The Drive Home

I vaguely remember getting into my car. It was like I was on auto-pilot. I must have turned the stereo on sometime in between then and now, but I can’t seem to remember when. I try really hard to keep my eyes on the road but my eyes keep drifting to the front passenger’s seat. Or rather to that brilliant pink envelope lying on it innocently. I must have tossed it on the seat too after strapping myself to the driver’s seat. Brilliant pink, seriously. It’s like dipping bitter pill in sugar coating and then wrapping it up in candy paper. Pity they didn’t do anything about the hospital stench that the envelope is emanating. I sniff around for the umpteenth time, and yet again, somewhere in the pale lavender of my car perfume I can smell the depression and gloom that hospitals have always meant to me. I take one hand off the steering wheel and sniff my wrist this time. Ah, Calvin Klein. Some solace after all.
A tiny part of me says this isn’t so dreadful. That the worst is over now that I actually know what’s in store. The next moment I scoff at that part of me. Last month when I started feeling fatigued and sometimes nauseated I thought maybe all I needed was a break from work. The offshore account that I had been handling and the different time zones was getting to me more than I was ready to admit. But there were presentations to make, reports to write, and I kept postponing the doctor’s appointment until today. And even that was because Yash went golfing and I was bored sitting indoors on a happy sunny Saturday. Happy sunny could go to hell for all I care now.
I’d rather not think about what happened since I went into Dr. Devi’s chamber. All I can think of is the faded poster of pudgy little babies she had stuck on her wall, and how much I’d wanted to tell her she should probably think of getting a new décor. But before I could ask her for a prescription for some supplements she dropped the bomb.
Ugh. Even thinking of it makes me want to throw up. Or maybe it is the…
This can’t be happening to me. No, it can’t. We had talked about this, Yash and I. Three more years. That’s what we had decided, hadn’t we?
“Fate, Gayatri”, Dr. Devi said when she figured I wasn’t going to break the silence in the room, and for a moment I almost expected her to say something about a baby being God’s blessing and all. But then again, she knows me well enough to know I have always been an atheist.
So is that it, then? Some crazy God’s crazy notion of making me believe in the so called super powers? To make me realize that no matter how much we plan, and believe that everything is in our hands, some things will never be?
Ah, Bap Kennedy. Moonlight Kiss. Lovely, lovely song. What was the movie again? The one after which I fell in love with John Cussack? Right, Serendipity. Beat that if you can. Even my stereo’s playing me songs from a movie that is about a fortunate accident. But what is fortunate about this? What on earth am I supposed to do with a baby I don’t want?
Maybe I don’t have to have it after all.
NO!
I almost bump into the Toyota in front of me. Damn you jumpy foot on the accelerator!
What is wrong with me? How can I even think of something like this? Haven’t I always been a staunch pro-life believer? Sigh. Must be the hormones. Funny how everything that happens from now on can be and will be blamed upon the hormones. Ice-cream cravings at the dead of the night? Hormones. “Sudden” distaste for jumbo prawns? Hormones. I smile at the possibilities, and the number of things I can now get away with.
But they also say pregnant women develop sudden repulsions for certain foods and smells. What if I start getting repulsed by my latest Nina Ricci? Or worse still, what if I start getting repulsed by all of my perfumes? Imagine having to stink of sweat just because you can’t spritz perfume on your skin without throwing up. Ah, the horror.
Thinking of smells reminds me of the faint hospital stench still lingering inside the car. Maybe a little fresh air ought to do the trick. I turn the AC off, and roll down the windows, only to get the full blast of the mid-summer heat. Three more months of this, they say, until it starts getting cooler. That’s three months of feeling hot and bothered and then five more months of feeling even more hot and bothered until…
Am I really considering this, then? Dr. Devi says given my health record there shouldn’t be any complications. And yet she added that the first three months are crucial and I ought to be careful. Careful doing what, I remember thinking. Yash is the health fanatic, not me. All I do is sit in front of a laptop screen all day long. Now why is it that I see this sudden flash of a very pregnant me, trying to fit into a business suit? I let out a giggle. Hilarious, that would be.
I realize I haven’t glanced at the report for almost five minutes now, which is an improvement. Even the hospital stench seems to have gone. I roll up the windows and turn the AC back on. It is a long drive back home. But then again, Dr. Devi’s known me for such a long time I can never consider going to any other doctor. And now she has gone and recommended a gynecologist. A new person who will probe me and poke me and ask me all sorts of personal questions. And Yash? Yash will definitely not appreciate being pulled into all of this…
Yash. How am I ever going to tell him? Honey, so sorry but all those marvelous trips to exotic places you had planned for the next three years? You have to go alone. No, no. Don’t cancel anything for my sake, or for the baby’s. Just go. And that magic number that you wanted our bank account to reach? Sorry darling, but kindergartens have become so very expensive these days. Not to mention baby sitters, if I join my job right after. All our night outs, and late sleep-ins? Let’s just kiss them good bye, hon. Everything will be about the baby now, you know.
I laugh maniacally as I imagine Yash walking into his golf club dragging a baby in his tow instead of his golfing gear. The driver in the car next to me throws me quizzical glances. I wave at him, and he shakes his head and drives a little faster. Yeah right. Stay away from the crazy pregnant lady. And then I remember it will be months before I start showing. Until then I am just the crazy lady.
A single tear streams from my left eye and then from my right, and before I know it, I am sobbing all over my steering wheel. This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t the plan, I keep thinking. Yash will hate me for being pregnant.
