Meg has dreams about babies. Being pregnant. Tiny fingernails running ribbons in her stomach. The weight, carrying down her thighs. One minute slim and young with a tennis racket in hand and the next full with human, one rip away from holding that mess of blood and her own insides, being responsible forever. Forever.
Maybe it’s the sex. She’s been having a lot of it recently. For the first time, actually. Meg is seventeen. All her friends have had sex, have been having it for years in fact. She’s a late bloomer. Maybe it’s the tennis. So consumed with a sport, she was not thinking about boys, though perhaps boys have always been thinking about her. She’s not conceited! She’s smart, she feels eyes on her. She lunges across the court for the tiny yellow spinning ball and cracks it over the net and knows her legs look good, look long, full of muscle. She’d thought about men so infrequently she almost forgot she was supposed to be thinking about them. She’s in high school, there are men there. Well, mostly boys. There’s a difference between the two, certainly. Men are big. Men have facial hair. Men smell a certain way—musky. Body smell. Boys still don’t know how to position their legs and their crotch under their desks. Boys put their chin in their hand and pretend to be resting but are really covering a new bloom of acne. And hey, Meg has acne, too. She’s not sure when someone makes the jump, goes from boy to man and starts smelling different. Puberty, probably. Maybe the first time they have sex. Meg isn’t sure she thinks of herself as a woman. Women have sex, so maybe she is one. Women also get pregnant. She does not want to be that kind of woman.
It’s not like Meg never wants kids. She does! She loves babies. She loves their sweet baby smell, that soft and dangerous indent at the crown of their heads. She hasn’t held a baby in a long time, but remembers the squishy wiggly feeling of one in her arms. But Meg is seventeen! She can’t be having a baby. She’s got college to attend, tennis scholarships to win, the second round of her SATs. She got a good score the first time, but her dad tells her she can do better, which she can—she’s smart. Her dad knows this, boosts her confidence. He’s good at that. He’s had a lot of practice, her dad, and his chewed pencil, tapping along her vocabulary words by the kitchen light. Thanks to Dad, she knows how to study. Numbers are good for her. Writing, not so much. Words are big and hard sometimes and part of it is her dyslexia and the other part is that she doesn’t know so many of them. She’ll have to study a lot. She hasn’t been studying so much lately. It’s probably the sex. She has a new boyfriend. He’s a man. He’s not very tall but he has muscles in his arms that bulge like potatoes under her touch. A senior, like her, and he drives a Toyota. Meg has not bothered to try to know the model or year—it is a car, and she has had sex in it. That’s all she needs to know! She likes the smell of the backseat after they’ve fucked in it. Like him, and like her, and the throat-back scent of the air conditioner struggling in the humidity. It’s probably gross, if she thinks about it. She’s never thought about liking the smell of sweat before. But her boy, her man, she likes his sweat. And boy, does he sweat. He sweats like he’s been running miles just to get to her. He’s a part of the track team, or at least was before they started going out. He’s running less now, so maybe the fucking is making up for it. Maybe Meg is like his own sport. She kind of likes that. She likes having sex with him!
Here’s the problem though, and the problem is that Meg keeps waking up with her heart rattling very loud because she’s been dreaming about a baby inside her. And even after she wakes up she feels that baby, hard like a peach pit, pushing her stomach out over her hips. If that peach pit was as big as her fist. Two fists put together. She closes her eyes so she can’t see her stomach and feels her way to the bathroom and pees, hoping she deflates. Okay, so she’s deflating. The sleep melts off her and she sighs. There’s no baby! But she’s still having a lot of sex and, as she knows, babies usually follow sex. When Seon, that’s her man, when he’s inside of her she thinks she can feel the baby crawling up past him and into her stomach. So there’s three of them in the car, him and her and what they made. Here’s the thing though, she’s been on birth control for three years because her periods were a mess, and Seon has this whole collection of condoms in the glove box that she likes sorting through because the foils are all so colorful. Grape flavor! Cherry flavor! She’d never even thought of putting her mouth on one before, but it’s surprisingly not horrible. It’s latex, sure, and sometimes her lips go a little numb, but the cherry isn’t bad. So they’re using protection. Her dad would be very happy to know this, if he knew she was having sex. Meg thinks her mom would be glad, too. Meg learned about sex from school and porn and her friends who started having sex at fifteen, because she and her dad don’t really have that relationship, and her mom’s been gone long before Meg even knew what sex could be. Meg was a baby when her mom left. Just a little squishy cute thing that her mom tucked into her crib, put a kiss on her soft baby head, and left. She imagines her mother with loud shoes, ones that clopped against the sidewalk with her suitcase behind her, a very nice head of feathered blonde hair that swishes across the small of her back. Meg imagines this hair when she has to fight her thick curls into a bun for tennis—her dad’s hair, even as he loses his. She doesn’t know, of course, what her mom’s hair looked like, but imagines it would be much easier to tie. Dad doesn’t show her pictures, tells her it will just make her sad, so Meg is left to imagine the hair and how she must have gotten the sweet cupid’s bow of her lips that Seon will touch with the tip of his pinky from her mother, because her dad’s lips are flat and broad like a ruler. But Meg doesn’t think about her mom that much. She’s very busy! She’s got tennis, and SATs, and football games with her friends. She’s having sex! She has a man. Mothers begone.
