Only the Best

Cassidy is three today. Is three, was three, will be three? I don't know; English was never my strong point. I bought her a cake to celebrate, a thick, spongy cake with pink frosting and her name on it. Darren's not around anymore to tell me what a stupid thing it was to do. "Twenty-two dollars?!" he would yell if he were here, if I had told him how much I paid. "Twenty-two dollars, for that?! I work my ass off for..." He would pause to do the mental calculations. Math isn't Darren's strong point. His fists are. "For three freaking hours so you can buy a goddam cake?!"

Yeah, that's right, Darren, only it's not three hours for me. It's closer to four. Only the best for my baby. It's funny, I'll be passing by a children's clothing store, and I'll see a dress or something and think Wow, Cassidy would love that. Sometimes it'll be something that I don't even like that much. That's how I know it's not just me thinking those things. My favorite color is purple. Hers is pink...or pale green, it's very close. One day her favorite will be pink; the next day it'll be that lacy seafoam green again. She's fickle like that. My psychiatrist has a wonderful, very professional name for all this: associative persona disorder. She says I'm transferring my thoughts and emotions to my baby, but I'm not. I don't even like pale green.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, looking at this cake I paid for with four hours of my life. Four hours. That's a lot of tables to wait, a lot of angry customers, a lot of tight-assed people who're too stingy to spare a few extra bucks. Four hours. Only the best for my baby. I bought her a present too, wrapped it up in green paper. Figured I couldn't go wrong that way. Green present, pink cake. Got it all covered, right?

I always imagined we'd have a big back yard with a swing set in the back for Cassidy. Hell, I don't even have a back yard, unless you count the alley behind the apartment, but that's no place to play. I thought I'd get married, buy a house with Darren, make it a home, you know, with a family. Me and Darren and a kid or two.

Things didn't exactly go in that order, though. But I'm a dreamer; I just rearranged my list a little, starting with the stuff I had already done. Get pregnant, get married, have the kid, buy a house. One out of four's not bad, huh? I got the others crossed off my list in a hurry, just not the way I'd planned. Alone, no job, bills to pay...pregnant. Only the best for my baby. Only, I knew I couldn't give her the best and, looking around, I still can't. Flies are already coming for the cake, but I figure the spiders will get 'em.

I've got her present under my bed. I want to run and get it right now and bring it out into the living room and see her there and say "Surprise! Happy birthday, baby!"

The cake's gonna go bad if I leave it out. No refrigerator. Been living on canned goods and water for almost a three months now, since the 'fridge gave out. Guess I'll eat it. Twenty-two bucks, right? I'm not opening her present though.

When I went to the clinic, I didn't if it was a boy or a girl. All I knew was that I was doing the right thing. Funny, all I know now is that I was wrong. I traded my clothes for one of those thin hospital gowns. They had me lay down on my back on a cold, steel-topped table. I saw the doctor wheel in the machine. He did a quick sonogram to see where the baby was and then started it up. He must've seen how nervous I was 'cause I remember he said, "Just think of it as a big vacuum cleaner." I pulled my gown up to my waist and brought my knees up, putting my bare feet on the tabletop like the nurse had told me to. So cold.

God it hurt, more than it should have. Now I know why. It wasn't just my pain I was feeling; I was feeling hers as well. And I still do. Every day, I still do. Associative persona disorder, my psychiatrist calls it.

They ripped her out of me, tore her out of my womb and sucked her down through a tube into a thick black bag. A trash bag. As soon as I could breathe again, the first thing I said was, "Was it a boy or a girl?"

"It was a fetus,' the doctor replied mechanically as he removed the bag from the vacuum. But then he looked up, into my eyes, and he must've felt the horrible weight of that warm, wet bag in his hands. "It was a girl," he said softly.

Cassidy is three today. Happy birthday, baby.

Copyright © T Simpson 2002