Friday 5th February 2010
Gestation: 19 weeks
One year ago.
I turn up to the last day of my current job; one spent at a conference on International Child Health.
I arrive, and the lectures begin. I hear about issues in Timor, Papua New Guinea and our poorer Asian neighbours. I sit through a session on tuberculosis, another on their difficulties in vaccination access, and a third on the health implications of poor sanitation.
These are all big issues. Big global issues.
But today, I just can’t focus.
Today, my world issue is my wife.
* * * * *
Suse walks through the door to find me in the study, at the laptop, in boxer shorts.
“What is going on in here?” she asks.
“I’m wagging,” I say without looking up.
“No, I mean – why is it so hot in here?”
“Computers. A summer’s day coupled with two computers makes a hotbox.”
She sidles up next to me and looks at the screen.
“So what have you found out?” she asks. I hit alt-tab quickly, switching away from the disastrous stats I’ve just been reading. The computer fan blows, the only thing breaking the silence.
“Oh, nothing,” I lie. I stand and give her a sweaty hug. “I’ve been writing mainly,” I say, not making eye contact. I walk past her and out of the office, heading for the fridge.
“You’ve got a new story to write now, haven’t you?” she says, following. “It’s no longer ‘The Pregnancy Diaries’. Now, it’s ‘My Wife’s Stupid Body Diaries’.”
“Is that what you want to call it?”
“Yeah. Why not? Except that it has to be s-t-o-o-p-i-d,” she spells out.
“Sure. Mywifesstoopidbody.com. I can do that.”
We both laugh, before I notice the bags in her hand.
“See what I bought?” She holds the bag open, and I look in. “It’s the paper for our thankyou cards.”
“For our wedding?”
“Only seven months late,” I say.
I pull out the cards and the gorgeous paper. Things of beauty amongst the ugliness of our current reality.
“I think I deserved some retail therapy today,” she says. Suse puts down the bag, and I step forward to hug her. “I’ve been doing really well at keeping busy,” she adds proudly. “And I’m staying positive too.” I hug her even tighter. “How about you?”
I feel myself weaken. “Umm,” I say, not quick enough to bluff. I pause. “I’m trying.”
“We’re gonna be okay,” she says. “One way or another.”
“No way or another,” I reply.
“Yes,” she says, matter-of-factly. There is a lilt in her voice, a softness that hasn’t been there before. “I’m remaining vulnerable to all the possibilities, Mark,” she continues. “And no matter what it is, we’re going to share a wonderful, precious life. And we’re going to have a baby.”
For the first time in the shock of this latest drama, I feel a lump rise in my throat. I look up, unable to focus, my eyes welling.
“Don’t you start,” she says, “I haven’t cried all day.”
I hug her even tighter, willing back the tears. I actually feel them descend, like I’ve pressed rewind on my tear ducts. I let go, and I look at her squarely, holding my wife at arms’ length.
“And one more thing,” she says evenly, “I just want to say one more thing.” She takes a breath. “If there is something, some result that you don’t want to tell me – that you want Terry to tell me instead – then I don’t want you to feel like it’s your responsibility,” she says, her voice calm. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to be the one to give me the bad news.”
“Hey,” I say, breaking in, “I’m going to give you an orgasm this afternoon, and that’s all I have to say.”
“Really?” she says.
“Really,” I say, barely able to smile.
“Okay,” she says, “I’ll let you.”
“Just to prove that there’s nothing wrong,” I add, still not looking at her.
“I guess I’m still an attractive wife,” she says. “Even if I am a bit broken. I’m the good wife with the stoopid body,” she adds lightly.
I walk into the study and begin to cry.
* * * * *
* * * * *