One snowy winter night, I walked home in my red pea coat, my eyelashes lined with frost because it was just that cold. My hair was up in a pony tail, my cheeks were rosy. My toes were curling in my shoes, as I was cursing myself for not wearing warmer shoes. The street lights lit up the snow as it glittered quietly on the street that led to my house. Cars bustled behind me as I left the main road, having just got off the bus from work. I hurried down the icy sidewalks being ever so cautious not to slip.
My belly was consistently becoming more evident. I wondered if I would be able to make it through the winter in this red coat. There were actually days, admittedly, where I would forget altogether that I was pregnant. But then I would think about things like this. A simple red button in tweed fabric made me remember the reality of the world I was living in. I was pregnant. Getting very pregnant.
His sister had called me yesterday evening. She had told me that I had called them; I knew I had not. Truth is, the only contact I had was with his grandfather. Besides telling me that she was also expecting again, I figured, that this was her way of attempting to reach out. It was in essence, sweet but it hurt. According to her, he was off partying, and living it up. Tears had silently poured down my face as she described the life he was living- girls, girls, more girls, drugs, and booze. Of course, I wondered, where he could fit me into that picture. And really, why would he even want to?
He was free. However, I was living out our sentence alone. Isolated. Losing friends. Dealing with the names. The rumors. The looks. Losing my body. And eventually, losing The Kiddo.
How I hated him.
As I climbed the steps to my house, I tried to shake it all off. I had battled my anger for him. But in the same breath, I was battling how desperately I still loved him. How hurt I was. How I knew I had made mistakes, ones that I had done out of anger and spite. We weren’t unbreakable, and I had taken part in breaking us.
I shook off my jacket as I stomped the snow off my feet, and realized that this must be what it felt like to be an adult. To be torn between what you want, what is actually good for you and the reality of what you must do. Or think you must do.
This was bigger then our pathetic, teenage breakup. We were having a child together. I just assumed, because I had to grow up and make decisions, ones that were taller then I would ever be, that he could do the same.
Over the months of my pregnancy, the fantasies got bigger, and grander. I was, by this point, hoping for a miracle. I would imagine, as I laid in bed, unable to sleep, that I would go to my next visit with the agency, and my worker would have good news- A wanted to be involved. He signed the paperwork, he filled out the family history so I wouldn’t have to guess. Anything, just some sort of sign he cared. Those were the more “realistic” fantasies. The silly parts of me, when I was feeling exceptionally hopelessly romantic, and all around dumb, would be of him ringing the door bell of my house, and rushing in, telling he’d made a huge mistake and we’d fix it. Cue the heartwarming music, and end scene.
I was, quite literally, working myself into a tizzy with my fantasies about him. The phone call with his sister led me to a new set of questions: Did I want him to rescue me? Or furthermore, did I even need to be rescued? He was clearly, based on his actions moving on. Or had already moved on. But, still, there was that nagging, annoying hopeless romantic, idiot sitting in the back of my mind, just gushing about how good thing all could be.
But here I stood, protruding belly. Stuck. And stuck for at least another 5 months. With no sign of him anywhere. Hopeless? Yes. Romantic, no.
I poured myself a cup of herbal tea, switched into my sweatpants, and quietly shuffled into my bedroom. It was makeshift of furniture; an ironic portrait of a girl, who was still very much a girl, trying to be an adult. A woman. Beside my journal, sat the pamphlets and worksheets about adoption. There was a tiny file with my agency paperwork, and yet in the same line of sight, sat stuffed animals. The one I had to sleep with every night.
I opened my blinds, allowing the light of the street to pour into my small bedroom, with a small lamp sitting on my desk for minimal light. I took a deep breath, and realized that it was probably time to start looking at all of the things that were “us”. An upcoming meeting with the adoptive parents made this task a little easier; they had requested some information about A. I was, at this point, the only link to him.
Underneath my bed, as far back as I could push it, sat a box. The placement of this box was very concise. Very thought out.
