“Swear down, pregnancy is popular now as silver rizla. All these wottless gyals. Get one of them three wheel prams, house off the council, pay your rent, don’t gotta do nuffing but squeeze a kid out”
A man walks on the tube with his two sons. They fold down the seats and start talking.
“We need to change at Elephant, dad” says the eldest of the two boys.
The dad looks up at the display.
“Yeah, alright, hold on. This. Train. Is. The. Southbound. Northern. Line. Service. For. Morden.”
He read of the words from the automated display one-by-one.
“Bank. Branch. The. Next. Station. Is. Moorgate. Please. Stand. Clear. Of. The. Closing. Doors.”
Yesterday I would have laughed at him. Maybe secretly, maybe under my breath, maybe out loud if I was with a friend. Instead I notice the smiles and looks on his boys faces. Pride and admiration.
Yesterday I would have laughed at him.
Instead, I draw my coat closer around me and gently feel my stomach through my side pocket.
My hand shook as I put on the kettle. As it boiled, I hesitated for a moment, wondering if caffeine is okay. Then I held my head and laughed until I cried as it began to sink in how completely unprepared I am.
Phone in one hand, hospital letter in the other, my thumb rested on the green ‘call’ button. But I couldn’t bring myself to press it.
“And how about smoking”
“I’ve... yeah. I’ve stopped...”
“I can’t stress how important it is that you continue to give up. You may find times over the next few months... I’m sure that you have managed to quit, but if you need any help keeping it up, please don’t hesitate to call us. You can see a nurse at your local GPs office, or call this number”
“That’s... Thanks... thank you”
He caught me as I was desperately trying to leave. I just wanted information, not a judgement.
But I relented.
“You’re not the first young woman to find yourself in this... situation, you know? You’re in the best possible hands you could be in”
I don’t know whether he paused, or I just imagined it. Either way, I nodded, smiled and shut the door behind me.
“I know, I know, I know what you think, mamma, but its fine. I can’t put my life on hold and it’s not like I’m...
I know but...
Shut up! Would you shut up! Look, it’s not like I’m drinking myself, I’m just serving...
LOOK! They can’t smoke in there! They can’t! There was a law passed three years ago! Don’t you remember? Don’t you even watch...
I won’t have to go outside... I won’t matter, mamma!
Mamma! I NEED TO EARN MONEY.
I’m not going to let you...
Of course I’m going to carry on. I’ve almost finished my second year, I’m not going to drop out now.
Look. LOOK! I’ll talk to Andrew this week.
He’s my tutor. I’ve told you about...
No he’s not the one who said I could get a 1st, he’s not my lecturer...
I’m going to look into deferring...
I know I don’t...
WHO’S HAVING THIS FUCKING KID, ME OR YOU? JESUS!!!”
I slammed the phone down and my hand shook again, again. This time with rage.
I spent the next 45 minutes throwing up.
Christ, what I’d give for even just a rolling paper sticking to my chapped lips, tearing them apart. To bleed into the end of a cigarette, turning it red, brown. A shot of the worst whiskey I could buy, burning my throat, stripping off layers and tearing up my guts, anything to let me think I was anything more than a vessel, nurturing all of my mother’s ambitions that failed to materialise in me.
I spoke to Andrew and we looked into me taking a year out. He said I could come back at another time, that he would talk to some people, see what the options were. That’s all I know about at the moment. Options. Choices that I have to make. Everyone nodding and holding my hand and smiling. Kind but meaningless gestures. Waiting for me to give them an answer. I don’t want support. I just want it to go away.
I just want this thing to go away.
Paul came round. He had an Argos catalogue with all of the corners turned down on pages about cots and prams. Fucking post-it notes sticking out everywhere. He’d spent ages researching, budgeting, comparing the top of the line items in comparison to what ‘he thought’ ‘we’ could afford.
“I’m gonna make this right for you. I’m gonna get a good job and take care of you and... you don’t have to worry about a thing. It’s all gonna be ok from here on out”
Then he looked me deeply in the eyes, put one hand on the small of my back and the other on my belly. I think this was the most romantic moment of his life, the moment where he thought he was becoming a man. I asked him to leave and he didn’t understand why. He just looked confused and didn’t move until I shouted at him.
I know he’s trying hard. God bless him, he’s trying so fucking hard.
But he’s such a dickhead.
