They usually wake up before I do. It begins with a slight throb in the armpit, then a shooting pain somewhere under the nipple followed by a crushing sensation around my sternum. All right, all right, I'm awake. Tired, but awake. They want cereal: very crunchy, with very cold milk. And even though it's only five a.m., I must obey The Titties. They are the boss of me. I am their slave.
Three days after conception, my body disconnected from my brain. My own desires and commands became second-class citizens as my newly impregnated vessel began its own independent mission, the serious task of making my child, or should I say its child, because until I hold that baby in my arms, my body is running the show, and I have been forced to relinquish all control. That first week, just days after sperm met egg, the urge for fresh orange juice came from somewhere below my collarbone. Had to have it. But I don't eat citrus, bad for my joints, hadn't had an orange in a year. Too bad, we must have it. I bought the o.j., drank it and wanted to cry, it was so delicious.
Same week, during a vigorous yoga class, the room started to spin. I was fainting. Fainting? I don't faint. But I was, and something said, no more yoga. Go rest. We need rest. We who?
By week three, it was all I could do to keep up with the demands of my body, its nucleus of desire coming not from my uterus, but from my breasts. They were the only obvious sign of my condition: my new, fake-looking tits, growing daily, growing away from me, taking on a life of their own, unconcerned with my habits, as if I were really just in the way of their needs. The cravings emanating from my breasts came on with a violent urgency, filling me with panic, causing me to scramble through the day just to keep up with their instructions.
During the transit strike, they wanted pastrami on rye, with lots of mustard. Mostly I was vegetarian, but on that day I drove through horrendous traffic to get to a Jewish deli on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. The sandwich was orgasm-inducing. I ate the whole the thing in my car in the parking lot of Whole Foods, my original destination. Later that week, it was fried chicken. "I can't eat that shit!" I yelled at my new 36Cs. Off to Popeye's I went. Then it was Taco Bell, then Swanson's TV dinners, then bagels, then construction workers. The Titties wanted a construction worker, and not just any construction worker. He had to have a five o'clock shadow, a flannel shirt and Timberlands.
And there he was. It was about week six when the blue-collar cravings kicked in. It was an aggressive craving, like the pastrami, and was bound to get me into trouble considering that the baby daddy was alive and well and probably less willing to accept this craving than the previous week's cheese-danish emergency. But there I was, exhausted, no make-up, pajamas still on under my ugly down coat, half asleep and walking my dog when The Titties made me slow down and look up the block. He was perfect, a New Jersey special, probably some sort of Italian and Irish mix, dark skin, angular face, light eyes, scruffy beard. He was reaching into the back of his red pickup, his worn jeans tucked into his big Timberlands, his quilted flannel with a big rip at the elbow.
My skin hardened. I almost came to a halt. Something in me started planning my attack. I could push him into his truck. He could fuck me in his truck. Maybe he like big boobs. I could show him The Titties and lure him into the cab of his truck. He could do me from behind, maybe even up the ass. Wait, I hate up the ass. No, The Titties want up the ass. Fuck, what was happening?
Then he turned around. He must have seen my expression, my scarlet cheeks. He leaned against his truck and gave me a slow smile. Wow, younger than I thought. Even better, The Titties said. And really really handsome. "How's it going?" He asked. He actually spoke to me and my crusty, unwashed face. I knew that if I let myself speak, I would say "Fuck me in your truck now!" I shortened the dog's leash, looked straight down and forced myself quickly past his grey-green eyes and 501-encased penis.
I walked the dog for a long time, and when I came back, the construction worker was sitting on the sidewalk. Like a cartoon of a coyote looking at a chicken but seeing a fried drumstick, I stared at him like he was lunch, a cock on a stick. Again he said hi, reached for the dog, patted her head. I wanted to shove his face in my cleavage. I managed a smile, and got my dirty self back home.
"That was close," I said. You blew it!, yelled The Titties. Now they were mad. They kept freeze-framing the view as he bent over: the jeans, the boots, the hard little ass. Over and over again, like a money shot. I felt obsessed. I couldn't stop planning my seduction, my opening line: "No questions, no names, motel off the turnpike, right now." I would wear a corset, no bra, just boobs, presented like fruit. I would sniff his young, sweaty, caulk-and-drywall-flavored body until I devoured him like a breakfast burrito. I kept hearing his scratchy voice: "How you doin'." I was scared to leave the house.
The next day, equally unwashed and ungroomed, feeling like shit, The Titties and I went to the post office. Lo and behold, they were gutting a building on the same block: construction workers. The Titties dragged me to the work site. Ahhh, Eastern Europeans. Smokers, hard workers, serious expressions, chiseled features, good sexy boys. Here came one carrying a stack of two-by-fours. A stack! So strong, look at that set jaw, that dangling cigarette, those eyelashes, the sweat on the neck. The Titties were impressed. They wanted me to flash him, offer him a handjob. He raised his eyebrows as he walked by, clearly thinking, Who is this woman staring at me? I dragged the Titties home kicking and screaming. I had to get a grip.
