Painting the Nursery

by Anne Katherine Booth

You lay over me stroking my ribs, my breasts. And then when you began kissing me I thought, But weíve just been kissing. You asked me what I wanted next.

"Touch my tummy."

So you did. I thought, I donít know this man. My tummy knows this man.

***

There is a person in this house whom I dislike. There is a person who lives in this house who is a mean, punitive, passive-aggressive welt of a human being.

I am looking at the paint chips like you asked me to, but I do not care what color this stupid room is painted. I donít want to give up my office for the babyís room. I will buy a crib and I will pick a paint color when Iím good and ready. Donít rush me, Iím slowing down, slowing down.

There is great discomfort in my bowels.

You left for Vancouver. You promised to install the air conditioner in our room before you went, but you only did the one in the babyís room and the baby doesnít even exist. I am sweltering. My rectum is on fire and little bulging veins are popping out. No, gigantic bulging veins.

"Are you still eating meat and dairy?" asks Lily, when I cry on the phone to her. "Youíve got to cut out meat and dairy."

"Hemorrhoids are a manifestation of unexpressed rage," says Gurushiva when I ask for help in prenatal yoga.

"Relax your sphincter," says Renata, the midwife, when I bump into her at Whole Foods. Relax your sphincter. Everyone. All your stupid sphincters.

Fuck anyone who laughs at hemorrhoid jokes. All the commercials. The proctologist, the acupuncturist and the homeopath. Even Dr. Kross and his $5000 fee that Motion Picture Industry health insurance only covers 85% of 50% of.

Iíll pick a pediatrician whoís part of the health plan. I wonít mind that he doesnít speak English oró What am I saying? Iím not ready to be anyoneís mother. I am not a mother. I am Jezebelís mother. We have made it through 14 years. She only goes to the vet once a year. But this year Dr. Wilson wants to clean her kitty teeth for $125. Put it on the list of things to prioritize and ignore, like painting the nursery.

I have a donut pillow. I have two donut pillows, in Egyptian cotton pillowcases. One for my chair at work and one for home. I love my donut pillows. Iím getting a third for my car.

***

Last Friday we went to Rite Aid and I scrutinized their offerings in the ass aisle while you stood against the wall reading the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

"If I have to read one more thing about my anorectalā tissue, Iím gonna lose it," I said at the check-out line when you joined me. "Itís not even a word!"

"Look at Deion," you said, shaking your head. "Theyíve put the worldís biggest prick on the cover of GQ again. Why does anyone care about that guy?"

"Anorectal anorectal anorectal!" I said, shoving the preparation H at you. "I swear itís not even a word."

"Honey, shhhh," you said.

***

I remember watching you cradling my cousinís baby at Thanksgiving six years ago. I remember your hands bigger than her tiny head, more tender than Iíd ever seen a man, more like a mama lion. You were staring at her in her papoose.

I knew I would make babies with you.

That was my plan, but now? Itís me alone. And this Thing thatís kicking me. No one understands.

I do not want the Baby. Iím scared of it.

Donít ask anything of me, anyone. Donít talk to me, I will not hear you.

***

The Proctology Associates waiting room is all full up, narrow like an anal canal. Men sidle by and I stare at their butts. Patients every ten minutes. Iím 3:50.

Three phone lines are ringing. Alice picks one up. "Dr. Fleshner is booking into November on his waiting list. November," she says meaningfully, meaning go away.

The canal is full. My visit will cost $215 for six minutes. Fleshner is not a preferred provider.

He flies into the exam room, Kramer-like, shouting: "Iím Phillip Fleshner. Great to meet you, when are you due? Itís such a blessing. Iíve got three of Ďem myself. It just keeps gettiní better. Letís see what weíve got here." And Iím flipped on my side with my butt to his face.

