14 Jan 98

Whiteout Day

Tonight, at work, I stood on the deck and watched the cars drive down Amsterdam.

We do not want to produce a baby one month into cohabitation, so Karen holds a brown paper bag filled with medicine.

I wrote myself into her history: she's nineteen, and it's her first possible baby. I'm more important than Alexander or Aristotle, to her.

My hand brushed her eyelids. "Wake up, wake up, wake up, I'm home," from a trip to see my brother's new daughter. She stirred, face squeezed, smiling. I pressed my mouth against her neck, kissed, and snuck in like a succubus. Later, fully awake, she grabbed my satisfied arm:

"I forgot my pill. I forgot it the last two days."

I am also Herodotus, and in need of revision. Now we are sitting on stools in the kitchen, and I'm obsessed with the practicality, the ethical comfort, and elegance of a small orange physic. It will refuse one thing the privilege of attaching to another.

She swallows it, drinks the green accompanying tonic, gags. I look on in dumb sympathy, sharing the Darwinian moment.

I don't know anything better than my brass zipper pulled down slowly, the clasp pinched between fingers, or the slow tilt-slide-release of undoing buttons on blue jeans, eyes locked above shifting hands. I don't know anything worse than the consequence: as the clothing falls to cover the shoes, the genetic zipper fastens.

We choose the morning-after pill, and that ends this story. I imagine the alternative: a whiteout day, pulling the tiny weedy fingers into mittens, attaching the mittens to the coat, the coat fastened and snapped, the hat buttoned to cover the miniature ears, their patterns of cartilege as delicate as conch shells. The little shirt tucks into the pants, and my hand connects to her mitten.

Is the coat too tight? Her quilted jacket is the color of scrubbed pink skin. We walk out the door into the glare. The weekend is over. I am driving her to her mother's apartment, keeping my daughter warm.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

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