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just the way days string together a life

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Mindy’s been sleeping with BJ for two reasons since the very beginning. He was hot and it was easy. And then it was three reasons, because he was hot, and it was easy, and she was only growing more in love with him.

She’s not surprised that they never really stopped, not for real anyway. Despite how many times she swore over a pretty colored cocktail that there was no way she was ever going to let stupid Ben-Jo Novak have the privilege of going down on her again, the stretches of time he wasn’t fucking her would probably be considered brief by most.

Because even when it should have been hard, when they had just broken up or when he was dating someone who wasn’t her or when she’d be asked, again, always again, why they weren’t just married, it was still easier than anything she’d ever had with anyone else.

She reminds herself of that. Nothing with BJ seems hard.

And then she looks at the pregnancy test.

---

“Tracey, I think I’m pregnant,” Mindy blurts out, chewing on one of her cuticles even though her other thumb is still bleeding a little from its turn.

Tracey sounds confident and definitive as she says, “You’re not pregnant,” with authority and a little bit of exasperation. “I told you that was too much cheese.”

“And I told you there’s no such thing as too much cheese!” Mindy forgets for a moment that there’s an actual, for real problem in her life beyond her friend thinking she didn’t need to eat half a wheel of brie by herself at 4 pm before she realizes that she thinks pregnant women aren’t even supposed to have soft cheeses. Or maybe hard cheeses? Something will maybe make this fucking fetus BJ put inside of her mutate. “No, like, wait,” she moves the phone away from her face, and takes a somewhat blurry photo to fire off in a text message. “Can you see? Fuck, my hands are shaking.”

Mindy wishes that Jocelyn wasn’t asleep in a different time zone and that she was married and that her mother was still alive all at the same time while waiting for Tracey to get the picture on the other end.

“Why are you taking a pregnancy test by yourself?!” Tracey shrieks right when Mindy tastes blood from another mutilated bit of finger.

“I’m 36 years old, I run my own successful TV show and I’ve met Leonardo DiCaprio without crying,” although her voice is going decidedly wibbly at this moment, “I can handle this.”

“I know you can, but I’m getting in the car any way.”

Mindy sniffs and takes a deep breath and wonders where you’re supposed to put something you need to keep for awhile that’s covered in your own piss.

“It’s BJ’s, right,” Tracey asks. Mindy nods before she remembers to answer out loud that yes, she has gotten knocked up by her ex-boyfriend, best friend, apparently future baby daddy.

“I don’t want to make a joke of it but abobos and Marie Calendars after?” and Mindy is able to laugh just a little because of that afternoon they’d just watched You’re the Worst until it got dark and eaten jellybeans and tried out the new Essie colors.

“Text when you get here,” she pauses and follows with, “and maybe stop for fish sticks.”

---

There wasn’t really a plan for telling him because every time she tried to reason it out, it turned into a scene that wasn’t starring him or her but some characters in her mind. It was dreamy and filled with quips and there’d be a kiss by a waterfall.

And the hardest thing as a writer, as a romantic, is that real life doesn’t live up to what she thinks about in her head. It’s messier and more boring and things don’t happen on predictable beats.

In a movie, she and BJ would have been married years ago. There’d have been a Vera Wang gown, and him getting choked up saying his vows, and probably a frozen shot of their hands interlinked in front of a sunset before the credits played.

In a movie, she definitely wouldn’t have just vomited beside his car while arriving for what he thinks is a late lunch.

She takes a deep breath, blows her nose, puts on a new coat of lipstick and pops three Altoids.

“I thought we said 1:15?” he says when he opens the door after she’s rung the bell twice in too short a time frame to really justify that.

She brushes past, quickly, dropping her bag on a credenza that she’s never thought fit the rest of the decor. “I’m early. And someone puked in your driveway.”

“What?”

“Your driveway. Someone puked on it.” Mindy fluffs her hair for something to do with her hands and regrets bringing it up at all. He could have just found out whenever he stepped in it.

