Just One Kid

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A157 pregnant2

I woke up when Lior got home. When I opened my eyes he was standing at the foot of the bed watching me with his coat still on and his keys in his hands.

“Hi,” I rolled onto my back and then sat up slowly, noticing the fluffy bitter taste in my mouth, and a headache teasing at my temples.

Lior attempted a smile, but it wavered on his lips and then disappeared. He looked tired but still put together, his face smoothly shaved and his collar crisp. He had come back to me unscathed, his dark skin and short hair retaining their easy handsomeness. I thought of my suit lying on the closet floor and sighed.

He had a plastic bag full of wide Styrofoam takeout containers in one hand, and he put it on the floor and then climbed into bed with me. I burrowed into his chest, the dark nylon of his coat still cold from outside.

“You should be crying,” Lior said, leaning away from me a little and looking at my face. “Usually you cry.” He rolled the word usually around in his mouth a little, his accent tripping on it, turning it into yooshwally.

“I’ve been crying. All I do anymore is cry. I’m all out right now, but if you just give me a few more minutes I’m sure I can muster up some more tears.”

“I wasn’t saying you should cry, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” He paused, “Well, not okay, I guess.”

I rolled away from him and onto my back again, looking straight up at the ceiling.

“No worries then. I am not okay. Not okay at all.” And then, of course, I started crying again.

Lior propped himself up on his side, peeled off his coat and kicked off his shoes. He shifted back towards me, smudged one of my stupid tears away with his thumb and then leaned in to kiss the spot where his thumb had been.

Bubah,” he switched seamlessly into Hebrew, his voice sweet and hushed and sexy, “Yihye bseder…”

For a second, I thought of how when I was seventeen, this moment would have been enough to let me die happy. A cute Israeli husband who called me Doll, and kissed me when I was crying. That was all I ever worried about in high school—how to get to this point. But as a grown-up it was no longer glamorous. What was the point of a cute Israeli husband if you can’t raise cute half-Israeli kids with him, kids with crazy Hebrew names and fuzzy hair like their father’s. What could I possibly talk about with my cute Israeli husband in another ten years? What would we have left to say to each other?

“I know,” I said. “I know it will be fine. It’s just—this really sucks.”

“It does suck,” he kissed my cheek again, loudly, with a silly smacking noise. “It sucks.” Again with the kissing.

“What did you bring me for dinner?” I asked, smiling finally, allowing his silliness.

“If you’re not pregnant anymore, we’re eating fish and drinking wine,” he said triumphantly, scooting towards the foot of the bed and reaching for the plastic bag. He lifted it onto the bed and took out the stacked Styrofoam containers.

“Exhibit A,” he announced, opening the box and tilting it toward me so I could see what was inside: several rolls of various sushi, impossibly pink flesh layered with the white rice and seaweed. It was beautiful, from our favorite expensive sushi place. I took the box from him as he reached for the next in the stack.

“Exhibit B.” He opened it with a flourish, and revealed more Maki, this time my favorite crispy roll with large lumps of wasabi nesting on either side. Lior set the third box back down on the floor.

“Miso soup,” he explained, and popped open the last box, which was full of the salty soybeans we always fought over. “Enough for both of us,” Lior said, and leaned in to kiss me again.

We brought the food into the living room and ate in front of the television. In an hour and a half we had emptied a bottle of white wine and were draped across the couch sluggishly watching Leno. I had removed Lior’s tie and was fastening it around the empty wine bottle. A commercial for a pregnancy test came on and Lior fumbled for the remote, unable to find it in the expanse of cushions. On the screen a couple grinned at each other as two pink lines appeared on the long white stick.

“You smile NOW,” I said loudly, suddenly aware of how drunk I was, “But pretty soon you’ll have morning sickness and you won’t be able to drink coffee or wine and THEN your precious little CHILD will DIE and FALL RIGHT OUT OF YOU.” I laughed, amused by my own wit. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a FETUS!” I extended my arm, closed one eye and pointed at the ridiculous wand-like thing being advertised. “Get ready for all the times you’ll pee into CUPS for doctors so they can say HEY, YOU’RE NOT PREGNANT ANYMORE. WHOOPS!”

The commercial had ended and Leno was back, sitting at his desk with newspaper articles glued to black pieces of cardboard. I dropped my head into my hands and groaned melodramatically. Lior winced, still feeling around for the remote.

Bubah, Bubah.” He grabbed my right hand as I prepared for another enthusiastic tirade. “Let’s go to bed, okay? Let’s go lie down.”

I rolled my eyes grandly. “Oh yes. Let’s lie down. Because I haven’t been doing that since five o’clock this afternoon. Maybe lying down will make me pregnant. Maybe if I just LIE DOWN—“ but then I stopped. Lior’s expression was exhausted, and I was beginning to feel the pitch of the alcohol in my stomach. I did, actually, just want to lie down. “Oh FINE,” I said, and marched unevenly to the bedroom.

