Sunday, 29 November 2015

Life Blood---XXIX---Page No 109

though, it wouldn't stay down any more. There was something I had to check out.
I slowly put down the handset, climbed out of the tub, dried
off, then plodded into the bedroom to dig out my private calendar, which had long since become a record of everything relevant to my and Steve's baby project.
It was buried at the bottom of the desk's second drawer, in
amongst old bank statements. It was also, figuratively, covered by two months of dust, since that was how long it'd been since I'd bothered with it. I guess my attitude had been, what's the point?
        I placed it on the desk, trying not to get it wet. Then I wrapped
the towel more firmly around me, switched on the desk lamp, and sat down. I think I was also holding my breath.
I counted all the days twice, but there was no mistaking. The
night Steve and I had spent so gloriously together in the Camino
Real wasn't a fertile time. Not even close. I suppose that by then
I'd become so despairing of ever getting pregnant, I hadn't even
given it any thought. It was enough just to see him and hold him.
I just sat there for a long time staring at the white page,
unable to move, random thoughts coming too fast to contain
inside my tangled brain. Finally, though, I managed to get up
and numbly put the calendar away. Order, I needed order. I then
worked my way into the kitchen to fix myself something. I had a
glass of water, then pulled down a bottle of Red Label and poured
myself half a tumbler. Okay, somewhere down deep I knew it was
the worst possible thing I could do, but I wasn't thinking, just going
on autopilot and dismay.
I drank off a shot of the foul-tasting scotch, then realized how
thoughtless that was and dumped the rest into the sink. Next, I
moved into the living room and put on a raga, "Malkauns," concert
volume, the one where the first note goes straight to your heart.
Finally I collapsed onto the couch, the room now gloriously alive
with all the spirituality and sensuality of the raga, notes piling on
exquisite notes. For a while I just lay there numbly, enveloped in
its lush eroticism. . .
Eventually I started to think. Alex Goddard had planned to
take from me, but had he also given? Had his "proprietary"
ovulation drugs . . . causing all those hundreds of eggs to mature
simultaneously . . . inadvertently let me get pregnant?
        Then I had a dismaying counter-thought. Could he have done
an in vitro while I was under sedation, when he harvested my
ova? The ultimate link to Baalum. Was my baby Sarah's too? One of those last frozen embryos in his . . .?
Then I leaned back and closed my eyes.
No, surely not. This baby was Steve's and mine. Ours. Had to be. His unintended, beautiful, ironic gift.
Surely . . .
Uh-uh. Go for a second take. Embrace life. Be Molly Bloom and shout it.


Life Blood---XXIX---Page No 108

After I found a cab, I began to think he might be right. This was no typical down day. So I decided I'd stop at the Duane Reade on my corner and talk to the pharmacist.
The second-shift man was on, a gray-haired portly old guy who knew more about drugs than most doctors. The tag on his jacket said "Bernd" and that's all anybody ever knew of his name. I sometimes called him "Dr. Bernd" by way of banter, but nothing I could do would ever make him smile.
The place was nearly empty and the pharmacy at the rear,
with its spectral fluorescent lighting, looked like an out-take from a low-budget Wes Craven movie. Bernd, who was in back puttering, came out and looked me over.
I know it sounds naive, but I trusted him more than I trust half
the young, overworked interns you get at an emergency room
these days. I poured out my symptoms, including the story about
how I'd been given fertility drugs and toad venom. Was it all
coming back to haunt me, the dark hand of Alex Goddard?
        He began by asking me some very perceptive questions,
about things that had been puzzling me but I'd sort of managed to
dismiss. Finally, he walked around the counter and lifted a small,
shrink-wrapped box off a rack.
"Try this," he said handing it over, "and then come back tomorrow. Maybe it's not such a big deal."
        You're kidding, I thought, looking at the box.
I got home, collapsed onto the couch, and opened it. Believe
it or not, I actually had to read the instructions. I did what they
said, checked the time, and then decided to run a hot bath.
I filled the tub, dumped in some bubble-bath, put the cordless on the toilet seat, and splashed in. It felt so good I wanted to
dissolve. Then I reached for the phone.
The clock above the sink read eight-thirty, and I figured
rightly, that Steve would be back at his hotel in Belize City. Sure enough I got him on the first try.
"Honey, you sitting down?" I said.
"I'm lying down. You wouldn't believe my day."
"You 're not going to believe what I just heard from the
pharmacist at the corner. Remember I told you I've been feeling
strange, and some things were a little behind schedule? Well,
guess what. We're about to find out something. We can't be
together, but we can share it over a satellite."
        "You mean . . ."

"I'm doing the test right now. You know, you take the stick out of the glass holder and if it's turned pink. . . ."
He was speechless for a long moment. Finally he just said,
I checked the clock again, then reached for the test tube. This, I realized, is the most incredible moment in any woman's life. Is your world going to go on being the same, or is it never, ever going to be the same again?
When I pulled out the stick, it was a bright, beautiful pink. "Steve. I love you. It's—"
"Max." He didn't realize it, but his voice had just gone up an
"That's my dad's middle name. I want to name him Max. It's an old family tradition."
"And what if it's a girl? Don't say Maxine or I'll divorce you before you even make an honest woman of me."
        "Nope. If it's a girl, then you get to pick."
I couldn't believe I was finally having this conversation. It was something I'd dreamed of for years.
It then got too maudlin to repeat. He was coming home in
eleven days, and we planned the celebration. Dinner at Le Cirque
and then an evening at Cafe Carlyle. For a couple of would-be
New York sophisticates, that was about as fancy-schmancy as
this town gets.
I was crying tears of triumph by the time we hung up. By then
it was late enough I figured Arlene would be home from her
exercise class, so I decided to call her and break the happy news
once more. Who I really wanted to call was Betsy, on the Coast,
but I knew she'd still be driving home from her temp job. Arlene
would have to do. Telling her would be the equivalent of sending
an urgent E-mail to the entire office, but I wanted everybody to
know. Two birds with one stone.
I looked down at my body, all the curves and soft skin, and tried to think about the miracle of a baby finally growing inside it, life recreating itself. God!
Arlene was going to break my mood, but for some reason I
had to call her. If only to bring me back to reality.
        I reached over and clicked open the cordless again. I was
punching in her number when something made me pause. It was
a nagging thought that I'd managed to repress for a while. Finally,