ARIELLA PAPA: writer, mother, friend

an excerpt from

Bundle of Joy?

by Ariella Papa

I was procrastinating when it happened. I should have been doing a lot of things. I should have been calling various executives at the airline whose in-flight magazine I was writing an article for,but I wasn’t sure I could work up the enthusiasm to discuss statistics. I should have been paying some bills or following up with the magazines that didn’t realize that freelance didn’t mean free–they actually had to pay me in a timely fashion. But, I was procrastinating. It was a common occurrence.

So, I did what usually brought me the most happiness, the thing that pulled me out of my voluntary solitary existenceó I called my best friend, Jamie.

Jamie Jacobs-Sarakanti,î she answered on the second ring. Her voice gave no indication of the bomb she was about to drop.

“It’s me. Are you busy?”

” Oh, hey. Not really. What’s up?”

” Well, I wanted to see what you were up to tonight.”

” Procrastinating, are we?”

” Yep,and I’m in the awful empty time between Netflix. The next DVD probably won’t arrive until tomorrow.”

” The horror,” she said.

“So I thought I would check to see if you wanted to go out for just one beer.” That was our code for a night out. Whenever we said we were meeting for ‘just one beer,’ it turned into many beers and a long night of psychoanalyzing everyone in our families and social circle.We would have the same conver-sation as many times as necessary to nail down the exact reasons for my mother’s psychosis or why her sister always went for women who were high maintenance.

“Actually I can’t tonight.”

” Re-he-heally, do you and Raj have a night planned? I thought your date nights were Wednesday.” It never ceased to amaze me that my formerly wild best friend, who had once been given to spontaneous encounters with men she met on the subway,was now settled enough to have an established date night with her super-busy television producer husband.

” I wish.” Her voice sounded funny.

” So what’s up?”

” Well-“

And in that pause I had no warning that I was about to hear two of the grossest words in the English language.

” We’re trying.”

ì”What?” I was innocent then. I didn’t believe my normally, well, normal best friend would ever say something along the lines of ‘making love’ or any of those other expressions that gave me the heebie-jeebies,like calling your boyfriend ‘lover.’ So, I had no idea what she and Raj were trying to do.

” You know,” she said, then dropped her voice lower.”Trying-to have a-” there it was, barely a breath “-baby.”

” What?”I screamed.I worried that my roommate Armando would wake up, even though it was well after noon.

There was a pause (pregnant?).

” Yeah,” she said.”I was going to tell you last week, but you cancelled.”

Damn the breakup of Hollywood’s most overexposed couple! I had to cancel our dinner plans to do some quick coverage for Who?, a weekly gossip rag.

” Since when?”

” Unofficially for about six months now.I donít think we really wanted to admit to ourselves that we were ready. We kept having accidents–you know forgetting to use something.We were kind of just going to see what happens, but I don’t know, I’m anxious.”

Anxious? “This, uh, is kind of big.”

“ìI know. That’s why I wanted to tell you last week.”

My work was always getting in the way at the worst times. “Sorry I had to cancel,but I think this is a definite reason for just one beer.”

” It definitely is, but I can’t. Tonight’s the night.”

” Huh?” It was all so unknown, then.

” I’m ovulating.”

” How do you know?” And that was the first time I ever heard the laugh. The ‘how could you be so ignorant about every aspect leading up to the miracle of life?’ laugh. It would not be the last.

” I took my temperature.”

” Now, how does that work?” I imagined her with a thermometer lodged under her tongue.

“I have a vaginal thermometer.”

” You stuck a thermometer up your hoo-hah?”

” Yeah, every morning, to help me find the right days.”

I was happy she couldnít see my contorted face.

” Welcome to the world of fertility.”

” Well, so what, today is like the magic day?” I asked.

“I’m pretty sure. Itís all a bit overwhelming.”

I’ll say.

” So if you want to do it tonight,don’t you think you should maybe have a drink to loosen up?”

” I might want to scale back on the drinking, too. Itís not going to be just me in my body anymore.”

” Hmm. Well, when does this time end, this magic fertilization time?” Maybe that came out a little too cynical. I could tell by the way she waited a minute before speaking.

“Sperm can last a few days, but you never know. I keep thinking Iím calculating all wrong. We should probably do it for the next couple of days.”

” Like rabbits.”

” Voula, I know you’re going to be supportive and not the typical isolationist,nihilist,pessimist that I know and love.” She didn’t

sound convinced.

“Call me Aunt Voula. I’m ready. Really.” Lies all lies. It was the beginning of the time of lies.”Do you want to meet for coffee tomorrow at Murray’s? You can fill me in on the dirty blessed deed.”

” Well, Iíll skip the coffee and grab a bagel.”

This was a woman who lived on caffeine. The coffee cup was just an extension of her hand. I couldnít believe the changes were starting so quickly.

” Cool,” I lied,but at least I hadn’t heard the laugh again.I’ll see you tomorrow at nine at Murray’s.”

” Okay, Aunt Voulaó I have another call.”

” Happy humping,” I shouted into the phone, trying to be as encouraging as possible.

” Thank you.” And she hung up.

I stared at the blinking cursor of my laptop.It seemed to be mocking me and my fallopian tubes. A baby? This was incredible. I was so far from even thinking about babies. I had never really had a boyfriend even. I didnít count my two and a half lovers (eeew, I was going there, too) as boyfriends. But Jamie? The girl who used to dance on the table and make me be her lookout in high school when she hooked up in empty classrooms? She was going to be a mother? I might need “just one beer” on my own.