After twenty years of marriage K. had given H. everything except children. It was clearly too late for that. Everybody said so, especially the doctors, who were the experts on childbearing. H. had been 67 when he met K., who was 37 then. Biology had spoken.
For the first few years they made love like very young people again: without regard for time or space or the many demands of grown up life, which insert themselves so easily and effectively between a couple’s genitals. K. used protection then, if only because that’s what she’d always done; and as if to show that even at his age he was still a responsible adult, H. used protection also, so that they were doubly sheathed against the chance of new life.
After all, H. had other things to think about, such as the postponing of his own death: he’d discovered a small bottle on which “Elixir of Immortal Life” was written in runes, in the cupboard of his great-grandmother who, then already over 150 years old, had stopped celebrating her birthdays because nobody would believe she was alive anyway. She had turned from girl to woman to mother to ancestor and as such she sat, night and day, unbelievably small and shriveled, an icon of time, in an armchair clad in red velvet.
Meanwhile, K. was still busy turning her greeting card company into something she could live on after H.s death. K. did not really believe that H. would be around for her own old age, despite his family’s mythical longevity. Mother’s Day was high season in this well-wishing business but when she noticed how many competitors there were already, K. had moved into a corner of the market that was empty as of yet: her cards were wishing bad things on people. They contained short messages of hate bought by thrifty people who did not want to miss the holidays but who didn’t have anything good to say about, or to, their friends and relatives.
So there were no kids and it was Mother’s Day: women with children were hiding, trying to evade the ill-conceived celebrations of something that was their everyday experience. K. and H. were smirking: “Why don’t we celebrate ‘Shaving day’ for men,” said H., and K. laughed, a little tensely, perhaps because the question of motherhood was still charged for her. On a notepad, she wrote a possible slogan for an anti-mothers-day card: “I wish I was adopted, mom!”
They were having breakfast out and it was impossible to focus on their private feelings because everywhere in the cafe, women were smiling in the middle of their families small and large. They turned into ubermothers on the spot, into projections of the perfect or the insufficient or the not present or the omnipresent, the negligent or the controlling mother, into types, into sculptures of themselves with enormous, eternally bestowing breasts and equally enormous claiming cunts, faceless like the Venus of Willendorf, amazons armed with a kitchen knife and a sieve for a shield.
K., now 57, looked at H., now 87, and found him just as attractive and sexy as she had many moons ago when she met him. H. looked back at her, his smile a little strained because he felt shy in public. Tender thoughts crossed his high forehead, related to last night’s lovemaking, which both had enjoyed loudly and lustfully, when K. suddenly felt a cramp. Something was different. She got scared and reached for H. She noticed the blue veins on his hand. She closed her eyes and put her arm across her belly, shutting out the buzz and the voices around her.
But there was nothing to be scared of, except an ocean of uncertainty and possibility and, most likely, the end of her greeting card business built on ill wishing and his obsession with eternal existence, because now there was a child in her womb. Life had spoken. It was mother’s day after all.
My wife asked that I write her a flash fiction story for Mother’s Day & post it. – I don’t know what she had in mind. Perhaps she just wanted to keep me occupied for the better part of the day so that I wouldn’t get any crazy ideas (it worked). For Carlye, with lots of love for mothers everywhere. – An edited version of this was published in THIS.