The gel was cold. The sonogram kind of hurt when he ran it over my stomach, but I don’t know if this was because I expected it to. I don’t know if it really did. Maybe I wanted it to. All I can think of is when I was 15 and I was drunk and fell and hit my head on a concrete post and they made me take a CT scan. In the scant moments of sobriety, the kind of sobriety that worry gives a drunk, I found myself thinking, knowing that I had fractured my skull and that blood was seeping into by brain or liquid was seeping out of it, but either way I would be dead if I closed my eyes. Then they asked me to close my eyes and I was sick inside the machine and they had to stop while they cleaned it up. And I remember the look on my mum’s face, complete disappointment in me being alive, and I started to feel sick again and I was so glad she wasn’t there with me today.
He doesn’t mention a gender and I’m glad. I don’t know if it’s too early and I don’t want to. Paul would be able to tell me. He’s read a lot of books on this, but I can’t face talking about it, let alone reading it.
I can’t start thinking about it other than as an ‘it’. I can’t let become a person. I can’t become attached.
I don’t know why I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why but I couldn’t do it.
Paul was talking about moving in together again and I couldn’t take it and I told him what I was thinking, but just because I wanted him to shut up. I didn’t want to hear what he thought or how he was going to support me in whatever decision I could make I just wanted him to shut up. And he did. He sat down. And after a few minutes he slowly spat out the words
Well, you know...
It’s your right... to choose...”
That’s as far as he could get. He left. I didn’t even ask him to. He just doesn’t understand. None of them do.
When I was 14 years old I saw a girl from my primary school on television. Teiga. She was African, I can’t remember from where. She was always a bitch to me but she had come to England as a refugee, so I always figured... She’d had it tough. Actually, that’s bullshit. I hated her, but I never said anything to her face. The show was about underage pregnancy. She now spoke with a think London accent and I was fucking glad I wasn’t her. I laughed when I saw her face because it was her that had fucked her life up, not me.
Last year I met up with another friend from school. Laura. She was my ‘best’ friend, back when that meant something. She told me about Helen, who she’d run into some months before. She was now married, worked in Bellingham in the offices of a pest control firm and had a kid who was coming up to eight years old. Eight fucking years old. That’s almost how old we were last time I saw that girl. She was always so bright. First to put her hands up, gold stars, good at sports. And there she was with a kid. And for the first time I can think of I was so glad I wasn’t her either.
Why didn’t they get those fucking things aborted and get on with their lives?
I didn’t know when I was 14, I didn’t know last year and I don’t know now.
But I’m just like them. Just like both of them.
I’m getting fat.
A few months ago I couldn’t spell amniotic. I thought it probably had a ‘y’.
(I could, I’m just being mean. But you get the point?)
All this gross medical stuff. I’m a chamber. I feel like their looking at me like a fragile walking test tube. The only interest is what’s inside me.
I was using his computer the other day. Paul’s. And I found some... pictures. Of her. His ex. Her. On his computer. She was lying down and she only had a bra on and she was holding herself open.
I couldn’t see her face, but I knew it was her.
This is who I have, who is going to ‘help me’ and ‘be a good father’. I laughed in his face when he said he would take a bullet for me. Under what exact circumstances this would be applicable, I don’t know.
I’m laughing twice as hard now.
Hospital again. A check up. Waiting, the smell of bleach and not thinking about having a cigarette AT ALL. Those poor old bastards outside, sitting on a wall and discussing their operations or sport results or whatever the hell it is old men outside hospitals talk about.
There was a girl in the same waiting room. She had matted hair and looked in a daze, like she had been sleeping on a bench inside the hospital. It took me a while to realise she was my age. We had both done bar work at the same place. Different times, of course. The Rose and Crown. I tried talk to her about Ian, the manager, but I could tell the words weren’t going in. She was waiting for her boyfriend to wake up.
I bought her a coffee.
I put my hand on my big stomach and I felt it move. I felt this thing. This ‘him’ move inside of me. I don’t know if I can do this, I really don’t. Hope can I support a child on bar wages, with university debts and a ‘boyfriend’ who is too stupid to realise when a condom is broken?
He’s wasn’t even... We don’t... I didn’t even like him that much...
I can’t be stuck with him because of this.
He’s kicking a lot. I sleep with my hand resting on him and coo to him. I wouldn’t ever let anyone know that.
I struggled on the bus today. An old man pushed me on by shoving my arse. I turned round, stared at him and almost popped him in the nose. Old fucking letch.
Funny to think that that was the only sexual attention I’ve had in months, since I found out. Everyone else views me as a porcelain Madonna.
I’m still going shopping, despite my mother’s protesting. No matter how much of a struggle it is, I’m not going to be waited on.
I was so tired that night, I finally let Paul come round and do the cooking for me. I still wouldn’t let him stay over, though.
This thing inside of me. I can look after it.
I can look after him.
This little boy.
I can give him a name.