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Hey don’t judge me. When I married Leandro I thought everything was sorted, that I wasn’t ever going to have to worry about men or parties or what my family thought. But I was just kidding myself. Thing is, you think you’ve found the right man for you and that’s that. You say goodbye to single life and have to listen to stuff like “so, one man for the rest of your life, eh?” And I did like Lê. You convince yourself that you wanted to enjoy life when you were young, you slept with a whole load of guys to see what was out there. Cos time passes by, you know? You had to make the most of your youth. That’s exactly it, right? You only live once. You had to enjoy the body you had, the energy you had, you had to discover new things. After a person gets married then what? You spend your whole life a fool without a sexual repertoire, you don’t learn anything and you think that your husband with his 8-centimetre pot belly is great.[private]
I got married before all my friends, partly by accident I reckon. I was bored. Everyone gets bored. I met Lê sort of by accident as well, ha. You can never explain these things. The place you weren’t going to go. The time you weren’t going to go. I liked Lê. He made a change from those guys who only noticed me when I was making a joke. I liked going to different places, watching films, meeting new people because they were unfamiliar, intriguing, challenging. Because they were challenges I didn’t find particularly difficult. It was all a real novelty and I went with the flow. Because Lê never said that he wouldn’t succeed; he paid attention to detail. The time we spent together was always the same: I did the things that I didn’t want to do and that I normally wouldn’t, but it was all alright in the end. The wedding decorations were tasteful floral arrangements chosen by Lê’s mother, my aunts cried, my mum said some silly stuff, my friends reeled off the usual wedding spiel, “Love is patient, it is kind, love isn’t jealous, don’t treat it lightly…” what was next? I forget. The only thing I felt was pity for my friends, my darling friends, who might die alone – unlike me. I was going to die with Lê, the man of my dreams, the right man for me. I was sure of it.
Years went on like our relationship, you know? They were actually quite enjoyable. Lê and I, we travelled a lot. Once we went to Orlando and I lived out my childhood dream of going to Disney. We have loads of photos of those times.
At some point Lê had started to talk about children. It didn’t bother me that he was talking about children, what bothered me is that he spoke so much and never asked me what I thought. He never came up to me and said, “I think this, what do you think?” you know? It irritated me. He started to talk about other people’s children, about having children, about financial planning, the future. But no one asked if I wanted to talk about something else. Then he started saying that we should have children, that the time was right, that everyone was having children, that if we waited too long we would be too old to have children. I did in fact agree with him but it wasn’t as if Lê realised because he was too busy talking all the time.
Then I stopped taking the pill. Was it intentional? I dunno if it was. All I know is that it was Leandro’s idea. He said that I wasn’t going to get pregnant right after I stopped taking it, that the effect of the hormones would take time to leave my system, that if we were planning to plan, it would be a good idea to start to stop taking the pill. He said that we could use condoms in the meantime. But he forgot to buy condoms and when I said that I didn’t want to fool around he threw a strop. It was this same crap for a while until I said that I was gonna go back on the pill. That was when my period came late.
The first thing I did was to pray, in secret. That’s all I did, though it had been a long time since I had even held a Bible. That feeling of “I shouldn’t have taken the pill: now Jesus hates me: Jesus is going to punish me and give me triplets.” But you pray. Not in church, obviously, but at home, and you keep your fingers crossed. When I was one week late I finally told Lê. He was thrilled, obviously, it wasn’t his uterus. It’s very easy to want to be a father; you don’t have an elephant growing inside of you and when the elephant weighs 3kg it comes out through…? Ah well. That’s just how it is. Leandro was very happy and bought me a pregnancy test, one of the ones from the pharmacy. He bought it because he wanted me to go through the slog of doing the test. I took the test with me in my bag and told him that I would do it after a family thing I had.