“Like by the street or...” He’s still standing with the doorknob in his hand, the air conditioning going out past him and she has to walk even further away, towards the kitchen and maybe a glass of water or the opportunity to climb inside his oven.

“Do you want Mexican? We should totally get Mexican,” she calls over her shoulder and she can finally hear him close the door.

“No, I want to finish talking about this. Do you think it was a coyote?”

Mindy is trying to think of what she’ll say if he offers her wine when she sees the glasses in the cabinet besides the everyday ones she’s looking for. “A coyote?”

“I don’t know. What else could have thrown up all over my driveway.”

“It wasn’t all over,” Mindy back peddles, feeling sweaty and shameful, as she gets some water from the door of the fridge.

“I’m going to go look.”

Rolling her eyes, she says, “Oh my god, don’t go and look! Come on, we’re getting lunch. We’re supposed to get lunch.”

“Well I’m not just going to leave it there.”

“It’ll rain eventually?” she reaches.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Fine, it was me! I’m the one who puked in the driveway!”

“Why would you lie about that? Are you okay?” He’s looking at her like she’s got nine heads and she doesn’t blame him. “Are you sick?”

The mints have made her mouth feel kind of rubbed raw. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“No, like, why are you throwing up in my driveway?”

BJ has such blue eyes and he’s going to come put his hand on her shoulder. His baby could have blue eyes. Their baby.

She takes a long drink from the glass and the water’s cold before she answers, “Because I’m pregnant and no one let me write the screenplay of this moment.”

---

She’d cried for the first time about it with him. Which feels both right and a little cruel. Because she’s had more time with the idea than him and ultimately, she knows, she gets to decide. About everything.

BJ had mostly been quiet and just let her talk, which made the conversation longer somehow, because their dialogue momentum was off and she kept getting lost in her own head about what she was supposed to say next.

He’d sat there with this fingers interlaced between his knees and eventually, when she’d been quiet for long enough that it was clear she was finished, he’d just said, “My mom is going to be so fucking happy,” and everything made a little more sense.

---

There’s a lot of sentences like that first one he said after the big reveal, things that make her feel that swell and burst she heard about in Fall-Out Boy lyrics. She writes them down in a journal, something she always thought she’d do for her future children when she was pregnant, although she doubts she’ll have the kind of child who wants to read their mother’s ramblings on food and minor annoyance and life.

She and BJ in his car on the way to some ridiculous SoCal Farmer’s Market, because he wants her eating more things that grow from the actual ground and aren’t created by science, listed off those fears, their nightmare versions of children they could have. The dark, mean people who were too good at organized sports or somehow quick witted when it came to insults but nothing else. But Mindy’s number one concern is that she’ll have a child who won’t care for stories. Who doesn’t care to know the why and how of others’ lives.

She has lists of questions too. Some of which are dumb and easy and a quick Google search away. There’s the ones she knows Jocelyn will be best at answering, or that her OB will have a pamphlet about that’s filled with way too many smiling cartoon faces for the content included within. And there’s mostly the ones that she’d wished she’d known to ask her mom.

“I never wanted to do this without her,” she’d confided in BJ when she hesitated just for a moment getting out of the car at their first ultrasound and he’d just agreed and said he knew. And Mindy liked that he didn’t say she was there with them or that she wouldn’t want Mindy to be sad right now.

BJ knew the right stuff to do, the right things to say.

He knew to bring her sour gummy worms on his way home. To put only one ice cube in a glass of water because any more made her teeth hurt lately which is one of the questions on her list, why that’s been happening anyway. He knew to find excuses to stay at hers so she could fall asleep before she’d even eaten dinner and someone else would wash the breakfast dishes and go through the mail, and make sure she wasn’t going to wake up at 3 am in front of the TV with a crick in her neck but not feel guilty that she’d forced him into it.

She looks at BJ sometimes now and remembers meeting him when she wasn’t even her yet. And she wonders if there was even the smallest piece inside of either of them that knew they’d be here one day.

