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Has he ever told you about the day he thought you would never be born? Your mother and he were living in Delray Beach, two blocks from the ocean. Some days, like on that day, if the angle of the sun was right, they’d awake to the glow of golden aquamarine, and if the windows were open, like on that day, the sweet warm perfume of salt and faint lazy sigh of waves. That morning in early Spring he got up easily because they were going to the beach and he was responsible for buying the watermelon and strawberries from the farmer’s market down the street, which your mother would then slice up and slide into the cooler they would carry to the beach.
Your mother called him as he was heading back. She asked if he was driving. He said yes. She asked him to pull over, and because your mother’s voice had never sounded so urgent and severe he pulled into the Sunoco and parked. She didn’t speak. He waited.
Then she inhaled very slowly, and said, “I’m pregnant.”
And after a strange, incalculable moment, he thought: so this is what this feels like. Sitting in the parking lot of a Sunoco gas station, down the street from your home, thinking you are about to have another normal day of mindless fun eating and sunning on the beach, when you learn that you are responsible for helping to create another human being, and in about nine months you will feel that human being that you actually helped to create in your arms, something you have fantasized about more times than you could ever dare admit to yourself. But now you could. You could allow yourself that plunge. Because it was safe. And he was, simply, overcome.
What struck him most was that this could not un-exist. Like the perfume of sweet warm salt and faint lazy sigh of waves, this was stitched into reality. A tiny human being was already developing and evolving and that tiny human being was developing and evolving because of what he and the woman he loved had done, together.
He said, “Are you serious?”
She said, “Yes, I’m serious.”
He said, “Are you sure?”
She said, “Yes, I’m sure.”
How bewildering and yet so thrilling, the way everything began to melt into coexistence. His fears, his excitement, his anxieties, his joy: will I be a good father? Oh my God, what have I done? Do I deserve to have this child? What if I mess up and not raise him or her properly, the way he or she deserves? That would never happen. It would never be allowed to happen. He would make total absolute sure that he would be the best father imaginable because nothing else mattered except pouring all your energy and love and very soul into making your child the happiest, safest child he or she could ever be. All the things he could not wait to teach him or her! Did you know, sweetheart, that lightning actually can strike the same place twice and often does? Especially if the object is tall and metallic? That’s why you always need to avoid those objects during a storm.
“God?” he said, now. “You are not allowed to take me until I have successfully nurtured, educated, and prepared my child. Do you hear me? I’m the one who will decide when I leave this earth. Not you.”
He carried the cooler and your mother carried the towels as they skipped through the lightly swaying palms and ruffling sand dunes toward the beach, holding each other’s hand tight. Your mother was smiling so big it tilted her eyes and bubbled her cheeks, even pinked her ears. He had never seen her smile like that, and then she dropped his hand and made a very odd laugh and suddenly the air froze.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean April Fools!”
He stopped. “What?”
She stopped. “You don’t know what April Fools’ Day is, Richard?”
“I know what April Fools’ Day is, Janet.”
He tried to put his right foot in front of his left, but it was fused to the sand. “You mean,” he said, “we’re not going to the beach?”
“I mean I’m not pregnant, you goof.” Disgust smirked across her face. “Ugh. Me pregnant? Don’t make me vomit on my new bikini.”
This, he realised then, conclusively, was the actual joke, saying April Fools despite being pregnant because it happened to be the first of April and that’s what you did on the first of April, you joked around. She was still pregnant and she would remain pregnant because there was no credible way that she could not be pregnant, once she told him that she was pregnant she was inescapably pregnant until she gave birth. What existed could not be un-existed. That was an unalterable fact of life. He searched for a loophole in his logic but could find none. He searched for any past behaviour in his wife that may suggest she would be capable of lying to him about this and found none. He had known his wife for six years. Six years of living side by side, of sleeping in the same bed, of sharing the same sink, the same couch, the same shower, the same toilet. He knew her so thoroughly there could be no room for surprises. His wife was never deceitful. She was pure. After six straight years, he would know. After six straight years, a crack would eventually show. But that day had never come and it never would.
So he hitched the cooler over his shoulder and marched forward in the clear warm glow of the sun and placed the cooler at the head of their towels and his wife kissed his cheek and murmured, “It’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it really truly is,” he said, for he knew that better than anyone.