Shmushmortion by Daniela Bizzell
We called it a shmushmortion. Driving through brown, slush-lined roads, he joked about moving to Mexico. He joked that it wasn’t his. He joked that it would come out dark-skinned, lacking that pale-pink pigment so commonly found in the Swede. I joked that I would leave it on his doorstep and that I would fly to Mexico. I joked that if he made another joke I would punch him in the face. I joked that it would have beautiful eyes, unique, because both of our eyes were beautiful and unique. Except I wasn’t really joking. We both knew, when it came down to things, that he was broke, I was still in college, and if there ever came a time, I would have a shmuhshmortion.
My best friend C and her older sister D were both pregnant once. Now they’re childless, happy in their young relationships, full of promises and dreams of finding a cozy apartment under $900 dollars a month.
I was sixteen when D found out she was “preggo” – a word we used as teenagers because pregnancy was an unrealistic fantasy that only existed on MTV. The older sister – wise, experienced in the “art of sex,” who was always walking around with her clothes off, doing college things – was preggo. On a Saturday morning at eight AM, I drove to Planned Parenthood with D and C.
C and I spoke all night. We hid under heavy blankets, squished together in her twin bed.
“They would have had such a cool looking baby, though. Half-Black, half-Asian. And you could be that aunt that kids run away to when their parents fight,” I said with an excited, sleepy smile, picturing myself preparing for some baby shower, buying onesies at the Baby Gap. “It would be fun to have a baby around the house,” C agreed. She was right, it would be fun.
At sixteen, babies weren’t forever. High school boyfriends were forever. Parents were forever. 1999 Honda Accords were forever. Things were cute, easy. I had never been inside a Planned Parenthood. D and her boyfriend spent the night before the procedure holding her tummy, pretending to plan a family.
They broke up a few months later.
Three years passed – I received a phone call. It was C. I was walking my dog through a Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn, breathing in small wafts of spring air emerging from the depths of winter in New York City. When I answered the phone, she immediately started apologizing for things that needed no apology; she’s always given sympathy to everyone else but herself.
She told me that she met a simple man in school, a school only a few miles away from the house she grew up in. He sounded like a boy you’d find in a small town; he only had to drive a few miles away from the home he never left to get to school every day too. She liked him. And she didn’t get too close. It had only been a month. Practical. Sensible. Mature. Pregnant.
The general consensus amongst my friends was that babies were bad, best seen from a stranger’s overpriced stroller, or a non-existent town in Mexico – a distant made-up vision imagined by naïve sixteen-year-olds eager to play house, to have a tangible result of a passionate love, because babies came from love. Eventually, some girls from high school that I had spent superficial time with began posting photos of baby bumps, Facebook statuses complaining about swollen feet, all while exposing their uteri to the World Wide Web. These were acquaintances, girls that had the same high school written on their diplomas.
The thought of a family, although premature, clouded the heads of the inexperienced, the hopeful, the in-love, the not-in-love. And C was nineteen, not in love, with no need for hope, at least not then.
She cried. A sound I heard in the secret hour of two AM, when something reminded her of her mother, and sleep deprivation allowed her mind to open, allowing memories to reveal themselves. He didn’t know yet. Her own father was a jackass. She was pregnant and alone with her best-friend-turned-into-potential-cool-aunt, who once drove a scared older sister to a Planned Parenthood with chipped paint and nervous couples.
I was 200 miles away from that small town I once called home, in a city where babies remained in the strollers of strangers.