She jots down on the next clean line, The way this morning, at 6:17, when I’d been vomiting for forty-five minutes quietly and discretely in the guest bathroom already, and basically literally crawled back to bed, that your father kissed the sweaty crown of my head and called me beautiful, before he went to shower and make me peanut butter toast and touches the word father because no one can see her.

---

They decide to do the announcement themselves. He creates the li.st Things to Think About When You Find Out You’re Becoming a Dad about a minute after her own post of Maternity Clothes I Might Not Hate Wearing.

She has to buy him a celebration batch of high end cupcakes when his gets more reblogs, which, she still thinks has to do with how there’s not enough bright prints you can wear when you’re in your third trimester.

---

“Where the fuck,” she punctuates the word by slamming a door, “is my bathroom scale?”

“You don’t need it,” BJ says without looking up from his phone and her blood is pulsating in her ears.

“I didn’t ask what I needed, I asked where the fuck it was.”

“And I’m not going to tell you.”

He’s calm, so fucking calm, always, and Mindy can’t drink and she can’t eat raw fish and she apparently can’t get to see just how many pounds a quarter pounder will actually put on her body right now.

“You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body, BJ. If I want to know how much I weigh and then obsess about that, it is my fucking right as an American woman.”

“What are you scared of,” he asks, for the first time making eye contact with her.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Tell me what you’re scared of.”

“This is ridiculous.” She turns to leave because all she wanted to do was look at that number made out of red lines and not have some discussion about the root causes of all her neuroses, but he’s faster than she is.

“Why do you need the scale? If you convince me you really need it, I’ll go and get it immediately, but I don’t think you do.”

Mindy’s still not sure BJ loves her enough, in that way that she guesses he always had to to be to make them something they hadn’t had to create their own word for. They’re not engaged. They’re not even officially living together. Apparently so he can still have a place to hide her scale from her. And if he doesn’t love her enough now, it’s hard to imagine he will later. She sees her body stretching and growing and shifting and knows she’s never going to get again to live in what her body was before. And it just feels better to be fixated on a number than those things. “I don’t need it,” she mutters.

“You’re right, you don’t,” and he runs his hand over her stomach, a place she never used to enjoy his touch. “But you still haven’t told me what you’re scared of.”

“Not now. Not tonight, please.”

“Okay.” His voice is even as he pushes his palm more tightly against her, trying to find the clear shape of something underneath. “Maybe tomorrow.”

Mindy nods and takes comfort in the statement she tells herself every night about the resolution of the very fears he wants to pull out of her.

---

Twitter informs her nearly daily about the number of sites that are discussing whether she’s having a boy or a girl, or the more rude ones, just how many babies are actually in her abdomen.

She knows now that it’s a little boy, life continuing to imitate art in a way that is so ironic and typical, and only makes her regret the life trajectory of Mindy Lahiri the smallest amount.

BJ had gone extra still beside her when the technician said it, and Mindy watched him blink for a few moments before a grin overtook his face.

They volley names back and forth while shopping for paint colors she can never fully decide on and their son becomes a little more real to her every day.

---

“Do you want to do a babymoon?” BJ asks her one night, with his left hand rubbing at the bottom of her feet and his right typing on his laptop. “My brother was asking me today if we were going to.”

“Ugh, would I have to like pack, or move or do anything?” Her back hurts all the time now and she’s tired and frankly the idea of trying to sleep in a bed that isn’t hers sounds like hell on earth.

“I mean, probably move.”

She pushes down on her stomach, trying to get the baby to stop hanging upside down. “I don’t know then.”

“It’s entirely up to you, but I thought I might like to do something before he gets here.”

“What did you have in mind?”

He moves the computer beside him on the couch. “Don’t get mad.”

“This is off to a great start.”

“It’s a big thing, and I know we’re trying to keep stress low right now, but I’d like us to get a place together.”

“Now? You’re talking about this now? We literally just finished the nursery last weekend, and suddenly you want to just pick up and move? Do you know what real estate is like in LA right now, BJ? What the fuck am I supposed to say to this?”