We undressed facing away from each other, but I knew from experience that Lior’s expression was blank. He got like that, empty-looking, when bad things happened, and though I knew it was a cultural thing, very Israeli, it still annoyed me. In bed Lior lay on his side next to me, propping his head up with one arm bent at the elbow.

“Should we talk about adoption now? Is that what you were trying to say in there?”

“Well, I don’t know.” I pretended to consider this. “We haven’t discussed stealing a baby yet, but that seems like it’s a feasible option. No paperwork!”

“I forgot what a mean drunk you are,” Lior said, turning to face away from me.

“No you didn’t,” I said evenly, “you just didn’t want to see me weeping in the bathtub with my clothes on like last time. You figured mean was better than suicidal.”

“Would that be so bad?” Lior’s voice was soft, filtered by the space between us.

“I should get to be sad today,” I said. “I shouldn’t have to get drunk to make it hurt less. I want it to hurt.”

“Well I don’t.”

At first I thought he wasn’t going to say anything else, that that was going to be the end of the fight, but then Lior looked at me.

“Isn’t there a story in Tanach where Sarah is too old to have babies, but then she does anyway?”

Nu? She doesn’t get sad without a baby. She laughs! I wish you would laugh more.”

“Oh yeah, Sarah’s sense of humor was really fantastic. She saw her son playing with Yishmael and she got so pissed off she banished Yishmael and his mother.”

“So don’t be like Sarah,” Lior’s voice was suddenly sharp and hard, “But don’t expect me to do this all over again if you’re going to be this way.”

I yanked the blanket hard and rolled away from Lior’s voice. After a few minutes I heard him turn, too, and we slept like that, facing out.

I called my mother from the car as I drove home from work the next day. Lior had bought me a fancy hands free device for Hanukkah the year before and the sound was surprisingly good. My mother’s voice filled the sedan.

“Naomi?”

“Hi, Eema.”

“Naomi, I’m so sorry.” Like Leah, my mother has this way of saying the appropriate thing in an inappropriate way. It sounded like she was apologizing for some minorly inconsiderate thing she had done to me without realizing I’d be offended.

“Yeah, me too.”

“Are you okay?”

Why did people keep asking that?

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. The doctor says we should wait a couple of months but then we can try again, if we want.”

“Oy, bubbelah.” She sighed, and I could practically hear her shaking her head through the phone.

“Can we talk about something else? I just can’t deal with discussing it anymore.”

“Yes, honey, of course. I was actually just thinking about the seders. Do you know which night you and Lior would like to come home?”

When my father was alive we always had huge seders with thirty or forty people, and since he died Leah and I have convinced my mother to cut down pretty significantly, but she doesn’t like to have less than fifteen, and still spends months preparing the meals.

“The first night, please.” Lior was generally willing to deal with one seder—the four cups of wine helped—but two was not something he even considered, so we always came to the first seder.

“That’s what I thought you’d say. Now, have you thought about which section you’d like to prepare?”

This was an old family custom. Every family or group who came to the seder had to lead a discussion on a different portion of the haggadah. You were supposed to come up with sources and discussion questions to present to the table. When we were little, Leah and I always had the four questions and the four sons, and we would do skits for each of the questions and sons. This had ended badly the year I came back from seminary in Israel, disillusioned with Judaism and in love with Lior. I played the part of the wicked son—“What are these customs that YOU are doing? What do they mean to YOU?”—and I think I was a little too convincing. Since then I’d been assigned much more generic portions. Most recently I’d gotten away with leading everyone in ‘Who Knows One?’ I argued that the song was discussion questions in-and-of-itself. My mother wasn’t particularly impressed, but I knew she was relieved that I hadn’t made a scene.

“Well, I could do ‘Who Knows One?’ again.”

“I know you can, honey, but I think you’re probably capable of something slightly more challenging.” There was never any doubt where I got my penchant for sarcasm.

“Did you have something in mind for me?” I asked, gritting my teeth and staring at a stoplight through the windshield. This was typical of my mother, always trying to push me back to Torah.

“I thought you and Lior might be able to come up with something to say about Chad Gadya.”

I didn’t think she meant it as a pun, but I still had to stop myself from laughing bitterly. Chad Gadya is Aramaic, and literally it means ‘just one kid.’

“I think we can handle that,” I said, figuring it wouldn’t be too hard to pull some sources off the internet. Chad Gadya is a bizarre enough song that plenty of people have written about it.

“Excellent,” she said.

“Can I ask why you thought it would be appropriate for us?”

“Last year I heard Lior tell you it was his favorite part.”

I was fairly sure he liked it because it came at the very end, but decided not to mention that to my mother.

“Then I’m sure he’ll be very excited to get started on our research,” I said dryly.

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Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.
  • Ayo Oppenheimer

    This is an exceptionally powerful story. Thank you for sharing your writing with us, Tamar.