So Meg in theory should not be getting pregnant. Between the pill she takes every night with dinner and the colorful treasure trove of Seon’s condoms, the baby would have to fist-fight a lot of things to implant in her uterus. Babies are not very strong, but Meg can’t help but think that a baby of hers, and of Seon’s, might be very strong. Just look at them both! Meg, having gone to state for tennis tournaments. Seon, thighs thick as horses from all the running. Maybe the two of them together are dangerous. Meg sits on the toilet and gets nervous again. She dares a look down, pokes her flesh. You better not, she says. I’m very very busy and I don’t need this. I don’t want you. She squints and sucks her belly in. She’s sure Seon isn’t thinking about any of these things. He’s probably just thinking about her neck, which he loves, enough that Meg has had to buy a new tube of concealer to make sure people don’t see proof of his teeth. Maybe he’s making breakfast right now. Six eggs, spinach, potatoes. He loves to eat. Makes her food sometimes. All the portions are big and rich. He needs the calories, he says. He’s been training at the gym recently. So Meg is his sport but he still has training, which she likes. He’s very strong, getting stronger. Maybe the training is making his sperm stronger, too, stronger than her pill. Diseases get stronger than vaccines sometimes, so maybe it could happen to sperm. Meg finally gets up because her feet are falling asleep.
Okay, so she’s probably not pregnant. There would be signs. Her stomach would be all twisting and turning from the baby spinning around in there. Meg is easily nauseous. She breathes in deep to test. There’s a slight curdle in her, a sour taste. She could just be hungry. She was nauseous after the first time having sex with Seon. Probably the motion of things coming in and out too fast. The first time wasn’t in his car, which would have been more exciting. It was in his house. His parents were there! It was thrilling and so dangerous at the same time. Meg had come in through his window like in the movies, crawled right into his hands. Hi he had said and she said hi and she knew, that moment, like a clicking in her stomach, that this was the night. They had touched all over the place before then. She had held his dick all warm and soft and hard, knew what it looked like and how it tasted. So many tastes, him and her, how she could taste herself on his mouth. Meg had never experienced anything like it, never thought about what makes a person and what makes two people together. She lay on her back on Seon’s bed, sheets all at the bottom, and he put his hands on either side of her head and hovered over her for what felt like a very long time. She started thinking about how her boobs might look, laying out towards her sides, but he pressed himself into her and she forgot about her boobs. To be so close to him! Meg’s head went so foggy, so in disbelief. This must be what God felt like, creating humans. Overwhelmed, maybe scared, overcome with the idea that life could fall right out of this nasty, messy, crazy closeness. To think that her mom and dad did this one time and she came out of it. To think that her mom got up and cleaned herself off with her dad’s old towel and even with some of it running down her legs Meg was in there, swimming hard, crawling up to life.
So she’ll get a pregnancy test. That’s not hard. There’s a drugstore a few blocks away that’s walking distance, or Seon will drive her. Yes, she will sit in the passenger seat and hold his hand and they’ll coast down the narrow road with the windows down. A favorite song will be playing. He will put a hand through her tangled hair and they will park and she will find out that she is not pregnant. Life will continue the way it should continue: her, and him, and that’s it.
Unless she imagines holding the little stick, warm from her pee, watching for the double lines. The spread of baby hormones letting her know: here I am, I am in you, I will not be removed! She knows her mom thought about aborting her: her dad told her once. He wasn’t thinking about how it would hurt her, to tell her. He said it so she would know it was okay, if she was ever to get pregnant. Your mom almost did it, so you can, too! Just follow through this time! Meg thinks of being the fetus of herself, being squeezed out like a jellybean until flat and dead. She thinks about her own baby growing up like her and looking back and finding out: your mom didn’t want you! Think of yourself as a bloody little jellybean popped out and flushed somewhere!
