A nice woman. A self-proclaimed “cat person,” which is good, as upon entering our house she was immediately accosted by Dengue the Cat, about whom Kelly blurted out: “Her name is Dengue. Like the disease;” which is both true (yes, dengue fever, aka “breakbone fever,” is a horrible disease and yes, that’s where we got the name) and not true (I like to think it’s more of a cool name from a euphonic standpoint rather than that we were insensitive enough to name our precious little kitten after a disease that kills thousands of people every year…like, what, we’re going to name our next pet Syphilis?), but regardless it being maybe not the best thing to reveal, unasked, to a woman who practically burst into tears at the thought of circumcising a hypothetical male child.
Maybe it was when we came upon a crevasse on the logging road—a thin fissure where a creek cut through the ten feet of accumulated snow—and instead of abandoning our snowmobiles for our snowshoes and humping up the last steep mile to the survey-site, Kelly’s work-mate convinced us that if we shoveled more snow on the one narrow and slanted snow bridge that spanned the creek we could drive our snowmobiles over it. It was late afternoon with the snow coming down, there was no cell service, and we were many, many snowy miles from our vehicle.
The other night, squatting on a log on the beach, my back to the booming surf, my face to the bonfire, I was buttonholing my dear friend Joy with my belief in the mystical complexities of the world that some attribute to a God.
I was very drunk.
The gist of my ramble was this: the Southern California house I grew up in was but a mile from the beach, but between the two was the busy Pacific Coast Highway, drowning out the ocean’s sound. But on certain late nights I’d lie in bed with the windows open and across the distance would come the deep thrumming boom of big surf. To this day I can’t hear that sound without a wash of nostalgia not unlike the swash of the surf up the sand.
So I went to “Bed, Bath, and Beyond” the other day for the first time. It wasn’t as horrible of an experience as I had feared, though the row of humidifiers spewing mist into the obviously already misty Oregon-winter air triggered a brief moment of mycophobic horror. I was there to purchase an item which must fall into the “beyond” category: a salad-spinner.
A specific kind of salad-spinner, mind you, one that you spin by pushing down on a large button on the lid. “Good Grips” brand.
We had one, not long ago, and long enough for it to become Kelly’s “new favorite appliance,” but the first time I ever used it I broke it. Apparently I was pushing the button too vigorously (I was using my palm, as I would giving someone chest compressions in CPR) and pushed right through the lid, shattering the plastic into pieces, spiderwebbing the bowl. Kelly found it more amusing than angering, and said, for the millionth time: You’re such an animal.
And she’s right, and this is why I’m telling you this: I suspect it wasn’t entirely accidental. That not-so-deep in my animal subconscious I wanted to slay the spinner. I wanted it dead, smashed, splintered. I believe—and now we’ve moved into the realm of the fully conscious—that with every new appliance, kitchen appliances especially, a small but vital part of me dies. (Not surprisingly, I don’t feel the same way about power tools.) As if every one of them were a ball and chain. A domestic shackle. Or just another material object—often a plastic piece of shit that breaks under the weight of my palm—to occupy space in my life that could be occupied by nothing, nothing at all.
Here’s something: a number of the books we’ve been reading, and one of the preggers websites in particular, explain the growth of the baby, week by week, in terms of fruit and vegetables. This week, for example, apparently our baby is “the length of a spaghetti squash.” Baby has and will be compared to a lentil, kidney bean, grape, fig, lime, avocado, carrot, summer squash, apple, and bell pepper.
At first, I found this rather disturbing: many moons ago, when baby was “the size of a blueberry,” I found that I could not enjoy my early-morning Cheerios with blueberries with the same relish to which I was accustomed. About a month later our baby’s size was compared to that of a “medium shrimp.” I’m not sure that’s such a good analogy. They’d already said baby was “barely the size of a kumquat,” and though I do like to pop kumquats in my mouth, comparing baby to a kumquat didn’t bother me, in fact, I found it kinda cute, though that is probably due to the word kumquat itself, truly a wonderful word.
But a “medium shrimp”? When I think of a medium shrimp I think of the delightful way the crunch of the exoskeleton releases that succulent burst of sweet briny flesh in my mouth…not what I like to think of with my baby daughter.
As a soon-to-be father to a little girl, there’s the very real possibility that she may regard me as some sort of role model. So as not to dwell on the terrifying consequences of this possibility, I started thinking of my childhood and young adult role models, and it occurred to me that, damn, many of them were terrible fathers.
Early on in the pregnancy the thought occurred to me that it would be so very good-husbandly of me to set aside for nine months my cocktail-hour whisky, my dinner red wine, my happy-hour bar beers, in solidarity with Kelly.
So one night I poured myself an especially big glass of wine (in case it was to be my last) and asked her. She looked at me in surprise, then suspicion, then dismissed the thought.
“No need for both of us to suffer,” she said.
So I don’t, thank god.
Luckily for both of us, her abstention hasn’t fazed her. She misses wine, true, but quitting booze hasn’t been half as difficult as curtailing her caffeine consumption. Still, for awhile there, I was struck by guilt, and not so much for pouring myself scotch as she pours herself milk, but for actually buying the booze. Due to tight finances and a miserly streak, I’m fairly strident about egalitarian consumerism, and I was racking up wine and the occasional bottle of tequila on our paltry bank account and Kelly was getting nothing out of it.
So I drew up a list: Booze vs. Baby.