Sunday 14th February 2010
Gestation: 20 weeks, 2 days
One year ago.
I sit there, concentrating on my sister-in-law, earnestly looking at the rash on her youngest daughter’s bottom. Beside her, my nine-year old niece sits, arms crossed in her grey and lavender striped sweater, concentrating hard.
“I don’t know exactly, Sharyn,” I say. “But I wouldn’t be overly worried about it.”
“And this one here? Next to this lump?”
“Well that’s different. That’s another one, another molluscum coming up. Just like these others over here,” I say as I point.
“And this one?” asks my niece, a serious frown on her face.
“I think that’s just where she scratched herself.”
My niece nods, taking it in. Meantime, Sharyn looks some more, as yet unconvinced. And then, through the diamond of space between them – formed by the frame of Sharyn’s neck and chest, and my niece’s chin and arm – I see Suse. She leans forward, peering through the hole like a pantomime character. She waves animatedly at me, her eyes alight. She points a finger at the staircase behind, and then sticks that finger in and out through the ‘O’ made by the other hand.
“And this one?” Sharyn asks.
“Ummm…” I say.
‘Do you want to go downstairs?’ Suse mouths silently. ‘Do you want to…’ She does the finger-in-and-out-thing again. I look back at my niece.
“Ummm…” I repeat. I blink my eyes open, focusing back on Sharyn. I feel like the guest on morning TV, distracted by a pedestrian who stands behind the glass, making dick gestures at the show host’s head.
“What is it?” my niece asks.
“Sorry?” I reply. She looks around.
“Why are you staring at Auntie Susie?” Auntie Susie is back in her seat, looking at the television; the innocent pedestrian once security turns up.
“I have trouble not looking at her sometimes,” I say. “After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.” My niece gives out a little gush. Sharyn looks at me hard, still waiting for an answer. “Right, yes… Well… I mean, that’s along her nappy line, and they’re just petechiae.”
“There just…” Suse has resumed the game of charades. One word, one syllable. Starts with…
“…Just what, Mark?”
“Exactly, yes. Petechiae are little pin-pricks of blood from burst capillaries. They’re the sign everyone worries about with meningococcal.” Sharyn’s eyes go wide. “But they’re on the nappy line,” I stumble. “They’re just from contact.” Suse keeps going. “I wouldn’t be worried by them,” I finish, unconvincingly.
Sharyn continues to stare. After a moment, she also looks over her shoulder at Suse. In return, my wife looks back, as if reluctantly breaking from a trancelike affair with the TV. “Don’t look at me, he’s the doctor.”
“Well, he’s not exactly selling it to me.”
“Sorry, Sharyn,” I say fumbling over my words, “I must be distracted.”
She looks back at me. “By what?”
I shrug, looking nothing but stupid.
* * * * *
Suse takes me by the hand, leading me down the stairs and into the ‘Ron Jeremy Room’. Named by Sharyn and Russ, this is the guest room for friends and family. It is pale pink with a mauve trim, a 50’s reproduction rose decorating its ceiling light. It’s more tweenies-bedroom than pornstar-hideaway, but if this is the Ron Jeremy Room, I guess we’d be remiss to not utilise it.
“Thanks for that, honey,” I say from the en suite.
“The distraction.” She pokes her head around the corner, frowning like she doesn’t understand. “For playing sex charades while I’m talking nappy rashes.”
“Well, I had no choice. My mucus is really sticky.”
“That’s it love,” I say, “keep that talk up. That’ll really turn me on.”
“Hey,” she mocks playfully, “I think I’m ovulating. It was an emergency.”
There is a silence.
“Do you think it matters that we didn’t do it last night?”
“We did it the previous five nights.”
“But not last night.”
“Well,” I pause, “we’re going to do it right now, aren’t we? Isn’t that what the whole charades thing was all about?”
“But what if I’m ovulating right now?”
“Do you have pain?”
“I don’t know. I have pain all the time now. Everything is all messed up.” I wash my hands. “Hurry up in there. It’s best if the sperms are already up there ready to greet the egg.”
“That’s what they say.”
I return to the Ron Jeremy Room. “I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but if that’s what ‘they’ say, we’d better get to it.”
* * * * *
“Thanks for staying over and looking after the girls,” Sharyn says.
“Pleasure,” we reply simultaneously. “Thanks for having us,” Suse says.
“And for letting us use your bed,” I add. Sharyn frowns. “To sleep in, I mean.” I chew on my foot.
Sharyn’s frown doubles, shaking her head slightly. “So you think this is nothing to worry about?” she asks, pointing again at a rashy bottom.
“No, she looks great.”
“No,” I say. Suse pinches my bum, causing me to turn. She shrugs her shoulders at Sharyn.
“Ignore him,” Suse says smiling. “On weekends his brain switches off and he sometimes says stupid things. But he’d let you know if he was worried.”
“What she said,” I add, closing my mouth tight.
We says our farewells, departing through the front door. We wave as we get in in the car, closing the doors tight.
“Thanks for that, love.”
“You’re very welcome, honey,” she says, choosing to turn sarcasm into a compliment. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
We wave goodbye we drive off. Everyone waves back, except for Sharyn.
She remains distracted, still looking at a rashy bottom.
* * * * *