But wait a minute. How is this my fault? If this is a mistake, even Yash is a part of it. Heck, Yash is equally part of it. I pull my car over and park it under a huge Gulmohar tree that overlooks the children’s park. I bend over the steering wheel and let the sobs take over me. I am not ready. I mean, I don’t even know anyone who’s ready! All the friends I know are still talking about shopping binges and drunken nights and unfair promotions and impossible bosses. And until yesterday even I was one of them. This is so not fair! I can’t be the woman who ruins all parties by telling stories of her baby no one wants to hear. I can’t be all, “Oh my baby has learnt her first word, you know. She can now say Mommy” or “My baby took her first steps today!” or….
Hang on… Why am I referring to the unborn as a she? Am I rooting for the baby to be a girl? I start scoffing at myself yet again when something stops me. Maybe, just maybe, I am partial towards a daughter.
No. I will love it no matter what the baby’s sex.
Did I just say I will love it?
I lift my head up and look at myself in the rearview mirror. My kohl is all smudged and I look like a raccoon. My nose looks all red and ugly and my face is blotched. Repulsed, I dig inside my handbag for wet tissues and hurriedly wipe my face. Won’t do any good for Yash to see an ugly face bearing bad news. As I wipe the kohl off my eyes, I notice my eyes. Light brown, just like Mom’s. Mom would be so happy to hear about the baby. Maybe the baby will have my eyes too. Oh, but Yash’s mop of curls! I close my eyes and try to imagine what the baby would be like. I remember photos of myself as a kid, and the ones of Yash, and in my mind, I try a complex Photoshop type thing where I morph all of the features into one face.
A loud squeal distracts me and I open my eyes. It is a children’s park after all. I look out the window and see this pretty little thing in a frilly frock that opens up like an umbrella each time she runs. Her mother follows her closely just in case she loses her balance… Oops! Is she going to cry? Did she hurt herself? Would you look at that? She gets up, rubs her knee and walks on like nothing happened! Funny how her mother looks more hurt…
I find myself smiling. Maybe it won’t be so bad running after a pretty thing like this. And what if it is a boy? I imagine a punk of a kid with a Mohawk and all, following Yash around the house doing everything Yash does. Maybe he’ll even have a toy guitar and strum along with Yash. Wouldn’t they look cute together? Yash singing one his favorite Bob Marley songs and junior staring at his face as if he understands every word? I’m sure it would melt my heart seeing them like this.
I sigh. Oh-kay. So we’re doing this. I know I keep seeing pregnant women touching their bellies in that cute little way in commercials and photos and stuff, but I am almost scared. I find myself just looking at my still flat belly, as if some sort of X-ray vision will help me see our baby. And yet again I find myself wishing for it to be a girl. I shake my head, start the engine and head home. Right here, right now, I don’t really care what Yash has to say. I will show him the picture I just saw. I will find a way to make him understand. And I know he will. Don’t they say a man becomes a father only after he holds his baby in his arms? So maybe he will take time. But it will all be okay.
I pass by one of those maternity clothes stores I keep seeing every day. Only today I slow my car down for a bit and take a good look at some of the dresses. Cute! I can almost imagine walking down the streets wearing one of these holding Yash’s hands. Very romantic. Very classy. Wonder what they do with those dresses once they are no longer pregnant. Do they store them for the second child? Or do they give them away? Storing would definitely not be an option for us, I smile. After this shock, Yash would never want to hear about a second baby.
But what if I want a second baby? I smile again. Just a few minutes ago I was sobbing all over my steering wheel about how this was a mistake and I am already thinking about a second child! Maybe I am already a mother inside. Wonder what kind of mother I will be, though. If the way I am with my work is anything to go by, the baby better come out all perfect or else I am in danger of obsessing over it till it is perfect. Or maybe I will be totally different as a mother, all soft and gooey. One who pampers them silly and spoils them rotten. Maybe I will be one of those Moms with an apron tied around their waist and a string of pearls around their neck. But hang on, that was something from an 80’s movie…
Ugh. I hate this traffic signal. And I’m sure even today I will get stuck for three straight red lights. No amount of Pat Metheny can make me any less frustrated. I keep tapping my fingers on the steering wheel just to ease off some of the tension. Ten minutes from here, and I will be with Yash, telling him about our baby. And then someday, ten months from now, we will be driving along the same road with a baby tucked inside a baby seat fixed to our car. Wonder how much one of those cost. But then again, given how we shall be using for the first few years maybe it won’t be such a bad investment. We would also have to get a driver for my car for when I won’t be able to drive anymore. I giggle, imagining trying to fit in a pregnant belly on the driver’s seat. Oh, goody. Green light.
I can’t wait any longer to be home. Even as my heart starts beating faster at the thought of telling Yash about the baby, I push the accelerator harder. Something pink on the car’s floor catches my eye. Oh, the report! Must have fallen down when I picked up my handbag. The brilliant pink report, I remember. The one which says in bold that I am about to be a…
All I can feel is numbness. And something wet trickling down my cheeks. It feels warm, and yet I feel so cold. Something is shuddering and I can’t seem to stop it. Damn, that’s my hand on the steering wheel. I hear noises… people yelling. If only they’d stop… it hurts… I try to open my eyes and vaguely realize my face is squashed to something… and there I see a flash of it… the pink envelope on the floor. Something tells me it is important… I need to reach it… Yash needs to know… I can’t keep my eyes open anymore… Someone yells something… if only they’d get me the envelope… Yash … our baby… and there I see her… the pretty face with the light brown eyes and a mop of curls, laughing and babbling, reaching her hands out to me… I smile. I close my eyes.

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