by Lisa Wiley
No one wants to pee on a stick at 47. In three minutes this pink plastic wand will reveal my future sentence or freedom. It taunts me. I set an egg timer tick, tick, tick, my heart ticking like the timer. No high chair, no stroller, no rice cereal in the cupboards. I am rusty as an old fishing boat. A 15-year-old gap from my last child. A son in college about to be carded. Strangers will think I’m the grandmother when he holds her. Such a gap, gap, gap. We never took permanent measures. Tried to be good Catholics. We were careful for 15 years. The postpartum depression. I don’t want to lose you again. I almost didn’t get you back last time, my husband whispers. Like he lifted my limp body out of the icy river and resuscitated me. Tick, tick, tick. Maybe you’ll need to schedule an appointment for a procedure, my husband says nonchalantly like the man in Hills Like White Elephants, the Hemingway story I taught last week. An awfully simple operation, Jig, he says. It’s not really an operation at all. Will my students laugh at my round belly? I dreamt a white stray cat with blue eyes appeared from underneath my bed. I scooped her up and kept her. A new little mouth to feed, then I jumped to the calendar and swam away on a raft of calendar squares 36, 37, 38. I’m late, I’m late for a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late! I could star in the worst reality TV show ever 47 and Pregnant. Tick, tick, tick. I forgot to factor the stress of the school year, the stress of a spill down the stairs. The purple bruises on my hip taking their time to heal. What do you call people who use the Counting Method? a man joked at our rehearsal dinner. Parents, he exploded into riotous laughter. The nauseous taste on my tongue since the wasabi peas. Why did I eat wasabi peas? The server scooped an avalanche over my rice bowl days ago. My mouth tastes like metallic coffee even after brushing my teeth twice like the early days with all my children. It’s not impossible, my nurse confides on the telephone. At 47, the chance is very small. It’s too late for Plan B. You waited too long to call. You’re outside the window. Those pills won’t work anymore even if you take them. Wait a week and take a pregnancy test. Maybe it’ll come before then. I’m Catholic, but I won’t attend church. I worship at home. The bishop is corrupt. Most priests in our diocese belong in jail, but I won’t schedule a procedure. It’ll be fine. It’s got to be fine. I’m fine. I see the little white crosses dot the church yard. I hear their innocent voices screaming. I feel cold, steely instruments I’ll never touch. I don’t want this but I don’t want that. I picture the Grand Island Bridge at dusk. God might understand. It might be high enough. The water cold enough. It might work. So overwhelmed, I jump. Catholics can have Christian burials if they’re so distraught. Overcome. I’ve never wanted to see red so badly. Crimson roses. White calendar squares don’t lie. I ovulated. It was close. Within hours. Eggs are viable for 24 hours. Hope there was just one. Just one. All disintegrated. Tick, tick, tick. Were we within the 24 hours? Why did I have that fancy cocktail Saturday night? Why did I go on a date with my husband? Why did I let him romance me? Why were we alone in the house? Dear St. Anthony please help me find my period. Pleasepleaseplease let me see red. I beg of you, dear St. Anthony. Hail Mary, Mother of God, please help me. I’ll be more careful in the future. I’magoodmother. Ipromisetobemorecareful.
Lisa Wiley is an English professor at SUNY Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY. Her chapbook Eat Cake for Breakfast is forthcoming with Dancing Girl Press in late 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks including Chamber Music (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in Chest, Earth’s Daughters, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Healing Muse, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Mom Egg Review among others.