Aguas Calientes: A Short Story

An expecting couple prepares for the unexpected.

by Lauren Grodstein ’97CC, ’01SOA Published Fall 2010
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I don’t know, I said, thinking, oh these foreigners, and their touchingly foreign sense of what’s appropriate to ask another person.

Steven was either sleeping or he wasn’t, but either way he wasn’t listening, all blissed-out and lightheaded in the stinky water, so I felt safe saying: We might not have any children at all. We’re both really into our work.

She went quiet again, and maybe we both sort of dozed, but then the sun came out of the clouds and we started talking again. The conversation veered to this and that: her work at a local hotel, the tourists who come to this part of the Andes, our luck with the weather. She liked Aguas Calientes, she said, even though it was a make-believe town, a tourist construction, and a tourist trap. I told her I liked it, too.

Best wishes, she said to me, when I got out of the pool. Good luck to you both. She shaded her eyes against the sun. May you have a very happy life together. And children.

Oh, I said, well, thank you. A little bit grateful for her wishes, but a little bit snarky, too: Thank you, I said, and as for the children, I guess time will tell.

It was fun back then to be cavalier.

The mimosa arrived in a sparkling glass with a blue rim. The pooling light shined through it and left a church-window pattern on the table. If I went much past Thursday, they would induce. I was supposed to be monitoring his movement all the time, every hour, and go to the hospital immediately if anything seemed off.

“He’ll be incredible, you know,” Steven said, after a long time of not saying anything.

“After a fashion.”

“No,” Steven said. “Just incredible.”

His blue eyes. My singing voice. I had said to Steven, weakly, after we found out, that we didn’t have to do this. But, you know. The look on my husband’s face.

“I can’t wait to meet him,” Steven said.

“I know.”

We’d planned to name him William but already we called him Buster, which is what we used to call the fatter and wilier of our two house cats. The smarter one. Before we gave him away, Buster used to paw open our sock drawer and curl up inside and take his naps there. He’d fill up the sock drawer with his bulk. Our new Buster would never have bulk. Our new Buster would never be smart. But still there were similarities between the two of them: As though he were a house cat, we might have to put this Buster in another’s care after Steven and I could no longer do the job, after we were too exhausted or too old or dead. Not even the best doctors could predict what would happen. He could go either way, they told us. Almost normal, even. Or maybe he would never learn to say his own name.

I drained my mimosa. Residential programs in our area cost $45,000 a year, and there was always a chance we’d need to find one by the time he was an adolescent. That afternoon I was supposed to go online, research ways to finagle Medicaid.

“He’ll be incredible,” Steven said. “Like you. Is he kicking?”

The odd thing was he hadn’t moved since last night.

“Oh, yes,” I said. I fiddled with my empty glass, moved it around in the pool of light on the table. “Oh, yes,” I said. “I can feel him,” I said. “There he goes.”

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