I had wanted it in the closet, but shoes, clothes quickly overtook that area and the idea that I would see it daily, sent me into panic mode. I didn’t want to be reminded of the contents. I originally put it in my sock drawer, but the box became bigger, as I continued adding the things that I would find, things that would remind me of him. Which also meant, again I was constantly being reminded. Under the bed, as far away from sight, and in a forgettable place was a fitting location. In order to reach it, I had to move the bed, which in my current state, happened very little. I bent down, and started moving the frame, careful not to drag it across the original hardwood. I remembered the words of my doctor, who told me not to lift things. I had rolled my eyes when she had said it, and she had smirked back at me, knowing exactly what I was about to say,
“Yeah, easy to say that when you have someone who will do all the heavy lifting. I do the heavy lifting, pregnant or not”.
I was very much on my own, and moving a heavy object seemed to be the least of my worries these days. Suddenly, the box was in view, and I slid in, not placing the bed back in position, and carefully lifted the smaller, but heavy box. The contents, to a normal person, would seem frivolous, even silly. But it was my heart, in one box. This was the parts of me that I was trying to forget. The parts of me that still belonged to him.
Pulling out the garbage bin, turning on Matthew Good; if A could move on, so could I. And I would check off one more item on my “adoption” checklist. Information about the birthfather- check. Clearly, my fantasies were unreasonable. Clearly, I was not going to be in his life, and clearly, clearly, it was time to move on.
My heart sagged in my chest, defiantly attempting not to break.
I spent hours sifting through letters, movie stubs, pictures of us, all those photobooth pictures, inside jokes. Everything made it’s way into the trash. Then, The Kiddo kicked me. I stopped cold.
“The rat in your brain, turns a wheel connected to your guts, and all your faults are in me, and all your faults are in me….” crooned Matthew Good as I observed the disaster I had created. What was I doing?
In front of me, sat nine months of history. The entire time it would take for me to also house, and give birth to this child. The irony was not lost on me. I rubbed my belly, and said to The Kiddo,
“I suppose you want to know him even if I want to castrate him right now. Maybe one day you’ll be interested in knowing him…So, Kiddo, what should we keep?”
Slowly, like I had done when I had chosen The Kiddo’s, adoptive family I carefully placed items into categories. The things I would keep, the things I would send with his adoptive parents, and the things I wanted to be gone forever. It amazed me, when I did this methodical sorting, how it was easy to decide what was unnecessary and figure out what sort of pulled on my heart strings.
I threw out movie stubs, love notes, pieces of memories that had moments attached to them. The items were being thrown out, but the moments would replay in my mind. The way he kissed my forehead after he had seen me perform in my grade 12 One Act Play. The way he laughed, but tried to hide it, when I sliced my finger open. I gazed down at my finger, the scar still prominent on my right middle finger. I wondered if it would ever disappear fully. The way he would slide his hands into mine as we listened to his terrible music, driving into town. How he always just wanted to rescue me, to save me from the big bad world I had been born into.
And here I was, in the middle of this montage of sorting, swollen ankles, a terribly sore back, an ever growing belly, and I was quite literally, as alone as one could get at that very moment. There had been no phone calls since the day we spoke in October. There had been no communication since he threatened legal action, saying The Kiddo was not his (which his sister said he had redacted later on). There had been nothing but a cold, hard, and completely debilitating silence. I held a ticket stub in my hand, and I felt my body shake as the tears fell. I hadn’t cried over him. I hadn’t cried for the loneliness I felt, or the unfairness of the whole situation. He had left me.
His message was clear.
That night, I kept the box. In it, I placed pictures that I would later give to the adoptive family. I kept a bracelet…the bracelet. The one memory that I wanted to hold on to, the one item, that if The Kiddo wanted to know what our relationship was like, I could show to him. Despite everything else, at one point, at one moment in time, we loved each other. Because as young as we were, as naive as we were, A truly was my first love. And I knew, despite the anger, despite the despair, and neglect I felt, that The Kiddo would want to know that one day.
I took the box, and placed it back under my bed, tucked safely in the corner, where it still belonged.
As I looked out the window, onto my quiet, snowy street, I realized, that A had likely done the same thing as I had done. Placed all of these feelings into some proverbial box, and hoped to all hell that they would never show their faces again. I was, and The Kiddo was, a reminder of all the things he wasn’t doing, or wasn’t owning up to. Tears staining my face, I softly whispered as I rubbed my belly, “Don’t let him fool, you Kiddo, one day, you’ll meet him. I hope I can do him justice for now. He’s a good guy. He’s not that guy that just doesn’t care. He’s just scared…”
I took a deep breath, and closed the curtains,
“And so am I.”