Jan was a single mother that had named Angie, her now ten-month-old-daughter, after her favorite Rolling Stones song. Joe, Angie’s father, had disappeared like morning fog an hour after meeting his daughter for the first—and, to this point, final—time in the room at the hospital that Jan thought smelled too clean. She couldn’t get comfortable in that room; there was too much bleach. The floors had been too treated with the stuff and she felt like there was more chlorine than oxygen, like she was trying to breathe at the bottom of a community pool. The doctor, a stuffy-nosed guy who had an Ivy League degree and a superiority complex to match, told her that increased sensitivity to smell was a common side effect of childbirth, and she didn’t question him, but she instinctually felt lied to.
Jan felt lied to a lot these days.
Angie had trouble sleeping and she made it known through wails and whines like a wounded bird. Jan kept worrying that something was wrong with her—every new mother worries when their baby cries—but the nurses told her it was natural. Some babies just cry, they said. She could be hungry, she could be tired, or she could’ve just been saving up nine months of hoots and hollers when she was inside of you and now she’s just gotta let ‘em all out and you’ve gotta be patient.
On her third day of this life, Angie’s sleep schedule finally coincided with Jan’s afternoon walk down to the cafeteria. She’d hobble down there by herself—Joe was gone by now, remember—and allow herself five minutes of people watching before returning to her posterity.
She saw doctors and nurses, mostly. The cafeteria wasn’t exactly known for its quality culinary offerings, but she’d get a glass of soda water, sipping and sitting in the corner in her hospital gown and watching tall, handsome men and the lithe, buxom women that continually thrusted heaving breasts into their faces, hoping for a substantial increase to their standard of living (or a hefty divorce settlement and subsequent alimony checks).
Jan was like that once. Not flirting with wealthy married men in hopes for a payout, of course, but beautiful, with a figure that could make a secret agent defect. She had a shape once, she remembered, catching her reflection in the water-streaked glass door of the juice cooler across the room. Nine months and three days ago, that reflection would’ve been of a gorgeous monument to embraced feminine sensuality, physical without being “sexy”—God, she hated that word—but now what did she see? A mother of one and a lover of none.
She was grateful for Angie, of course. She’d heard stories of women that got pregnant to try and save their relationships, making an anchor out of a zygote, and she was sure that the other women in her apartment complex—and their husbands, if they had them—probably thought otherwise, but that wasn’t none of her business. She knew why she got pregnant.
Because she’d loved Joe with all her heart and the good Lord saw fit to create a new vessel of that love. He had taken both Jan and Joe in His all-knowing hands and placed them, by His divine providence, into a situation in which they would decide the sort of people they wished to be. And Joe had chosen to run because he was a coward.
But Jan knew she, with some minor assistance from her now-absent paramour, had created something beautiful and she’d be damned if the lonely nights ahead, cuddled up next to nothing but a body pillow and a pool of gathered tears, kept her from giving that little girl the life everyone that looked at her knew she deserved.
The next day, after spending just over half a week in the hospital, Jan took Angie home to a sparsely-furnished one-bedroom apartment that had green shag carpet, paint peeling from the walls like a molting snake. She laid Angie down in the crib that Joe had made from lumber and green paint—guess he didn’t leave them entirely empty-handed—and put a kettle on. In her several day hospital day, the thing she missed the most was the feeling of the carpet’s fibers nuzzling the space between her bare-footed toes. She took off her shoes and paced back and forth and back and forth and back and forth until she’d expended at least as many calories as provided by the daily cup of Jell-O the nurses so kindly deposited on her bedside tray.
Angie had thus far spent most of her life with her brown eyes closed, but the second Jan laid her to her crib and wrapped her in swaddling clothes fit for a Savior, Angie’s eyes opened like pulled blinds and poured sunshine into the room the likes of which Jan had never seen. The brown shot beams across the bare white walls and Jan felt such a warmth inside of her that she was worried the entire block would set ablaze.
This little girl is gonna save the world, Jan thought. She is destined for great things and the only thing I can ever do is push her along that path, the path that my Father Who Art In Heaven has created solely for her, for her light and her love to shower upon the world. But I don’t know if I can do it alone.
That’s when she called me and asked if I’d marry her and give the girl a father.
I said yes and had brought my few possessions to my new home within the hour, sleeping soundly on the ratty queen-sized mattress that Joe had paid $40 for years ago, when they’d first moved in together. When this whole story started.
Let me tell you about it. I don’t have much time.
more to come.