Aguas Calientes: A Short Story

An expecting couple prepares for the unexpected.

by Lauren Grodstein ’97CC, ’01SOA Published Fall 2010
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Illustration by Vivienne FlesherThe odd thing was he hadn’t moved since last night. That’s what I was thinking about, and also the prices on the menu: $14.50 for goat cheese pancakes, $18 for a crab omelet. This restaurant was famous for its brunches. Steven and I decided to try it out today since we’d passed it, longingly, on so many other occasions. One last hurrah before my water broke. We murmured to each other that we deserved it. We never ate at places like this while I was pregnant, or even before, and once the baby was born we wouldn’t again.

“So what I’m thinking is I’d love a mimosa,” I said, but what I was really thinking was that I’d love a stiff martini, and then another.

“So order one.”

Steven had been great throughout the pregnancy, typically great, never barking at me for drinking coffee or going jogging or worrying every so often that I looked fat — not pregnant fat, but fat-person fat. Never once did he tell me I was being selfish or ridiculous or, God forbid, that I was glowing. He massaged my preposterous size-10 feet. “The doctor said a glass every so often is fine, right? Especially toward the end?”

“They’re 12 dollars,” I pointed out.

“We’re celebrating,” Steven said, and reached out and held my hand. We’d been making ourselves celebrate, anticipate, act like other expectant parents in a million ways. Just two days earlier, we’d bought a car seat and a bottle warmer and three organic cotton onesies.

I attempted to make eye contact with the waitress.

“Come on,” he said. “Fake it for me.”

“I’m not faking anything,” I said, my eyes scanning the big, empty room.

When we found out I was finally pregnant, we speculated: Steven’s blue eyes or my perfect vision? His full, Russian mouth or my loose, jazzy singing voice? Or maybe my hair (thick and curly) and his patience (endless, endless). We’d sat on the couch with the pink stick and gazed serenely at it. For some reason I had assumed it was a girl.

I think, deep down, we’d always wanted children, although when we were in our late 20s, newlyweds, we told ourselves that between the melting ice caps and the surging terrorists, it was downright irresponsible to bring a child into the world. Besides, we liked to sleep ’til noon and spend all of our money on concert tickets — a Hall & Oates reunion, Lollapalooza — so what kind of parents would childish people like us be? Still, predictably — my mother, my sister, my cousins all called it — by the time I celebrated my 31st birthday, biology had me in a choke hold. I drank too much chardonnay that night and announced to Steven it was time. He pushed my hair out of my eyes. Really? He was delighted. I nodded, dribblingly, and we made love right there on our floor. And then I closed my eyes and prayed to every god I knew that I hadn’t made an enormous mistake. When I finally got my period, I thanked Allah, Vishnu, Christ.

But that was four years ago, and we’re wiser now. We planned to have this baby, we’d done everything right: Steven found clients he could count on, and I’d landed a high school job with tenure. We’d bought a house near the big town park; we’d traded in our rambunctious house cats for a parakeet. We wanted this baby so badly. It took us so many months to get pregnant.

“You feeling OK?”

“I’m feeling great,” I said. And I was, more or less.

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