Jelly Baby

Kimberly Chisholm


So on this Playdoh and Yankees August afternoon he says, "Should we go it?" She looks up, at him, and says, "We should definitely go it," adding something like, "I was just thinking that myself." He claims he stole "going it" from Thomas the Tank Engine and she likes his perversion of the uptight British cartoon. He used to ask her, "Do you wanna do it?" but then, after the kids started looking up from Lincoln Logs and Legos, definitely wanting to do whatever "it" was, he developed the lightly encoded "Should we have a date?" For her, though, the "date" phraseology was lacking. "Date" took away from the none-too-subtle cupping of a breast mid-dishwashing or a sly hand on the small of her back during t-ball when he would take the mound and she would really, honestly, get a little weak in the knees. "Date" would erase the easy decade together and thrust them back to some introductory type of dinner out with a cumbersome table between them. "Date" meant no knowledge yet of how the faint scar arcing through his upper lip is more visible outside in serious cold and no sense of the exact change in his breathing that signals sleep. She considers how she likes the sometimes whispered, mid-dinner-party "Let's fuck," but clearly small heads would turn here, mid-afternoon in the playroom.

Despite, or perhaps because of her constant wonder at language, sex has lent her few verbal propositions of her own. She relies on direct physical contact for these opening moves in their day-to-day seductions. Nothing obscene in their gymboree household, but often direct and, she likes to think, irresistible. She straddles him, long and lean on the couch during the seventh inning stretch, she slides a hand onto his crotch as they play Candy Land with the little ones. She has been known to walk into the kitchen naked and to stare him down as he rummages in the refrigerator, the kids oblivious in their coloring books or grilled cheese (and what with a general familial tendency toward nudity). But he, emerging with sliced turkey from the pull-out, no-spill deli drawer, he is far from oblivious.

So, on this August afternoon, a move has been made.

"I'll handle things here," he says. He watches from the couch as she smiles, stands (leaving the half-tended puzzles), and turns, on her way to their bedroom.

He rises from the couch, stretches, smiles an irrepressible smile at no one in particular, and goes to the kitchen. He pours milk into assorted bottles, places them in the microwave, searches for snacks of the most engaging variety. His middle son follows him into the kitchen and asks can they please please watch a video. "That," he says, arriving at three-year-old eye level, "is a really good idea." He stands, not hearing the drone of the microwave or seeing the bat-and-ball-strewn lawn but following instead a slim line of black lingerie in his favorite curve. The microwave ding ding dings. He grabs the bottles, is sure to shake them, gathers the snacks, herds his son back into the fold and then begins the process of involving all three in select activities that promise to buy time.

Through his microwaving, his snack selection, his playroom negotiations, she too is busy. She pulls the red cardboard box from behind the neat stack of white T-shirts in their closet. She puts aside the cream colored teddy with the garter belt hooks, too complicated. The red push-up one is simpler, but post-lactation, the push up action is less alluring, gapping a bit where before even she, especially she, had marveled each time the astonishing volume had pushed together as though someone else's centerfold. Near the bottom of the box she comes across the black open-front negligee with the microscopic panties. This, is a good one. She trips out of her jeans and across the room, hoping that she remembered to get another tube of jelly stuff at RiteAid.

The fresh Gynol is there, but the cellophane and the super sticky tape on the box are stubborn and the foil seal under the cap costs her valuable time. Finally, she is squirting the jelly into the arc-spring rubber dome. And once again, she is lost in the strangely capitalist nonoxynol-9 debate. Her cavalier obstetrician insists that she needs only a scant tablespoon's worth, but given his line of work, she's never wholly convinced that birth control is a priority. More insidious, though, are the jelly people, whose crimp recommends practically filling the surprisingly large cup and inserting loads more if you do it again within four hours. They are, of course, just trying to sell their jelly. She metes out what she likes to think of as a happy medium.

She lies down on the bath mat to achieve the optimal insertion angle. This is one of the few things she prefers doing with a modicum of privacy. Not because she thinks he would be turned off, in fact the bathroom door is always open for this prophylactic ritual and once when the kids were particularly amenable, he arrived before schedule and found her there and found her provocative there, and they had done it on the hard tile floor. For her, though, this on-your-back, knees-up position is overly reminiscent of innumerable visits to the obstetrician during the last six years. Looking up through her angled knees reminds her of speculums and ultrasounds and wavy Doppler heartbeats, images not entirely sexy.

