Sunday 25th October 2009
One year ago today.
Suse turns to me, in the dark, ready with something to say. I can feel it sitting on her lips. She pauses a moment longer, neither speaking nor taking a breath.
“What is it?”
“You want to say something.”
She pauses a bit longer. “I haven’t had my period yet. It was due on Thursday.” She stops again. “And I’m never late.”
Silence descends. “Well?” she asks.
“Well,” I say, my mind ticking. “Well, great. Maybe. Yeah, great,” I add, trying not to sound worried by the possibility. “It’s just…”
“Well, we start in forty five minutes, and there is no break until…”
“You want me to go at lunchtime?”
“You’ll find a way.”
“Are you fucking serious? There won’t be time to eat. I’ll be out and back and fucking sweaty, and…”
“And…” I let out a big sigh, one of those, ‘of course I will, I’m a good husband’ sighs.
“You’ll find a way.”
I sigh once more, ensuring she gets the point. I can hear the burst of microscopic bubbles at the edge of her mouth that happens when she smiles in the dark.
* * * * *
“Can I borrow your car, Terry?”
“Sure, mate. Sure,” says the big Novocastrian, all hair and good will.
In slow-mo he pulls them out of his pocket, dangling them in front of me. I grab them, trying not to snatch.
“Thanks, mate.” He smiles wryly, cocking his head slightly.
“It’s in the top car park.”
“I’ll find it,” I yell, already through the door.
I run-walk towards the car park, pressing at its button as I go. A beep in the distance calls me over, that of the Tardis, a nicknamed SUV, more bus than sports utility, and with far more room than is necessary for a regular human. I reach up to open the front door, and jump to grab the overhead handle. I pull myself up, leaping into its cabin, and into the driver’s seat.
The world sits well below, like it would from a small jet. I move the seat forward, wrestle the key into its slot, turn, and then rev. I slam it into reverse, hit the accelerator, and jerk forward in a stall, almost touching the brick wall. The gearstick requires another try, one of those push-down-while-slotting-into-reverse-or-you’ll-really-fuck-up kind of gearboxes. Not at all dangerous for a sweaty man, sitting uncomfortably in someone else’s aeroplane, trying to get to the chemist and back in record time.
I start up again and reverse – actually reverse – before grabbing at my phone to look for a map. As I skid out of the convention centre and into the traffic, I search for a chemist, the closest one there is.
I watch my progress on the GPS, trusting it more than the view of the road through the window, it’s that far below. It takes me on one of Brisbane’s circuitous routes, and straight past the centre I need. Traffic rides my arse, ensuring that I do two more circuits around before taking the only free parking spot within miles. I slam the brake in the side street, halting on the steepest hill in the area. Nothing like a hill start in a tank.
I leap out, and run towards the shopping centre. Several elderly people, who’ve moved north to die, block my way as I pass, only to travel the escalator behind another troupe of the same. They move in swarms up here.
I almost skittle one at the bottom of the escalator as I run into the chemist before they start their quiz about generic branded diuretics.
“Just wondering if you could show me the pregnancy tests?” I ask.
The chemist gives me the once over – the pregnancy test summation look – and is slightly confused. The sweaty face and breathlessness don’t fit with the greying hair and lack of pubescent acne; she can’t yet tell if this is the nervousness of a slink to the chemist, or the excitement of a Dad-to-be.
“Over here,” she says pointing.
I march purposefully towards the shelf, and listen to her spiel on the pros and cons of the various varieties, before butting in.
“Which will give the quickest answer?”
“I mean, which is the most reliable.”
“Well, this one is the most expensive and easiest to use.” I snatch two and rush back towards the counter.
“Sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry,” I say. “Got to get back to my wife.” I watch as her fingers stop, mid-punching of the register-keys. I stare at them, willing them to recommence their punch.
“So, is this a good day?” she asks, now erring on the side of Victory-Dance-Dad-to-be.
“We’ll see, won’t we?” I smile, making it easy for her.
“Well, good luck to you,” she says.
“Yeah, thanks,” I return. I hold the brown bag up, like an Olympic torch, and run back out past the diuretic brigade.
I spend the next eight minutes running back and forth, looking for my car in the brilliant heat of the day, trying to retrace my steps, knowing that I have less than ten minutes to get back. I run the loop several times, before stumbling across the bus exactly where I left it. I turn the key and start the thing, slam it into first, and rev. It threatens to tip onto it’s back like a stranded turtle, before skidding off and up the hill, without crashing anything behind. The first good luck of the day.
Eight minutes later, I am back at base. I run up the stairs, throwing the keys into the chest of Terry as I pass. Soaked through, I search the place for Suse.
“In there,” someone says while pointing, like a prop in a movie to keep the narrative running.
“Thanks,” I yell, not looking back. As if by telepathy, Suse emerges from the room, a vacuum of quiet bustle from the video recording behind.
“I got it,” I say, the brown paper in my wet paw, cocking my head for the toilet.”
“I can’t do it right now. I just peed.”
“You just peed? When I was off getting a pregnancy kit?”
“I needed to go.”
“So did I.” My face contorts, betraying me.
“You have to wee more when you’re pregnant,” she says, with slight indignation. “I couldn’t hold on. We’ll have to do it in the next break.”
“I busted my arse to get it right now!” I whisper hard.
“I know, I know…” She touches my face. “Next break.”
* * * * *
I hear nothing for the next two hours. I keep playing at my right pocket, ensuring that it is still there, like a fidgeting little kid. The person next to me gives a polite smile, like a parent at the movies warning their child to stop rustling his chips packet. As we break off for afternoon tea, I walk straight over to Suse, and grab her hand, leading her to the toilet.
We close the door behind us, both in the cubicle. She pulls down her knickers, and sits and pees. And then she hands the stick to me. I look and see that a single blue line lights up instantly. I watch for two more seconds, and realise that what I am feeling is disappointment. In the rush of it all, I hadn’t given time to consider my reaction. It takes me by surprise. I look past the stick and at Suse, looking up, as cute as could be, a question on her face, shoulders crunched in beckoning, her fingers playing with the edge of her undies by her knees.
I look back at the stick. Then at her, still frozen and expressionless. And then back.
And then I see it. The faintest change, a scent. A tiny change. And then it comes, almost not, then a bit more, a changing colour. It creeps in, slowly, like the smile does on my face. My head swims, really, like the first time, that actual drifting. I look at Suse and she looks at me, and then I look again.
And then I show her.
She takes it, holds it, does the same dance on her lips. The same shock, the same thing. We both go silent, her sitting, me standing, comprehending, understanding.
“Oh my God,” she says.
“Oh my God.”
“We’re going to have a baby,” I hear myself say.
We can’t quite believe it. She stands without wiping, without thinking, and we hug closely, tightly, comprehending. This is wild.
* * * * *
We walk out of the toilets holding hands. We bump into a couple of people, and as we are getting ready for the start of the next session, the music starts. The crowd of people move back in, slowly, like bees to a honey pot, and swarm in dance.
“Let’s find Alan,” I say.
“Is he with Chrissie?” asks Suse.
“I’ve got to tell Terry,” I say.
“Where’s Abby,” says she.
We tell, and move on, the quickest of stories, a hopscotch from her mouth to mine, and back – waking this morning, me rushing out, Suse having peed. Already the story is ironed straight. We grab a hug and move on to the next. A couple of people, and then a few more. And a few more.
Within four minutes, with the same song still running, we are jumping in the middle, a group of twenty who already share our secret.
I know, I know, we’re supposed to be cautious this early.
But fuck it, you know? We want to celebrate.
After all – we’re going to have a baby.
* * * * *