As soon as I see the doctor squeeze out the first dollop of clear gel from the tube, I start to realize that this is real. The moment it touches my girlfriend’s raw, stretched-out stomach she makes a little gasping sound like it’s cold as hell, but she relaxes once the initial shock wears off. I think about asking the doctor where we could pick up a tube of that for home but Molly gave me quite the talking to on the drive home last week, because apparently I asked about the consumer availability of the hospital soap way too much during the consultation.
The doctor takes a white, plastic device out of a rack. It looks a lot like Molly’s lady razor that’s clipped to the wall of my shower enclosure. Before all this happened, when we used to shower together, and while waiting for my turn under the water, I’d act like I was irritated with something or other that she had done the previous day. I’d take her razor off the wall and hold it to my ear like I was calling security to get her out of my shower. I’d say, “Security? Yeah. Take ‘er out.” She used to really laugh at that. There’s nothing like making a woman laugh when she’s in your shower. We stopped the whole showering together thing after the first trimester. Actually, she stopped it.
After struggling with the cord that’s all curly-q’d up like a pig’s tail, the doctor presses the flat end of the device into the goop and starts smearing it all around Molly’s belly, quadrant by quadrant. The ball of goo flattens into a glazed whorl all the way around until it makes her nice and shiny.
I feel like I have a moment to myself. As if there’s a dead zone where nothing is expected of me until the doctor is finished. Once that happens, then I’ll know that this is real: more real than before the goop ball, or the ride in the elevator, or the car ride over here, or the long talk in my living room we had last night, or her mother getting up in my face with that perm. I hate that perm.
I turn my head and look out the fourth story window. It’s around noon now, and the streets under the clinic are dwarfed by the half-constructed Breast Cancer Institute. On our first trip here together it was a parking lot. A really convenient one, too. When I realized the construction site just destroyed my prime parking spot, I made some comment as we drove to lot double-Z next to the English knick-knack shop that Molly insisted we stop at after her first appointment because she wanted to find something called Marmite.
“You don’t see anyone building a multi-million dollar research facility for testicular diseases.”
Molly only said, “Yeah, you guys are so neglected aren’t you?” I’ve got to stand by my point though. I’ve never seen the word “testicular” hanging on the side of a building in backlit letters three feet high.
I can see down to the donut shop on the corner. A young man and woman emerge from the glass doors into the mid-day light. He’s carrying about ten boxes of donuts in front of him. Donuts don’t weigh much, but apparently if you’ve got enough of them they must weigh a ton because he looks like he’s really struggling, trying to hold the stack steady with his chin holding down the top box. The wind picks up and he wavers for a second. I see the green ribbon tied around the young woman’s hair flap in the breeze. Then I see her try to steady the donut stack but he seems to brush her off like he’s sure he has it.
They stop for a moment as if confused. I can see her mouth move at him and he actually moves his right arm as if he wants to look at his watch, but it’s almost as if he does so out of reflex, like he’s forgetting that his arms are full. The breeze picks up again just as a pristine black 1971 Plymouth Hemicuda roars by them. He stumbles, catches his balance, and makes a valiant attempt to hold the boxes steady, but overcompensates and, sure enough, the top box slides to the sidewalk right on its front corner, ensuring that the top flips open, and a dozen pink and blue donuts tumble all over the sidewalk. I watch one roll like a doughy wheel off the curb and into the street where a second Hemicuda, this one white and not nearly as pristine, flattens it. The donut stays stuck to the car’s wheel, a mushed up wad of bread and sugar going around and around as the car drives out of sight.
I can only see the young woman from behind. She seems to be shaking. From as high up as I am, she looks like a ribbony whirligig of hair and shaking fists. He’s beet-red with the kind of goatee I got rid of months ago. He’s shaking his head and I’m guessing he’s trying to explain. My kinship with all men is making me telepathically beam my defenses down to him. Honestly, she couldn’t check her cell phone for the time?
And then I see her put her hands on his arm very quickly, and then back to her face. She turns just enough, and I see she’s actually laughing in mad fits. I can’t hear it through the glass, but I can tell it’s that kind of laughing that erupts out of a woman with such sudden force she ends up snorting, which always makes her laugh more.
Suddenly I’d give anything to be in the shower with my girlfriend again, just like how we used to be. I’d rub a quarter-sized blob of her cherished imported shampoo through her hair while she’d crane her soapy head back into my palms and ask what we had to do that day. I’d say “nothing.” Then she’d sigh and say “Nothing. Sounds wonderful.”
I don’t want to look at the laughing donut couple anymore. I don’t want to see what they decide to do with the donuts scattered at their feet like wonderful offerings. I turn my head back into the examination room just in time to see an image of a grey shapeless mass twitching on the screen in front of us. The screen itself has lines across it, making it look like our baby is just off the centre of a bombsight. I’m thinking about actually mentioning that out loud when I look up from the screen and see my girlfriend and the doctor looking at me. Time seems to slow and I see them frozen for a moment, looking at me with wide eyes and expectant smiles. I know they just said something to me, and it was probably the kind of special thing about “blessings” where you really need to have something important to say back after they say it. I look at Molly’s face: the doubt, disbelief, and irritation just starting to cross the outer markers of her happy facial features, before I say the first thing that comes to my mind, which is, “Wow. There’s not much time left, is there?”
Then I see the doctor look away from me and awkwardly back down to her chart. Molly’s smile has now dripped halfway off of her face and I hear a third roar from the street below and now I’m wondering just how many Hemicudas are circling the streets down there, or if one is chasing the other, or if there’s a convention, or if Molly would like to watch Phantasm II with me when we got home. I’d make popcorn for her and even put it in that red bowl she insists on eating popcorn out of even though it would stay warmer longer if she’d just keep it in the bag. I wouldn’t mind if she covered her eyes during the gory parts, and when the Hemicuda in that film flips over and explodes, then I’d tell her about what I saw out the window. Then she’d understand why seeing two and hearing a third in such a short time span was such an odd occurrence. It’s such a rare car.
Phantasm II is a ninety minute film, for God’s sake. Just ninety minutes. That’s all I want. That and for her to shake her fists at me and laugh.