Whenever my son’s birthday draws near each year, I take a second to reminisce about the whole delivery experience. The stirrup shooting across the room. My mistaking it for my son. The three nurses wrestling a flailing, glistening leg back into its place, as if grappling a crocodile into a sack. My son peeing like a loose garden hose over the delivery room doctor and staff. I could go on and on, but hey, we all have our treasured stories.
However, once those memories are neatly wrapped up and filed away for another day, I am always left to ponder another miracle of sorts. You see, there was ample reason for me to be dead on his arrival. Deader than dead. Beyond “door nail” dead. No, not from some kind of life threatening disease, or terrible car accident, or bad sushi. I was lucky to be alive because I wasn’t murdered.
Have you ever said something kind of nasty about someone behind his or her back only to discover he or she is standing right behind your back? You know that feeling? How you kind of want to crawl away, after that initial knot of dread subsides from the pit of your stomach. Well, I committed such an indiscretion except only a hundred times worse. It was the zenith of things dumb. Truly the king of all “manstakes”. I did something so wrong that my heart palpitates like a Ginger Baker drum solo every time I replay a second of it in my head. As a matter of fact, it’s happening right now as I type. And in its wake, I reflect on my great fortune, that I was allowed to live for my son’s birth.
The atrocity occurred about four weeks before the delivery, which was several weeks earlier than expected. So let’s set the clock at the beginning of the eighth month. It was a pleasantly warm, early April afternoon. Birds were chirping. Flowers were springing. Children were giggling as they skipped to and fro. All was blue sky and sunshine. With joy in the air and anticipation bursting, we decided to go to the mall to do a little diversionary shopping. Eventually, we meandered our way to the earrings glass case at Bloomingdales.
It all unraveled quite suddenly from there.
I was distracted a moment while she engaged the salesperson in a conversation about a particular set of gold hoop earrings under the case. I remember sensing a misplaced silence in the sing-song cadence of their background conversation—similar to elevator music suddenly stopping. When I turned my attention back to her, she was bent over the jewelry case. Her head to the side pressed against the glass. Eyes dull. Glasses crooked. She looked like the letter “b” rotated 90° clockwise. Her warm breath cast a shallow silhouette of life against the cool glass. The salesperson was crouching down to make contact with her.
At that instant, the stars and planets of male intellect were all lined up. The wheels of stupidity were in motion. It was time for me to execute the perfect ‘jackass of the century’ maneuver.
I looked down at her. Assured by her visible breath that she was still alive, I performed a reflex, visual sweep of the growing number of curious onlookers. Having confirmed she was indeed the one drawing all the hubbub, I returned my attention back to her. With an indignant tone in my voice, bordering on a Rodney Dangerfield punch-line delivery, I callously spoke a bunch of words that would forever be regretted.
“Honey? What are ya doin’?” Pregnant pause, so to speak. “You’re embarrassing me.”
Oh yeah! You heard it right. That’s what I said. Take a second or two to mull it over. Chew on the entire morsel for a bit. Taste the sour residue it leaves on the tongue.
As my words dissipated over the open mouths and popping eyes of those nearby, the salesperson looked at me as if I had just spit the devil’s blood on her counter. In a way, I had done far worse.
I looked at the salesperson incredulously. “What?” I asked.
My simple question snapped her out of her dagger stare.
“Ma’am you need a chair?” she asked. She didn’t wait for an answer. She yelled across the counter to a salesperson on the floor. “Sylvia! Get this woman a chair! NOW!”
“Would you like a glass of water ma’am?” she asked the fading, pregnant stranger spread across her counter.
To my credit, it had only been seconds since I uttered the sentence heard round the mall, and I already knew I had done something really wrong—something severely punishable in most civilized circles. I reached over to put my arm around her and comfort her, while Sylvia, who made double sure not to touch me in the process for fear of feeling Satan’s reach, pushed a chair against her legs.
Pale and faint, she incoherently mumbled, “doht ... ta ... meh ... yeh ... basser”.
“What honey? Here sit down. That’s better. What are you trying to tell me dear?”
“DON’T TOUCH ME YOU BASTARD!!!”
I recoiled back in disbelief and glanced at the salesperson for a sympathetic nod.
“And don’t touch me either! In fact, I recommend that you just shut your big mouth up now before you kill this poor woman,” she abruptly added, her eyes dilated in sisterhood rage.
I thought it wise to heed her advice.
When the color returned to her cheeks, we left the mall—earrings would wait another day. During the drive home, I received a rather robust and ribald tongue lashing that continued out of the car, up the stairs, and into our second floor apartment. Upon its completion, I was sentenced to nine days of the silent treatment. Real silent I might add—she was a professional. It deserved me right!
Needless to say, I remained on best behavior for about twenty three months. By then her pain was pretty much over. I, on the other hand, continued to endure some residual humiliation during public apology appearances. It was part of my confession tour, an idea I came up with as a way to channel the negative vibes into positive energy—or something like that.
Occasional public shame though was small potatoes compared to what could have (and probably should have) transpired. The reality is, if she had a gun on her person at the time, I’d be history. If the salesperson had a gun, I’d definitely be history. In fact, if anyone had a gun within a square mile of the mall, I’d certainly, definitely be history. But my life was spared. I believe it was so that I might live to talk about it with you today.
So there you have it. An amazing story huh?
Anyway, that is what I always end up thinking about every time my son’s birthday arrives—a haunting memory of a moment’s inappropriate indulgence in vile self absorption. It’s enough to make me question whether I can ever fully rejoin the human race.
In closing …
I’ve been sorry about a boat load of things in my life but never more fully or sincerely as I was after that episode of unexplainable senselessness. It was all my own doing too. Couldn’t blame it on a bad day at work. Couldn’t blame it on the media. Couldn’t blame it on the weather. Couldn’t even blame it on my mom wooden-spooning my sorry childhood buttocks. It’s one hundred percent owned by me.
And I’m just as sorry today as I was twenty two years ago! Actually, my remorse is greater, almost universal. In fact, I want to apologize to all women of all species who were pregnant, are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just learning to spell ‘pregnant’. I am very sorry for the monumental insensitivity I exhibited that day at the expense of one of your sisters.
As for you men or “same-sexer partners” out there who plan to play a supportive role in the whole pregnancy thing some day, listen up! Learn from my folly. Teach others so they may not walk in my steps. Remember!
Never, ever go to the mall with a pregnant person.