Maybe Meg’s mom should have gotten rid of her, because she sure didn’t want her. Meg hates to think about this, but if her mom had just been honest, she wouldn’t have had Meg at all, and it might have saved them both a lot of trouble. Meg’s cheeks get hot. Meg will not be a mother like that. A dishonest mother. An irresponsible mother. The longer she stands here the more she can feel it. Little feet running and running around her stomach, here I am, here I am, I’m yours forever. If she closes her eyes her stomach is huge and bloated. The baby will be here in no time. It will be too strong for her, too much of Seon, too much of her arm muscle, it will be here and take her by the hair and make her be a mother. All because she had sex! She can’t have sex again. Oh, she can’t. She will miss it, certainly, miss that sweat going cold after, how Seon will take his hand from between her legs and put his tongue so slowly over each finger so she can see. She hasn’t tried all the things she wanted to do with him. It’s so hard with both of them having parents, living at home. She can’t keep climbing in his window like a girl who climbs in windows. Maybe every time she does a thing like that God looks down at her and thinks: this is a girl, a woman, who needs to learn responsibility. These windows you keep crawling through? Here is a baby. Think about what you have done! She will not have sex again. If there is a baby or if there is no baby, these legs are closing! Seon will have to make running his sport again. Maybe that means he won’t love her anymore. What if love is that sex feeling, the breath-in-your-mouth that’s not your breath feeling? If she takes that away from Seon, Meg might shrink very small and very unimportant. Meg opens her eyes and looks at herself in the mirror. She is Seon’s girl. She is Seon’s woman. Look at her! He will not fall out of love with her. Love is new enough that he’ll stay hungry for it, like she is. He will consume love in other ways. She will make him his big meals. She will kiss him so tenderly. If there is a baby, she will ask him to touch her giant globe stomach with his right hand, the one with the knuckle scar he told her about, and he will touch her and their baby with so much love because how can you not love something you made?
She’s going to the store. She’s leaving right now. Already walking down the block, she calls Seon. Hi, yes. I need a ride. I need something. Yes, it is so important. She loves his voice through the phone. He doesn’t like talking on the phone, but he does it for her. He is fast, her man, and when they are in his car Meg puts the window all the way down and opens her mouth to let the air fill her up. She is so heavy—she’s weighing her side of the car down. Seon reaches over to touch her knee. What do you need, he asks, and Meg comes back inside the car and exhales very loud. Don’t worry, he tells her, without even knowing, but she is worried, she is so worried, she looks at her man turning the wheel towards the parking lot, looking every few moments back at her, and she can’t imagine saying it out loud. Not yet. I will tell you, she says to Seon, But I will tell you after.
He frowns very slightly towards the drugstore as if imagining everything behind the glass doors that Meg could put her hands on. She wants to put her knuckle between his eyebrows, smooth out the creases. They’ve been here in the car so many times, pretending like they won’t fuck right away, climb on each other over the middle console, all that space between them. The space now feels so far, a whole arm. He’s wearing his clothes like they won’t ever come off, that gray shirt, the belt with a thick buckle, and that’s good—no more sex! Meg hates it. She hates that she wants to turn his face to hers and close his eyes and kiss him so he remembers her. She hates knowing what’s there, his skin, where her mouth could be. He is quiet and looking and Meg feels her stomach run and run and run.
Alright, Seon says finally, in a voice like his phone voice, and when he shifts the gearshift to park and cups his hands behind his head she loves him, this portrait of a man who is still hers. He will stay here, listening to the radio while Meg moves through the aisles looking for what she needs. He will wait for the ten minutes it takes for her to shift different sized boxes between her hands, and maybe he will look now out the window towards the sky, which is gray like it is angry and wanting to let go of its anger, and for the first time maybe he will be thinking about Meg as a woman, his woman. Meg will not listen for the loud and familiar gun of the engine because she knows he will stay there, in this parking lot, until he knows. Whatever she chooses it has to be fast, because she doesn’t want him to have to come inside, see her standing there and getting bigger by the second and have to ask, louder now, baby, is there something there? And then she will have to tell him yes, this is ours now, I cannot get rid of it. It will be here always and it will be ours because I will not unmake something that is mine. To do that, Meg thinks, is like throwing a bomb through a window and watching the inside of the room spray back out.
Meg makes her choice. Pays for the test in cash, a bill ripped in one corner, one clumsy scatter of dimes across the counter. She finds the bathroom. Shakes and shakes and tries to make her hands stop shaking but they shake when she opens the box and she says to her stomach, here we go. You better behave. This is it, this is when I find out about you. This is the story I will have to tell about you. Meg holds the stick up. It is shiny plastic white. If she held it from the pee strip it could be a very tiny tennis racket. Small enough for her baby’s hand, a tiny little tennis player made of her, the chunky baby legs like Seon, and when it speaks, it is so very quiet because she hoped it might sound like her mother but Meg’s memory is a very dark and very quiet place except for the distant clacking of loud shoes, coming closer. When Meg’s insides tear and the baby gushes out, she would turn and see her mother standing there with her suitcase, smiling down at her. She would hold this baby and its soft feathered hair and squishy head and its little tennis racket out to her mother and tell her look what I made, look what I can do. This whole human is mine and you will love it, you will love it so desperately you will do nothing but hold it and kiss it and hold us with your arms around the both of us, me and baby and Mom and Dad, and Seon there, too. We will be together and it will be so beautiful and it will be forever. Meg squats over the toilet. Thrusts the stick between her leg. Pees.
Sierra Rose Lindsay is an MFA candidate in fiction at Adelphi University whose current work explores the conditions of girlhood, female sexuality, and society’s invitation of violence upon the body. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Bad Pony Magazine and Pretty Owl Poetry. You can find Sierra in Brooklyn, NY on her third-floor rooftop, stocking produce at her local Trader Joe’s, or on Twitter @sierra__lindsay.