shadow break into the corner of the room. He stopped; it died. “I want to be. I want to be.”
“Don’t whine.” Across the room Jenny dumped two piles of clothing into the closet, muttering as she thumbed through the underwear white. “What did you just say?”
“I want to have a baby.”
“A baby?” Her voice sharpened. “You wouldn’t want to, I’m sure.” Thump-thump. Her nails flipped through a broken collar. Clickety-clack. “In fact, I’m damn sure.
The boy watched her from behind his glasses. He was perched on the edge of his bed. In the austerity of his room Jenny’s bulk looked even bigger, almost obscene. Fat cow, he thought, yet another image rose against his will: a nice dairy cow, mottled and innocent, like those printed on greeting cards, but never on a meadow, where the grass was imperfectly green.
He lifted his head.” You can’t be sure. You’re not me.”
“Damn this.” She muttered, noticing a tear in one new panty. She laughed aloud, a short, dry laugh. “I don’t have to be you to know, honey. It’s damn painful.” She stretched the panty like elastic, snapping the band with her long nails. “Now don’t pester me anymore. I’ve got tonnes of work.” As if to illustrate her point, she folded a vest and plomped it down in a drawer with force. “Go off and play. It’s a nice day.”
He shut up and stared. It was hard not to stare at Jenny. She was by far the most interesting object in his room, almost as interesting as the silver world that misted outside his window. Then again, he didn’t have much choice. There was a chest-of-drawers, cheap brown, and curtains, grey with age. The only ornament on the walls was a crucifix. He liked the idea of martyrdom, but Christ’s unselfish face oppressed him. It seemed to say, in its sad, weary way: “I know what you are thinking and it isn’t the right way.” If Jenny had said that he wouldn’t have minded at all. But then, Christ isn’t an underpaid immigrant maid.
No, Jenny was safer. Her belly-button, sandwiched between a rayon halter and a plain apron, arrested him. There was a strange comfort in her big frame, he thought, there was so much of her. He could take some away and she’d never even notice. Now Mother, she always looked too thin and underfed, sharp-angled in the geometry of her church dresses.
He sneaked a peek at Jenny’s shadow. It spread over the floor, a voluminous veil, falling into the corners. Slowly, he moved his eyes upwards, a little timidly, hoping that she would not glance his way.
“What are you doing, child? Go out a play! Told you it’s a nice day.”
“No, Jenny. It’s not a nice day. It’s raining.”
She looked outside, past the crucifix. A slow drizzle was falling, threads or needles on the grass. She stared for a minute, eyes open and lips sealed. Her fingers returned to her folding, evading Christ by her mascara. One fold, two folds. Flip-flip; whip-whipped.
Thud. His feet hit the floor.
“Go play somewhere.”
“I like it here.”
She sighed. He watched. Focused on the fat lips and the trench of sweat, above and below. Watched and waited.
She dipped her head yes.
“Are you pregnant?”
“What’s got into you today? Must’ve been that aunt of yours, isn’t it? The one who brought her baby and shoved it into everyone’s arms?”
“It’s not like you think.” His serious little face puckered. His voice was shrill.
“It’s not. It’s….it’s just something I want. To have something to love completely. Something that is entirely mine.”
Her fingers pressed the last vest into place. “Honey, you sure are mixed up.” She grimaced, slinging a towel over her shoulder. “That little bugger’s just a crying bundle in a fancy gown. All babies are the same, honey. The only wise thing’s your Mama’s done is to have only one.”
“I want to.” He insisted. “But I want to.”
“You want to what?”
‘To get pregnant.”
She started to laugh suddenly, and her breasts, behind the boy’s lenses, heaved along like avalanches. They looked soft and full, unlike Mother’s, which were always hidden behind a high collar. Cow’s udders, he thought. In the small space of the room she laughed and laughed and laughed, chortling, her breasts shaking, until the beginnings of her nipples showed.
“You can’t. Don’t you know? You can’t. You’re a boy, honey. You big innocent, you’re a bloody boy.”
The little boy watched her shadow spread over the room, thickening. Curdling.
“And be grateful for that. ” Her voice harshened suddenly.
No, this wasn’t Jenny, he thought. This was the fat obscene cow he saw sometimes on his dinner plate. That’s why it ended up there in the first place. Bad cows do bad things and we eat them. That’s what Daddy had said. That’s what Daddy had said.
Her nails gripped a hanger off the bed. “You can fuck anyone you want and you won’t get pregnant….See? You’re a goddamn fucking boy.”
She stalked out, hanger in hand, but her voice was saturated with tears. Almost. On the edge of the bed the little boy started to cry. He slid both hands down his tummy, feeling. The bulge he’d exhilarated over before lunch was gone now.
Lunch, he thought bitterly. An extra-size hamburger, that was all.
“I want to have a baby.” He repeated. Perhaps if he prayed long enough God would take pity on him and perform a miracle. He kneeled down, tucked his tiny legs closer to his heart, and closed his eyes.
Above, Christ looked down with his gentle, world-weary face. Silently, he spoke. “I know what you’re thinking and it’s not the right way. No, it isn’t, it isn’t. It isn’t.”
~Mia Wong (Hong Kong). Mia wrote this as a student at Marymount Secondary School.
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