"A little pressure," he warns and presses a vein back in. What is it like to stare at butt-holes all day? "No more hot baths after this infrared treatment, only ice now. Sit on a ziploc." The slight sweaty grime, his day an endless sequence of rubber gloves.

"Wow, " he chirps. "This is an impressive crop of hemorrhoids."

***

"What happened?" you asked when I got home.

"He put something up my butt with infrared heat and it hurt," I said.

"Thatís what proctologists do, honey," you said. "They put things up your butt and it hurts." And you patted your lap for me to come sit, but I wouldnít because I weigh so much now and it hurts.

You went to the kitchen and got my donut pillow. "Right here," you said, patting the pillow on your lap. So I sat there and we watched SportsCenter.

***

I am in another pink and mauve exam room, wearing a paper dress, with my obstetrician measuring the Belly. Dr. Kross is dreamy. Handsome, commanding, gentle, wise. And overbooked.

"Dr. Kross, I saw the proctologist you recommended yesterday and I donít..."

"Those guys can book a hundred patients a day," he murmurs in wonder, envy.

"Dr. Kross, Iíve been very depressed."

"Hemorrhoids are enough to depress anyone," he says, slowly backing out of the room.

"No, I mean very depressed. Iím thinking of going back on the Prozac."

"Well, Iíve told you I have plenty of patients who never go off," he says with more slow backing.

"My husband doesnít want me to. Heís scared itíll hurt the baby."

His secretary yells in, "Adrienne Barbeauís doctor at Pacific Fertilityó? Line two!"

"I have to take this call. Iím worried about her left ovary," he says, and is gone.

***

"I want to go back on the Prozac. And I want you to say itís OK. I got copies of more studies today," I say to you in your hotel room in Vancouver.

"Isnít there any herbal thing you can try first?" you ask.

I was in the acupuncturistís office the whole month of August for him to poke holes in cartilage of my ears while asking ďHow is Emotional?Ē

"Why donít you listen to what Iím saying?"

"I am listening."

"Why do you only care about the baby?"

"Because youíre already here and youíre OK."

"Whatís wrong with you? Did I, like, disappear for you?" I have tears running down my face. "And I am not OK."

***

Not one word out of anyone who disapproves. No one. Not a single person.

No one at the pharmacy when I fill this prescription with my eight-month belly, no one in writing class, not one more person better mention St. Johnís Wort.

"Why not try St. Johnís Wort?" Lily asks.

"No one knows about its effects. Theyíve studied Prozac. St. Johnís Wort could be the next Thalidomide," I said. That shut her up.

***

Stop dominating me with your silence. Go ahead and be an overt, out-and-out inconsiderate, judgmental asshole, please. Not this simmering, reticent, holier-than-thou asshole Iím living with now. You pinched, mean, meager miser of a man, you are judging me but you donít dare say it out loud, so you simmer. It seeps out of every pore while you try to be loving and doting. People think you are the greatest husband, you make me sick. I donít care how you are trying. You are failing me. You are cruel. Shut up and say what I tell you to say.

Like this: "Honey, whatever you need to do is OK, I know this is very hard for you What can I do to help?"

***

My breasts were the first signal, in February. They swelled up and got tender. I had never been pregnant before, though Iíd done the tests in college dorm bathrooms, urgently wanting to be pregnant while knowing Iíd have an abortion if the line showed in the test window.

"Guess what?" I said to you.

The first few months we charted the growth of the baby from pin prick to lima bean to kitten-size being. Every night Iíd stand in profile by the bed and although there was nothing to see yet youíd always say, "My, what an impressive belly!"

What happened? Now, I am not the wife you want to have. And you went somewhere. You have to come back and talk to me about something, anything besides the paint colors, buying the crib, moving my desk out. Anything but the baby.

What about me? This me, depressed, ugly, huge? I need you.

Where are you?

I need you.

Anne Katherine Booth is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Although this piece is fictionalized, her husband has written a rebuttal, which is available on request.

(c) Anne Katherine Booth


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