By month four, I had gained twenty pounds because of all the Oreos and cheeseburgers The Titties made me eat. I didn't look pregnant yet, just fat. I thought I looked gross, bloated, blotchy, horrible in my new Old Navy cords three sizes bigger. But the Titties didn't think so. They needed ravioli with cheese every day. Also men with accents. I went to a party. It was a gay party, but The Titties didn't care; they wanted the English guy who kept complimenting my low-cut sparkly top. I had hiked up The Titties with a push-up bra, figuring I was safe in this crowd. But they lifted up my shirt, fingered my sequins, told me how hot I looked. The Titties took it seriously: Get the guy from London to suck on us. "He's gay, you morons," I told them. But The Titties didn't care. All they saw were men in tight trousers with nice teeth and great bodies. I stuffed my mouth with Peanut M&M's to hide my embarrassment and to keep from flirting.
By the sixth month, my belly really started to show. Men started hanging out of trucks as I walked by, yelling, whistling, waving. This hadn't happened since my late teens, when I considered a tube top both a skirt and a shirt. But now, I wasn't glowing. I wasn't more voluptuous. I was getting hefty, shapeless, dead tired. But they knew, they could smell it: I was easy. I craved men indiscriminately. I wanted to be consumed like a big bowl of pasta. Like rutting elk, men instinctually knew I was a breeder, ready and willing.
Egg salad on whole wheat was the new lunch. Every day at a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich place, where only real men in work boots on their lunch hour would dare venture, I would waltz in, the only female in the joint. There they were, like a school of sperm. They all turned towards me as I took my spot on line. They stared nervously for a second, like, Oh, pregnant lady, nice cans, but behave. The older ones looked at me more intensely. They knew.
I eavesdropped on their orders: "Roast beef on rye. Mayo, ham and swiss, on a hard roll. Corned beef, mustard." Heart-attack food, man food. "Salami, root beer, side of chips." I was breathless. I loved them, the line of them shuffling in front of me, sawdust in their cuffs, jeans tattered, shoes spattered with solder, hands rough, knuckles with cuts on them. I wanted to grind them into a powder and snort the testosterone through a straw.
I'm too short for this. Thirty-five pounds is supposed to be normal, but I'm a tugboat. I can't breath or sleep, and walking is starting to hurt. There's just not enough room between my pubic bone and sternum for a real baby, and at eight months it's getting pretty real. I don't feel girly. I didn't have a baby shower. I'm not into cute stuff. I don't know anything about babies. I don't feel like a fertile Goddess, basking in femininity. I like to drive my car, throw the ball for my dog, look at men.
I hoped my craving for construction workers would wear off and be replaced by something reasonable, like pickles and ice cream, but it's summer now. Now they are shirtless, and I have to pretend to be interested in what it is exactly they are lifting off that flatbed, as The Titties gawk at the crane operator with his big hand yanking on that big gear thing.
Recently, the fertility gods tested me. I pulled into a parking spot, one eye on the curb, the other eye on the young man in front of me pulling tools out of his van. He waved me closer. He was helping me park. "Want me to move up?" He was speaking to me, smiling, leaning into my window on the passenger side. I couldn't believe it.
"No, I'm good."
"Yeah?" He said. "I see you're pregnant."
"Going to the doctor (pronounced docta)?"
"Post office," I said.
I kid you not when I say he was so insanely gorgeous I thought I was being set up by some reality TV show. He had an Antonio Sabato Jr. twist to him that was only enhanced by his tight blue T-shirt and white painter's pants. His biceps bulged over my windowsill, tan and veiny. I felt like throwing up. I got out and walked across the street, and in his best catcall tenor he yelled, "When are you due?"
"A month," I called.
I bought my stamps and came back. This time he crossed the street to meet me.
"So, you live around here?"
Wow, classic pickup line, but it couldn't be. Look at me! Look at him! Nice clean truck, good haircut, white teeth. The Titties were in love. I let my eyes take in the spackle that had dripped across his pectoral muscles. I couldn't take it any longer. I had to know.
"Hey, let me ask you something."
"Yeah," he said, black eyes still checking me out.
"What's with construction workers and pregnant women?"
"Because, I have to be honest," I said. "I haven't gotten this much attention in years."
"Yeah, even more than before you was pregnant?"
"Definitely. Even the Wall Street guys on the train are looking at me over their newspapers, but you construction workers, you actually make moves."
"'Cause we got the balls to admit it's hot."
"What's hot?" I asked.
"You know" — he started making circular movements with his hands in front of his belly as if it were a beach ball, and his hands stopped in front of his chest, as if holding a big set of tits — "It's the hormones (da harmoans). It's hot!"
"Ah," I said.
"So, what are you doing now?" he actually asked. "If you ever need some work done…"
Wow, I thought, I could get laid by this guy. The Titties were ecstatic: Look at that little butt, those big shoulders, that tan! Do it! Do it! No, I had a baby to take care of and a baby daddy to take care of me. I pulled myself away before he handed me his card.
But I'm not going to lie. Weighing forty pounds more than I did nine months ago, my head swimming in the profundity of this life growing inside me, soon to be a part of this world, and the grown-up tasks it has required of me (I rewrote my will, got life insurance, moved to a bigger apartment, stopped drinking coffee), getting propositioned by a major piece of ass made me light on my feet for the rest of the day.