Baby Shower

by Maria Lapachet

The woman that is covering her mouth is no longer the woman she used to be. Water runs freely over her right hip. Foam runs down her body as she shaves her legs. She left Freeport two months ago, but she can smell John Werthner's sweat over her body as if they had been together the night before. Salty, clean, and hot, John's saliva tastes like the sea, and burns her skin even under this pure, cold, distant water. Vomit escapes now through her fingers as the tears roll down her face.

While she dries her hair, she is thinking about how fast things have changed. Three months earlier, they were at Captain Ben's Fish Market buying some clams and scungilli. While he was looking for the Chilean bass, she ran to enter the tiny, claustrophobic, white restroom filled with cleaning products and decadent seascape pictures framed in extraordinarily bad taste. The same restroom in which more than once they pressed their bodies against the others in a hurry. It wasn't the first sign of alarm. A month earlier she had gone to a doctor, "a routine visit" she would tell him, who confirmed her suspicions. She was then six weeks pregnant.

Sitting in the cold, white lavatory, she wasn't sure whether to tell him or not. She held her head in her hands while considering that John was the kind of man who has more than enough with his own problems. A coward. He would deny it, he would refuse any responsibility, he would call her a liar or, even worse, a whore. Then, having the excuse he had been waiting for so long, he would leave her. Jennifer was no dumb. She knew he wasn't committed at all. When she met him three years ago, he was committed to another woman, his wife, and that situation hadn't changed. He never said, "I'm going to leave her." It conformed her that, at least, he never used the typical "I can't leave her now, she is not okay, she has a mental problem" that some of her friends had heard from other men. John tried to talk about his wife as little as possible, and when Jennifer wanted to talk about the subject, he avoided straight answers.

After dining, John was holding her in his arms. "I love you," he whispered. "Oh, Jennie, I love you so much. I'd like things to be different." He sounded sincere, but he was looking at the clock she had over her night table to see if he was in time to go and play the role of the dedicated husband.

Until that night, until that precise moment, she was happy with what they had. She knew they weren't the typical couple of lovers, and was somehow proud of their mature relationship. Jennifer believed that they had a serious relationship. Maybe a strange relationship in the eyes of the rest of the world, but a serious and steady one in her eyes. She thought that his marriage was only an obstacle they would conquer some day. She believed they would end living together. She wanted to live with him. She wanted to live with him so badly . . . But she knew that she couldn't hurry the situation. She and Kathy, one of her friends from the college years, fantasized about getting into his house, throwing out his wife's toiletries, slashing any photo of the two of them she could find, and sleeping in their bed while they were away. Or going to that karaoke bar he goes with her and their mutual friends to stand in front of them and sing a psycho version of "Under My Skin." Or sending the happy couple a basket filled with their favorite chocolate-poisoned.

John was holding her, not knowing that he was taking away the little self-esteem she had left with the cheap words he was using to justify his departure. "We are both mature, and know what's best for both of us, don't we?" She knew it was time to go for him, and that she had another long, lonely sleepless night in front of her. She was mature enough to understand that things were better that way, but, at the same time, she couldn't avoid thinking that things were better only for him. And she could understand that he had to keep the appearances, but couldn't understand why he was leaving her alone. She could understand that his family needed him, but couldn't avoid wondering why he was leaving her A-L-O-N-E. And she could understand that he was a loving father, but couldn't understand why they had to sleep in the same bed. And she could understand that he was losing more than her while wasting his family's quality time to be with her, but couldn't understand why it didn't seem to be enough for her when she was supposed to be a modern, mature, and independent woman in her midthirties who would accept that situation happily. And that tortured her. Was she an independent, mature woman or a perfect idiot? While John was rubbing her arms, she was in a distant place. She could understand that he had to leave, but still, she couldn't understand why he had to tell her he loved her while looking in the night table direction to find out what time it was. "Oh, that's it. That is it! I know better than this. Fuck him!" she said to herself.

John was getting dressed, and she knew it would be the last time she saw his pitiful ritual. Sometimes everything he said sounded like a lie, but she wanted to believe him. And that night she wanted him to stay, but she just said, "John, go home," and opened the door for him. That was the night she decided to leave him.

As she was lying on the bed in her bedroom, all she could hear was the distant sound of the crickets outside. She foresaw a damned headache and an uncertain future.

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