Baby – T.J. Larkey
April 10, 2019
I was ordering my baby’s last meal from the drive-thru of a fast food place.
The little one deserved a big delicious bounty of food, death-row style, but I only had enough money in my account for the procedure.
I also had to plan ahead for an extra charge just in case my girlfriend was Rh-negative.
If that was the case then they’d have to administer medication to make sure any future pregnancies weren’t affected.
“We don’t know what we’ll have or what we’ll want later on,” my girlfriend had said after we found out, “and if I’m going to poop out a kid, I’d want it to be with you.”
But at that time, waiting in line and scanning the dollar menu carefully, all I had was an old worn down twenty dollar bill that I’d accidentally left in my jeans and washed the week before.
I pulled it out of my wallet and looked at it.
It had been through hell.
It was faded and flimsy and beautiful and I kissed it and said thank you, I love you.
Then I ordered as much food as that twenty could buy.
My girlfriend wouldn’t be able to eat later that night, or the next morning, not until the procedure was over.
And I wanted to do everything I could.
When I got to the window, I proudly handed my twenty over to the drive-thru woman.
But she was hesitant to even touch it.
She pinched it away from me then held it up to the light and lowered her eyebrows.
“You know this is a fake bill right?”
“No,” I said. “It’s just seen better days.”
“Hold on.” She walked away, holding my beautiful twenty like a dirty diaper.
I could hear her in the back of the restaurant, asking her fellow employees if it was fake.
She had become a detective, her life’s work to find out the authenticity of my twenty dollar bill.
“Okay,” she said when she returned. “It’s real.”
“Thanks for your hard work.”
She handed me the change and the big bag of food and I drove home.
My girlfriend was in the same spot as I left her, propped up hospital-style on the bed.
I set out the food and napkins in front of her and we ate and ate and ate, then I told her about the twenty, the controversy amongst the employees, and how it’s kind of like a death row inmate’s last meal.
“I don’t know if I like that,” she said, still chewing. “It’s too dark.”
“No,” I said.
“Yes,” she smiled. “But thank you for the food.”
“You’re welcome. Shit. I’m sorry for being dark.”
“I forgive you. But it will not be forgotten.”
“Yes, that’s fair,” I said.
She put her arms around me and pinched my butt. “Uh-huh.”
I pretended to be annoyed– “Don’t get fresh”– then pinned her down, lifted her shirt up, and blew a raspberry on her stomach.
She laughed so hard she snorted then I pulled my face away from her belly button and looked at it.
It was strange to think about because my girlfriend was so small, maybe one-hundred pounds, with a stomach I could almost fit my hands all the way around.
“I’m sorry about this too you know,” I said. “Sorry for putting a potential human in you.”
“It’s okay,” her voice became very soft. “It’ll be okay.”
She pulled me close and we didn’t say anything after that.
Just turned off all the lights and laid down together, all tangled up limbs, and fell asleep.
When we pulled up to the place, we saw the people with the megaphones and signs.
I don’t remember what they said but I remember thinking that it wasn’t very original.
They needed new material.
“Wow,” my girlfriend said. “As seen on TV.”
We drove past them and parked.
There was another group of people in front of the place but they had pink umbrellas and said nice things to my girlfriend, tuning out the megaphones as we walked in.
Inside, the woman behind the glass smiled at us.
When we were here for the ultrasound appointment my girlfriend had made a joke about the security in the place that had made the woman laugh.
She remembered us.
I handed my driver’s license to her, signed a paper saying I was responsible for getting my girlfriend home, then we waited a while before we were called back up to the desk to pay.
“Did you want to buy any contraceptives as well today?”
“No thank you,” my girlfriend said.
“Okay then,” the woman said, “your total will be 435.”
I felt like rubbing my hands together and scrunching my face and saying, “Oof, I don’t know, are we set on that number?”
But I didn’t.
I paid and then kissed my girlfriend.
She was taken to the back and as I watched her disappear behind the door, I felt the reality kick me in the chest.
I sat back down in the waiting room, feeling useless.
There were a few other men in there.
They seemed decades younger than me and they were on their phones looking indifferent.
I couldn’t stop worrying.
I took a deep breath, then another, then looked around for something to pass the time.
I picked up an issue of the New Yorker and flipped to the short story in there but I felt even worse reading the flowery writing, so I just stared at the wall and worried.
Worried about death, worried about my girlfriend, worried that I would always be the kind of person that ate at fast food places, worried that my girlfriend would resent me for all this or leave me for someone who worked hard and had ambition.
Worried so much that when the woman at the front desk called my name– “Mr. Weksley!?”– I was convinced that it had all gone horribly wrong.
I’d poisoned my girlfriend’s body, I thought, I’d put a murderous monster in her.
I ran up to the front.
“What’s wrong?!” I said, my hands gripping the edge of the desk.
“Oh nothing’s wrong. The blood test shows that your girlfriend will need a Rh Immunoglobulin shot. It’s an extra charge.”
“Ah,” I said, close to vomiting. “Of course.”
I paid the extra fee and sat back down, full on panic attack still charging the gates.
I don’t remember how much time passed when my girlfriend texted me it was over.
But it was the most beautiful thing, seeing her name pop up on my phone.
The text said: All done baby. You have to pick me up in back.
Then another text quickly popped up: Sry I said “baby” I’m loopy.
I grabbed my driver’s license and ran out to my car then drove around the building and parked right in front of the back door.
I briefly thought about grabbing the blanket I’d brought for her and using it as a cover for her like they do with celebrities who don’t want to be seen.
But I didn’t.
Just paced by the door, still sick with worry, until the door opened a few minutes later.
A man in blue scrubs held it open, and behind him was my girlfriend, looking adorable, like she’d just woken up from a nap.
“This my boyfriend,” she said.
The nice man in scrubs said hello and we shook hands.
“This one,” he said, gesturing to my girlfriend, “gets the patient of the year award. She had us laughing the whole time.”
My girlfriend shrugged and smiled and I hugged her very gently then helped her into my car.
“Thanks for taking care of her,” I said to the man in scrubs.
“It’s my job, and she was a pleasure.”
He smiled really big at me and I had an urge to tip him, mobster-style, and kiss him on both cheeks, telling him I loved him.
But I didn’t.
As we drove away, we waved to the man in blue scrubs and I started to calm down now that my girlfriend was in sight and it was over.
“He was great,” she said.
“Good, because if he wasn’t.” I shook my fist.
“Oh.” My girlfriend’s eyes got big. “I need to tell you something.”
“What. What happened?”
“I used your joke about death row.”
I shook my fist again, right next to her face this time. “I thought it was too dark?” I said.
She shrugged. “I was feeling dark, so I stole it.”
“I made other jokes that worked, but I don’t remember them,” she said. “They gave me drugs and I feel strange and I’m sorry I stole it.”
“I forgive you, but it will not be forgotten.”
“Fair,” she said.
I put my hand on her knee and looked around at the traffic, waiting to pull out of the parking lot and into the street.
The megaphone people were gone.
I wanted to say something about them, make her laugh, say anything to help her, but I just drove off.
I knew that very soon, and every day after that, she would think about today and she would have many different feelings and I wouldn’t be able to help.
All I could do was be there and make her laugh when it seemed impossible to laugh.
“Are you hungry?” I said. “I’ve got a few bucks left on my card.”
“Really? Even after the extra charge for the shot?”
“I have rare blood,” she said. “And I’m sorry for that too.”
I rubbed my hands together, scrunched my face, and said, “Oof, I got rare blood eh?”
My girlfriend laughed a sad laugh.
Then put her little hand in mine and squeezed.