Tuesday 27th October 2009
4 weeks, 4 days
One year ago today.
I go to work.
I try to work.
Eight hours later I come home. I enter through the front door, squeezing past the boxes, stacked almost to the roof.
I hear a murmur from the bedroom, and turn the corner to find Suse face down, bum up, cradling a pillow. I see the dried tears at the corner of her nose.
“What’s going on?”
She starts to cry softly.
“I’m tired and I feel sick.” She looks up at me pleadingly. “Am I meant to be a mother? Am I going to be good enough?” Her face screws up like a squeegee. “I’m kind of freaking out, Mark!”
“Kind of,” I say.
“Nothing.” I stand for a moment, before leaning forward to touch her side. Her body softens into my hand, a wordless request for contact. I lie down beside her, stroking her hair. We say nothing for a while.
* * * * *
I get up, and head out to the letterbox. Along with some bills, there is a large pack, addressed from Kath’s practice. I open it to find a number of glossy pamphlets, some multicoloured paper, and empty plastic pockets; a stationer’s wet dream. We both read through the information, the registration forms, trying to make sense of it, less excited than we were last night. This time we are the old couple trying to cram before the test.
So much to learn.
Suse shuffles through the papers with frantic energy, like the start of an exam when you realise you’re in trouble. She eventually settles on a particularly shiny pamphlet, leafing it suspiciously. I look at another form, a pretty one with pictures.
“What’s this?” Suse asks, holding up her sheet. I take it from her, and begin to read.
“It’s the triple test for Down Syndrome.”
I listen to her tone, watching the land ahead, realising there are landmines in this ground.
“So you can know the odds of the foetus having Down’s Syndrome.”
“To what end? So you can know the probability of a problem, and whether or not to commit murder? Is that it?” I stand still. “It’s inhumane! Totally inhumane! Why does a kid with Down Syndrome have any less right to live? What right do we have to decide?”
Boom. I take no further steps.
* * * * *
“Can you do me a favour?” Suse asks. I look at the clock. It’s 10.13pm.
“Can you go to the supermarket for me?”
I look at her face. It’s like that of a kid, seeing how far they can push their parent for more lollies. This time, the answer is: further.
I drive to the supermarket, and march down the aisles with purpose, grabbing the items in turn:
1. Rice Bubbles
I walk to the counter, and place the items down on the conveyor belt, like a Roman guard presenting his bounty. The Indian woman behind the register looks up and smiles.
“I am on an errand for my pregnant wife,” I say proudly. She swipes and the machine beeps. Her smile widens further.
“Very good, sir. Very good.”
I stand there stupidly, without anything more to say.
“Is this all she wants?”
“For now, yes.” She leans forward, a mock hand to her mouth. I lean in too.
“At least she is not asking for the moon,” she says, finally, laughing. “When that begins, then you will have difficulty. Magnums are quite easy.” I smile back. She scans it, waving it at me, as one last point before placing it in the bag. “Don’t worry,” she continues, “she will soon start asking for the moon.”
I take my bag and walk off, her deep chuckle fading as I go.
* * * * *
I walk through the front door and round the corner. There I see Suse, a pained look on her face, which quickly changes to delight as I present the goods.
She jumps up, scoops them in her arms, and runs to the kitchen, where she tears at the Rice Bubbles packet like a ravenous animal. She swings open the cupboard, grabbing at a cup, knocking things over as she does. She rips at the plastic with her teeth, before pouring Rice Bubbles into the cup, some spilling out and onto the floor.
And then she pours it into her mouth, filling it full of plain Rice Bubbles. She crunches and then grins widely.
Like it’s all she has ever wanted.
* * * * *