“You should plan to have kids soon,” Aunt Sylvia said, hortatively.
I drank the rest of my merlot, perspiration slowly building up between my small breasts and down my back. “Is it hot in here?”
We were by the non-working fireplace. Ben was standing next to the arched doorway across the room in conversation with my mother and my brother, Sammy. Ben seemed happy. His olive cheeks were lightly blushed as he furrowed his brow laughing at whatever nonsense Sammy was telling him. Knowing Ben was there eased my angst.
“Ben and I have not discussed children yet, but we plan to do some traveling. There’s so much we haven’t done and seen yet,” I said. “I would love to visit Japan.”
“Japan is great, but you don’t have many years left, Sofia.” Aunt Sylvia had moved around quite a bit in her lifetime. When she finally settled in, she made her space warm and welcoming with her hodgepodge collection of furniture pieces. Urns from India and carpets from Spain came together effortlessly. I always felt at home. That’s why I asked to have my engagement party at her place, and she was more than happy to share her space.
“She’s right, you know,” Aida joined the conversation. She put her 13-month-old down. Stooping a bit, she held both her daughter’s hands as the little girl attempted taking steps on her own. “The doctor said Lizzy is a little behind her peers.”
“Don’t pay the doctor any mind. Every child is different.” Aunt Sylvia said, dismissing Aida’s concerns with a wave of her hand. She married once, but they never had any children. But, she was the matriarch of the family, sharing her wisdom from what she perceived was a life of missteps and lost opportunities.
Ben’s niece fell on her behind, but her diaper softened her fall on the wooden floor. Aida picked her up, caressing her mousy brown curls. “I know, but I get worried. The doctors make such a big deal about her lack of progress.” Lizzy cradled her mother’s face with her soft, pudgy hands.
“Isn’t she precious?” Aunt Sylvia said in a baby voice, zooming in on Lizzy’s face. “Soon you’ll have one just like her, and you’ll have doctors measuring your child’s progress according to some percentile rank or score.”
“Why would I want that?” I asked.
“There’s no real harm to any of it, really,” Aunt Sylvia said.
It didn’t mollify my misgivings about children or make me want to become pregnant anytime soon. “It seems like an awful lot of stress to deal with, having a doctor tell you there might be something potentially wrong with your child.”
“Let’s not talk about this anymore. Aida pecked Lizzy’s forehead. “We don’t want to discourage Sofia.”
The living room was swarming with friends, relatives, and screaming children running around fighting and yelling. Chaos. All the mothers were congregated in the corner to my left, talking about motherhood and looking after their toddlers. I overheard my cousin say, “I’m just so tired all the time. I never have any time for myself anymore.” The other mothers nodded their heads in agreement.
“Sofia.” Aida tugged at my sleeve, pulling me back into the conversation. “What do you think? Are boys better or girls?”
“I don’t know,” I said, adjusting my red floral top that fell of my shoulder when Aida tugged at it.
“I say boys,” Aunt Sylvia said. “You don’t have to worry as much about them.”
“Nonsense, I say girls,” Aida said. “They’re so much fun. You get to dress them up in cute outfits.”
My mind wandered off again looking for a moment of respite, and I found Ben still chatting with my brother. He waved at me, and I waved back. I wondered what they were talking about. Surely not about children. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” I put my empty wine glass down on the mantel and excused myself as they continued their gender preference debate. I walked down the quiet hallway, where my father and two other men had gathered to talk about politics. He stopped me and pecked my cheek. “Love you,” he said.
“Love you, Dad.”
I opened the door to the spacious almost octagon shaped bathroom with seafoam colored tiles. The window was open just enough, allowing a comforting breeze to cool the room. The dark blue curtains danced along. Turning on the faucet, I splashed my face with water. Then I opened the medicine cabinet. I pushed through expired prescription bottles of codeine and BuSpar that cluttered it and found some ibuprofen. “Just what I need.” I swallowed two pills dry, and I walked towards the window. I stood there for a while, drying off my armpits. I opened the window a bit more and stuck my head out into the cloudy night. I felt the small patter of rain on my cheeks and eyelashes. I could see straight across the back alley. The next building was a few feet away, and the lights were on in the apartment directly across. I could see two figures through the diaphanous peach curtains, perhaps two women. Were they friends, sisters, lovers? Their window was open just a bit, and I could hear a gentle, mellifluous voice singing. I felt as though I was violating their privacy. So, I redirected my attention.
I looked down, and although I was on the first floor, there was some distance between the ground and me. I contemplated the space. It felt remote and peaceful. “If I go back, I might go bonkers.” I sat on the windowsill and stuck my legs out the ledge. “Ahh, it’s much cooler out here.” Looking down, I noticed my feet were not that far from the ground. Three feet perhaps. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped, landing roughly on the ground. With my scraped and reddened left palm, I was free to make a clean break for home.
Tamara Lebron is a Part-time Assistant Professor of English at Kennesaw State University. She is a native of Brooklyn, NY. and earned her M.F.A. from Long Island University, Brooklyn campus. Twitter: @tlebron67.
Image: Bosen Yan