“Oh fuck.” I woke up at 5 am in a panic, realizing that I was late. Not late for a doctor’s appointment. Not late for work or Sunday brunch. I was “late.”
I rolled over to the edge of the bed and snatched up my purse from the floor–an easy feat, since my bed consisted of a mattress on the stained carpet of a friend’s living room. My mind still foggy from sleep, I dug around furiously until I found the small, plastic clam shell that held my birth control.
I checked it. I checked it again. Slow to wake up, I checked it twice more. I’d been good this month–I had taken them every day, always at the same time. I should have started my period on Sunday, but it was now Wednesday, and not even a twinge of cramping.
The beagle puppy on the front of my purse smiled at me, oblivious. He couldn’t get pregnant. He didn’t give a rat’s fuck about me or my predicament.
The panic set in–it had found it’s rhythm of exponential growth. My heart thudded in my chest; breathing became difficult.
“It’s okay,” I soothed, “You have choices. There are plenty of abortions–I mean options! You have options, dammit! It’s Oregon, you have choices.”
I collapsed against the pillows and stared vacantly at the popcorn ceiling, the apartment’s near-palpable stench of ammonia-laden dog piss hanging on my tongue.
“How am I gonna raise a fucking kid? I can’t even afford my own apartment! I’ll be pregnant for my 21st birthday! What kind of party is that?!” I rolled over and groaned. A homeless, newly-divorced, part-time barista had no business being in control of anyone else’s life except her own. Except, maybe, the lives of her cats.
As if on cue, Stan pushed his way past the merlot-colored, polyester curtains that partitioned my side of the apartment. He flopped down heavily against my side, purring in an abhorrently self-satisfied fashion.
“I don’t think you fully appreciating the severity of this situation.” He held my gaze as he started to knead the blankets, his eyes slowly drifting out of focus, sighing happily, drooling slightly.
I echoed his sigh in a resigned sense of panic and went back to my popcorn ceiling, now a whiteboard for the mental inventory of my life.
I had been living out of a friend’s dining room for the better part of a month, and had no prospects for either an apartment or a job that paid more than $10.00 an hour. As a barista (because, of course I was a barista in Portland), I was not even allowed the luxury of sedentariety, and I was pretty sure I heard somewhere that a) the average barista absorbs the equivalent of six shots of espresso via osmosis in one eight-hour shift, and b) caffeine is bad for kids in utero.
The maybe-baby-daddy was only marginally better-off–he had a bedroom all to himself in his apartment, but he was about as financially destitute as me.
“Then again,” I pondered, “Hunter does have those beautiful blue eyes…and those thick, Black Irish curls…and he really is just so sweet…”
During times of extreme stress, many of us will often waffle between our resigned fate and a grim, Braveheart-esque determination to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds. Marvin the Paranoid Android versus William “They’ll never take our freedom” Wallace.
However, sometimes, in our mind’s valiant, fucked-up attempt at grasping the incomprehensible (like an unexpected, unwelcome pregnancy), it will find something else to dwell on. One little thing.
The realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
“PLEASE don’t let my baby’s last name be Amadeus.”
While I had been deciding on whether or not to catch the bus to Target to look at either car seats or coat hangers, I had completely forgotten the fact that Hunter was not, in fact, my maybe-would-be-baby-daddy’s real name. He had, in fact, been born Nicholas Randall Davis, the oldest of four who grew up in the bog-fragranced bay of Tillamook, Oregon.
During a particularly aggressive phase of self-loathing, he had lost seventy pounds, dyed his hair black, thrown on some guy-liner and skinny jeans, and traded the valley of cheese and dairy farms for that of PBR and food carts–Portland.
With the creation of this rebirth, he–of course–required a new identity. So, like so many Dean Martins and Lady Gagas before him, he shed his formal appellation and dubbed himself as “Hunter, I’m-Going-To-Change-It-Legally-As-Soon-As-I-Pick-A-Last-Name.” Hunter had been what his father wanted to name him, and he really just felt like it matched his vinyl-collecting, Kombucha-drinking, whiskey-flask-at-a-concert spirit better than “Nicholas Randall Davis.” Some of the prospective surnames included Thompson, Artemis, and–his current favorite–Amadeus.
(It is worth noting that one night, years later, when the relationship had aged into one of strictly friendship, I would open another bottle of Burnett’s and–laughing–tell him about The Scare. I would crack up over the panic the seemingly inconsequential detail of his last name incited, and I would watch as he quickly devolved into a rather interesting combination of self-reflection and abject terror over what could have been. He would vehemently insist that I should have told him, but–more importantly–that he was “only considering Amadeus as a joke.” I would be nothing but sympathetic, and certainly would not exacerbate the situation further by retelling the story with increasing detail and physical reenactments.)
I lay in bed, digging my nails into the sheets and picking holes in the memory foam pad beneath. Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” cycled again and again through my head as I pictured our child: intelligent, beautiful, and cursed with the dumbest fucking last name in Portland–a city which basically founded stupid fucking names.
None of these were okay. How in the hell was I going to go out in public with (and repeatedly introduce) such a wretched bastard of a child?! Car seats and baby bouncers were no longer even an option in my mind–I was going to have to start chugging bleach.
A deep, dull pain made its way through my abdomen, increasing in intensity as it spread. An ancient pain, one that has bound women together since the fall of Eve, one that elicits universal disgust from men and sympathy from women.
For the first time in my life, a welcome pain.
As I doubled over on the bathroom floor in agony, I inhaled deeply, slowly, working my way through the cramping.
“It’s just like Lamaze,” I told myself, popping some more ibuprofen and grabbing a fresh pad. “Lamaze that I will thankfully never have to use.”