I have a little cousin who’s in pre-school. He’s my cousin in pre-school that can talk. He’s my cousin’s son, this boy. A friend’s dad told me that one has a different type of relationship with a cousin who’s in pre-school. Anyway, this cousin’s son, he wasn’t exactly wanted when he was born, you know? An accidental pregnancy. My cousin didn’t even marry the kid’s mum. Also the mum’s a bit irresponsible and now he’s mainly looked after by the grandparents. The boy’s grandparents are my uncle and aunt. There I was with this uncle and aunt, my grandma and two unmarried aunts of mine. They are around sixty and live with my gran. These aunts have never lived away from my gran’s house. They say that it’s so they can look after her, ha, yeah right. So anyway, I had this family lunch and was eating with this part of my family and my mum was late (timing-wise). Ronaldo, my little cousin-in-pre-school was also there. Yeah, he’s called that after the footballer. Eurgh. One of those retarded family decisions that you had no part in, you know? It was the little bastard’s brother (on his mother’s side) that gave him the name, Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is two and a half and still wears nappies. He’s totally dependent on nappies and can’t live without them. When we were leaving my mum told me that Freud connects his anal stage theory with the imposition of boundaries on a child, that the way this issue is dealt with during childhood will resurface at a later age, and the fact that Ronaldo still uses nappies is a visible sign of the lack of boundaries put on him. My mum also said that nappies are a way a child can retain control over his parents. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand it all but I liked the idea. And that thing about boundaries is true; my aunts think that just because Ronaldo wasn’t a ‘wanted’ child, he should get everything he wants when he goes to his gran’s house. Poor gran.
We were eating when the boy wanted some juice, so my aunts gave him juice and they made that clink-clink sound, that noise with their cups, like a toast, you know? Then my aunt (one of the ones that doesn’t have children and lives with my gran) poked me and said “do it, do it” meaning I should clink glasses with the boy too. So I did it, everyone on the table did it. The boy then said that he wanted to sleep and the boy likes sleeping with other people, so my aunt (the same one) poked me and said “ask him if he wants to sleep with you.” I didn’t say anything, and she said “say, ‘are you going to sleep with me later?’, ‘say it!’” I still didn’t say anything and made a face that said ‘eh?’ and she poked me again to say it. So I said “why don’t you ask if he wants to sleep with you, then?” The table fell silent. At one point the boy said that he was afraid of me (I suppose it’s because I don’t go gaga at everything he does) and so his great aunts used me to pressure him whenever he did anything wrong by saying stuff like “Look out cos Jessica is watching you from over there.”
My cousin arrived while we were having coffee after lunch, and my aunt (the same one again) shouted at my cousin-in-pre-school to imitate a baby angel, “what does a baby angel do?” So the boy threw himself on the floor and did something. I couldn’t help thinking of a performing monkey. While he was doing this I focussed my attention on my coffee. I still had to go home and do the test. Luckily today my aunts hadn’t asked about when Leandro and I were thinking of having children or anything which was good. While I was concentrating on my coffee, my aunt (you can guess which one) poked me and said “Jessica! Look at what Ronaldo is doing.” I pretended I had to leave.
Lê was at work when I got home. I went straight to the bathroom. I peed on the stick with some difficulty and waited for the result. Blue was negative, pink was positive. While I waited, I had my mobile in my hand and Lê’s number on speed dial. Despite the strange situation, despite how it happened by accident, it was him I thought about. I wasn’t going to pray. I was going to think about someone real, who I could see. I asked myself if I wanted a baby and I think that at the time I did. I thought it would have been good for me. I think that at the end of the day, I agreed with Lê, right? I thought that it was the right time to have a child. Everyone had a baby and I could have one too. The bathroom was very cold while I was waiting. I thought about getting a jumper. What could I call my baby? Rosa.
The end of the stick turned pink.
I called Lê. The phone was ringing. I didn’t know what to say. He picked up the phone.
“Hi,” I replied. “I went to the thing at my grans.”
“How was it?”
“It was good. How are things over there?”
“Fine, the usual routine at a bog-standard company,” he said and laughed. “Did you get home ok?”
“And,” he said, “did you do the test?”
“Yeah,” I said, “it was negative… the test. The test was negative.”
He went quiet.
“Darling, let’s speak later ok?” He spoke just like that, very dry. “I can’t really talk right now. I’ll try and come home as quickly as I can, I think that I can be home in an hour.”
“Ok,” I said.
“Ok,” he said.
“Lots of love.”
“Lots of love.”
“Bye,” I said. And that’s how we ended the call.
But like I said, please don’t go judging me.[/private]
Translated by Gitanjali Patel.
Gitanjali Patel has a degree in Spanish and Portuguese from Oxford University. She has lived in Rio de Janeiro, where she worked for UNICEF and translated for authors such as the novela writer Gisele Joras. She is currently in London, working as a researcher on Latin America.