“I thought I said don’t get mad.”

“Please, when have I ever listened to you? But really, Benji, now?”

He sighs. “It should have been ages ago, I know that. And you can say no, are you saying no?”

“I don’t know.” The baby’s head is still pushing down into her pelvis and she’s used to that kind of pressure/pain thing, but it’s not making this conversation any easier.

“Would you consider letting me move in here? Like officially.”

He’s being earnest and open and Mindy knows the number of nights she dreamed of him asking. But she knows the nights she dreamed of more too. “Are you ever going to ask me to marry you, BJ?” she asks, and she hopes it doesn’t sound like an ultimatum. “I just need to know.”

“We’ve talked about this.”

“We’ve talked about all of this. But I’m asking. Are you going to?”

“I think I will.”

It’s unexpected and she doesn’t like the feeling that their must be a catch. “Because I asked you to right now?”

“Because you’re nothing like what I thought I’d choose, Min. Because you’re going to be the mother to my child and I think a lot of the time when I’m alone in my car if this is happening because I wasn’t getting the message that we’re supposed to be more than we were letting ourselves be.”

She’s been crying since he used her name. “More than soup snakes?”

“Well, I always want you to be my soup snake. But maybe more. One day. When you could actually wear a ring on your hand again, maybe.”

She chuckles wetly as he leans to wipe at her face. “That is uncalled for. I am a vessel for human life and creation right now. I am swollen with power and womanhood.”

“So can I move my stupid stuff in here?”

“All of your stupid stuff?”

“Most of it, yeah.”

Mindy nods and their son finally somersaults somewhere more comfortable when BJ begins to kiss her.

---

The first chapter of her next book reads:

When my son was born, I thought for sure I’d be the one threatening to kill any and all hospital personnel who were not immediately injecting me with painkillers. I would actually lie awake at night towards the end of my pregnancy, and mentally practice the order of expletives I would use to ensure I had street grade heroin getting shot directly into my eyeballs as soon as we pulled up in the ambulance bay.

But it’s funny, on the day of, I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel him.

Which, he’s probably going to need so much therapy because I am his mother and his father is his father, but especially because I am putting here in print for everyone to know that he was not a thing we planned on. I don’t know what the two of us had planned, other than seemingly orbiting one another indefinitely much to everyone’s confusion, but we were so greatly in need of his intervention.

Because of my son, I was able to learn that his father could touch me like I was a mermaid, something alluring and mythical and awe inspiring. And if someone hasn’t yet touched you like you were a beautiful creature created out of mysticism, don’t lose sleep, because I never thought it was a thing I’d feel either. Especially not when I could no longer shave my own legs or wear normal women’s underwear. And now, I can I feel him reaching out to me when I return to bed, from dispensing cough syrup, or moving a load of laundry, or writing potentially this very chapter, and I know then that he wants to feel me. That he’ll take the pain of me for the good of me.

When I married him last spring, or as I’m sure he’d like me to phrase it, when he finally came to his senses last spring and locked down the stunning stretch-marked and successful Indian woman he couldn’t live his life without, our son spent most of the ceremony tucked against his father’s neck, sucking on his thumb. (I know, I know, I’m a terrible mother for letting him do that, he’s going to need braces, etc. etc., whatever, he looks like the sweetest angel, I will not apologize for it.) And when the time came to kiss the bride, my son beat him to the punch. He grabbed both of my cheeks and pressed the sloppiest, toddler style kiss upon my mouth, like he has done many times before at bedtime, although, typically without such an audience. He then said, “Dada, kiss,” as though he had just taught him what to do.

There’s video of it, which I have watched a number of times I’m not comfortable divulging as I feel I will not come off favorably once you know the final count, but just estimate what seems like appropriate for you to consider it a lot. And then add about 8 viewings to that. Because that video captured something I never would have planned, but that I was thankful for immediately.

I’m ready for all the detours, the hiccups, and the missteps. I’m ready for the pain and the joy that will come after.

I want to feel it.