Finish It! #18: Family Secrets

This is in response to Finish It! #18. Mature content below if you’re reading from work…

His heart was heavy. He had to find the right words to let her know. It would be a shock for her and he wasn’t sure how she would handle the news. Why? He had asked himself that question thousands of times over the last thirty minutes. Why? Somehow there had to be an answer for it. If only he could come up with one before he had to tell her.

But there was no easy way to tell her. This woman he’d known for ten years, had loved for five. This woman whom, just the night before, he’d made passionate love to knowing this secret, knowing that it would snatch the ground from under her, knowing that it would gut her from the inside out. She would no longer have a foundation to stand on. How could he console her if every time she looked into his ice blue eyes, she would see herself? The same camel hump nose. The same bleach blond eyebrows. The same gap between the two front teeth.

They’d been trying to have a baby for the past five months. She’d collapsed into a corner between the toilet and the paint-chipped wall after every negative pregnancy test. Strips of hot pink plaster peeling and drifting over the rod soaked in her desolate urine to land perpendicular to the line displayed on the screen, creating a false sense of hope. Last night, she didn’t want to stop. Begging, pleading for him to plant the seed inside her, finally complete her journey to womanhood. As much as he wanted to pull away, he was inebriated by her desperate moans for fulfillment. Wrapped in her legs, he pushed harder and deeper, buried the seed within her and watered it so it would grow.

By morning, he was ashamed to look at her. He couldn’t bring himself to touch her stomach, lay his head between her legs while she spread them wide and practiced pushing. What would he see emerging from the birth canal? A spiral tail? A pink snout?

Who do family secrets help in the end? To keep a history from a child that could bring his life to a halt faster than the atomic bombs decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A parent so embarrassed and guilty by what she had done that she would curse her own child to suffer an equally detrimental fate.

“I was only 12,” she’d said. “And when he put his fingers around his mouth and stuck out his tongue, I thought he was just making silly faces. Until that night when he climbed into my bed, put his head under the covers, said I tasted like ice cream. While Mama was at the store, he put my had in his lap and watched movies he bought from the back room of the video store. He made me rub it until I could see it through his pants. That night he asked me if he tasted like ice cream.”

Covering his ears only made the words echo. Louder. Knocking on his eardrums. Rattling off his temples. Drilling into his skull. Grandfather was father. Mother was sister. He wanted to gouge his eyes out like Oedipus. He couldn’t bear to look at her. To see her mouth form the word “twins.” To hear her utter a belief common in many tribal cultures that two babies born at the same time brought tragedy and death.

“I couldn’t keep the girl. What would stop him? Not kinship. What were the odds that I or you or him would ever see her again?”

Did he inherit his father’s incestuous disease? To fall in love with a woman his mirror image? To be aroused by his own likeness?

“How could you have known?”

But even when he knew, he couldn’t stop himself from extending into her, as if addicted. The fruit of kindred much sweeter than that of a stranger.

Back home, she hugged him from behind in the shower, pressing her stomach against his lower back. This time was successful, she could feel it. Deep inside her, she could feel the thump of a tiny heartbeat. She could feel the fingers crawling. The little brain projecting future memories in her dreams.

He pried her arms from around his waist, turned to face her, limp in the steam and pouring water. His lips refused to move. His cheeks, gums, tongue all numb. He stared back at himself through her eyes, so anxious, ready to expel all doubt, disappointment, discouragement, ready to inhale, life and love, feel the euphoria of the pink plus sign, the round, protruding belly, the burst of water, the head pushing from between her legs, the pig-like squeal, the lips soft as butter around her nipple, the sapling fingers enclosed around her thumb.

“I hope it’s a boy,” was all he could say.


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