A phone call.
That’s all it took to transform my life from that of a carefree youth to a reluctant adult with a basketful of responsibilities. The ringing phone threatened to disrupt the engaging show I was watching on TV. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. A glance informed me the caller was someone I enjoyed talking to.
“Hello,” I spoke into the phone.
“Hi. How are you doing?” she said.
Her voice had the same thick texture I’d grown to love, and a smile crept on my face. How could I have contemplated ignoring this voice? The TV was the one that needed to be muted, but not this voice. So I turned the volume to zero but continued to observe the voiceless actors on my favorite show.
“I’m fine. I was just thinking about you.”
“Really? That’s sweet,” she hesitated for two heartbeats and then added, “We need to talk.”
No one announces their need to talk unless they are saying something significant. Almost always significantly unpleasant.
“Are you alright?” I asked her.
“Yeah. I’m okay. But there’s something we need to talk about.”
“Okay. Tell me what’s going on.”
She hesitated and a silence crept between us. It threatened to stay. It even started making arrangements to put its feet up, lie back, and close its eyes. All the while I could hear Rose breathing on the other side of the phone call. Trying to decide whether to let the silence stay or not. She then drew in a long breath and pushed the words out.
She announced this into my ear like a fact, which it was. There was no prelude, no testing of the water, no drum roll, no preparing me for the grand revelation. Just a short cold declaration.
“What? Are you sure?” Now Rose had my undivided attention. The mute actors on TV no longer registered in my head. I abandoned the plush sofa in favor of pacing across my limited living space.
“I’m sure,” Rose said. “I’ve had two tests, and they’re both positive.”
Why are we even talking about this over the phone? I’m about to become a father. “We should meet.” I too made my declaration.
“I’d like that. I’ll come to your place tomorrow.”
The night proved to be a long dark unevenly paved road. I settled into bed a few minutes after the call, having lost all enthusiasm for a crime-solving duo on TV. I lay in the dark with my eyes closed, frenetic thoughts racing through my mind. Crying babies and messy rooms and dirty diapers and hospital bills and nanny wages and school fees. I then decided I wasn’t ready for this thing called fatherhood.
And I wasn’t ready for Rose’s arrival either. She was at my door a few minutes to midday. A beady-eyed me, with a head crowned by uncharacteristically disheveled hair let her in. I welcomed her and promptly offered her a glass of juice and a stale-looking pie. She enjoyed the drink but abandoned the pie after a modest nimble.
“What are we going to do?” I asked her.
“What do you want us to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. The silence started to creep in again. “But it’s your call.” I cut it short.
“We’re keeping it,” she declared again. She had already decided on our course of action.
I accepted this with a measure of indifference. Sure, I wasn’t especially thrilled at the prospects of being a father, but this was not the worst thing that could happen to anyone. I liked her and she liked me back. I could picture us raising children together. I shifted my gaze to Rose. Caught myself looking at her big eyes and generous lips. Scratch that. I could picture us raising beautiful children together.
Her lips were now parted to welcome more juice from the glass. They had never looked so inviting. I looked at her fingers, long and slender, curled elegantly around the glass, reminding me of their capability to deliver jolts of pleasure.
“I know it’s still early but we need to decide how we’ll handle the baby,” she said while putting the empty glass on the table.
“Yeah, we should do that,” I responded.
For a second I had forgotten why she was here. I needed to adjust to our new status as future parents. Maybe I needed to stop looking at her purely as an engaging woman and captivating lover. Maybe I needed to recognize that she had our child growing in her, and add mother to her list of attributes.
But did I have to do all that now? Today? This minute? I had started giving up things as soon as she told me she was pregnant. I was already giving up my youth. I was already giving up my favorite pass time and favorite TV shows. But I was not ready to give her up yet, the Rose, that was my lover?
I could still sit so close to her that our knees touched, couldn’t I? I could still lift her face by the chin and kiss her soft delicious lips, right? Couldn’t I just take off my clothes and hers, cushion her head as I got on top of her, and made her moan?
I still wanted to do that.
So I sat next to the mother of my first-born child and I looked into her eyes. And then I realized that in her recent declarations, she neglected to declare that she was scared. There it was. Fear looking back at me. So I kissed her parted lips. I did everything I could to kiss that fear in her eyes away.
And just like the glass of juice, she drank.