She hears him exiting the playroom, convincing the littlest one of the necessity of yet another drawing to pin to his office wall. She folds the slippery dome with the thin layer of jelly run carefully round the edge and cringes at the time last week when her two-year-old asked, "What's this, Momma?" and emerged from the bathroom with the (carefully washed) diaphragm hanging, right there, out of her mouth.

She reaches between her legs with one hand and squeezes the diaphragm an unfortunate bit too much with the other, causing it to deliver on its name and to fly over her belly onto the white tile at her elbow. Haste and waste come to mind as she makes an attempt to scoop jelly back into the cup, trying to gauge how much she has lost.

She enters the bedroom just as he is shutting the door. They stand for a moment with almost identical anticipatory smiles and then he takes in the black negligee as she places a hand on the high bureau to her right and slightly turns out her left foot, wanting to stand still and to let him look at her, wanting to maintain this distance between them that isn't distance at all. They stand there another moment. She sees him and is surprised as she is sometimes by his height and by the somehow late-adolescent breadth of his shoulders. And she is struck by the fact that she, not the hard-driving women in his office, not one of his old flames, she, is going to have sex with this man. She is there in the bedroom with him. But for just the span of an image, she is also with him in the magical, overgrown New England college graveyard for that first picnic at school when she lay on the blanket on her side, memorizing a criss-crossing of scars under his chin when his English professor walks by on the path and actually cites something about spring and young love. She returns from that first knowledge and finds the same, yes, well, boyish grin, and maybe even the same navy T-shirt, but here and now, and lost in her black lingerie.

They are both pulled back to their preschool reality by yelling from the now distant playroom. Both stare at the bedroom door, reaching a simultaneous diagnosis: simple frustration, self-resolved on a good day. And this, remarkably, is a good day.

So, then, they're in bed. It's hot. It's August. They eschew all but the flat white sheet, this retained only for the possible, the predictable, juvenile intrusion. It slips down each time she leans up, arching her back on top of him, and she lets it lie after the fourth or fifth time, once she becomes lost in his hands on her hips and the rhythm that he initiates and that she follows and then alters and his fingers press into her hips and she becomes increasingly involved in motion. She is so involved, in fact, that she doesn't hear the toddling down the length of the hallway. She does, though, hear the doorknob turn and the motion, the motion ceases, and she leans forward onto him. She pulls the sheet shoulderward and exhales an ironic, "Fuck." As their daughter enters, they make separate but mutual mental notes about door locks.

She crosses the room and is scaling her father's side of the enormous bed and she is suggesting, insisting, "I go night-night with Momma and Daddy." Her mother counters with the stock maybe-you-could-get-me-the-book-about-the-bear and her daddy offers her the small, square clock from the bedside table, but the little one senses the energy, senses the vibe, and is entirely too savvy for this hoodwinking.

Just then, though, the unthinkable occurs. An older brother calls to his baby sister. The little one stares at her parents, at her mother lying on top of her father under the white sheet, trying to look casual. She then gazes down the hallway, she looks back to them, and then she turns away, the rare beckoning by an older sibling deemed more enticing even than the spectacle of what her parents are trying to convince her is just your typical afternoon nap.

They miss barely a beat. In not overly short order the lingerie is puddled on the floor in the parallel golden bars cast by the wooden blinds. And the shadows shift imperceptibly across the lingerie and she thinks of an oscillating fan on an August night in his first apartment in New York and then she is pulled to him and his body strikes her as vast and as there. And then her hands are pressing, fingers spread, against the dark sheen of the headboard and eight inches separate their chests and she pushes rhythmically into him and rocks into him and she rocks into him and he is saying something low and close, but she hears only tone, and tone is enough because language has little to do with it at this point. And then it is color and steadily increasing body temperature and rivulets of sweat and expanding color and rush and color and heat and color.

And then they are both sweaty and breathing not quite so hard and feeling somewhere between eighteen and twenty-two. They lie on their backs, side by side, staring at the ceiling, which is the color of spun honey in the August light. With his left index finger he makes slow circles in the palm of her right hand.

Now, not ten inches from their dreamy hands, legions of tiny tear-drop cells make their slippery way toward her cervix. The entire fleet laughs at the arc-spring and the scant jelly, and they continue upward, unstoppably eager in their biological imperative. One is way out in front of the pack, leading the charge, and slows not a bit when he reaches and then penetrates his ovoid counterpart. Thus begins division, more division, and further division. The Chutes and Ladders box is reached for but not grasped and their eldest son yells, "Daddy!"


© Kimberly Chisholm


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