HOW MY BABY WOULD KILL THE DEVIL AND GOD WITH A BAT OF HER NON-EXISTENT EYELASHES
Clear: the result
Blue: a little
Easy: not as much as you would think
I am not pregnant.
Which is an extremely good thing for the following reasons:
Yet, as of late, I have begun to feel the evil presence of all these hormones that I can't pronounce but sure as hell can curse out because they're making me feel things that I don't want to. So, for five days I wondered, what if. What if for nine months the clothes that fit me a few days ago now rubbed into the swelling mound that housed half of me? What if my jeans could no longer hold in the life that grew so intensely inside of me that it stretched my skin, stretched my imagination far beyond the boundaries of my own selfishness? What if I started to cry at all the things that were supposed to make me sad before but didn't? What if changes in hormones are just this littlealmostperson inside of me teaching me what it really means to be human? To be good. Finally. What if I could create something that wasn't about receiving accolades, hugs, positive feedback from people I respect, props, a beer from a boy who wants to hit it or a smile from girl who thinks I'm cool? What if I were a mother like in the magazines at the supermarket checkout line? What if I talked to my baby about everything instead of saying "because I said so"? And she understood? What if I no longer hesitated to hug someone when she cried or walked away when she needed me?
It has been forty days. Forty days since I last looked down at my underwear and saw a stain like rust telling me it's time. Time to plug myself up, to shed the lining of my uterus because I DON'T NEED IT THIS TIME AROUND. A stain like rust: as if I am not using my parts, as if I have forgotten about them! But I haven't; and this is why I'm in trouble in the first place.
Forty days is a biblical amount of time. Jesus fasted and wandered through the desert for forty days and the Devil tried to tempt him three times. Each time, Jesus cited scripture and the Devil ran away. I think if I retreated to the desert for forty days, I would see the Devil too but surely I would not chase him away. I would need someone to talk to, someone to help me pitch my tent. Surely I would accidentally trade my soul for some directions. The Devil is a tricky, smooth-talking motherfucker, I hear.
According to the Christians handing out yellow pamphlets and telling me that "Dios me ama," I don't even have to wander into the desert to see the Devil. Apparently the Devil is the reason why I think I'm pregnant. If I have seen the Devil in the past forty days it has been:
When I walked down the Paseo de Diego to buy some avocados and saw a young man, surely not older than me--pero ave Maria, how heroin ages you, he looked so tired.
He sat on the sidewalk, nodding out, almost hitting his head on the ground.
(But you know he never will right? The Devil has slipped an invisible noose around this man's neck and he will never let him rest. Just when he slips into unconsciousness and his forehead is about to meet the grey reality of the cobblestones and he will finally be at peace, the Devil, sometimes quickly sometimes gently but always violently, tugs that invisible rope and wakes him up.)
The young man's left arm is almost completely gone. A gash, the only abyss I've ever seen in my life, takes up the entire inside of his forearm.
So deep you see bone.
So deep you gasp.
So deep you don't look but then you do again, avert your eyes, but then you look again.
So deep you wonder how he is still alive enough to ask you for a quarter.
But then you realize that it's only the Devil that could be keeping him alive when clearly it would be better to be dead.
He is so far gone, his skin so slimy I thought my fingers would slide right into it as I pressed the shiny coin into his palm. Like Silly Putty, I swear to God.
The Devil made me want to wash my hands afterwards.
When I see the man with metal sticking out of his leg, walking around, with a Burger King bag full of somebody else's left over french fries. I don't really (want to) understand but will try to explain it:
Certainly he has broken his leg in many places and someone was concerned enough to take him to the hospital.
The doctors performed a complicated surgery in order to put him back together,
a surgery that included sticking four shiny metal vises (is that what they are called?) into his calf bone.
Maybe those vises are supposed to be tightened on a precise schedule (you see, young man, you turn the little, butterfly-shaped metal thing approximately 14° to the right every two days. Remember: righty tighty, young man, righty tighty!)
Maybe he escaped from the hospital
or the hospital kicked him out
because he couldn't pay.
or because he wanted more and more morphine and the nurses wouldn't administer it to him
(maybe it's the Devil that makes me think that).
A Portrait of the Devil on La Calle Humacao:
The Devil is heroin and he is destroying my island.
Forty days is the amount of time you fast before Easter. Forty days is the amount of time God made it rain. Forty days is how long it took Him to kill Everything. How long did it take Him to decide we were not worth living? To realize that He Fucked Up and needed to start all over again? A split second of a second thought perhaps. One hundred and eleven years is how long it has taken the United States to:
It took the United States one hundred and eleven years to make sure we forgot what freedom was.
I know the United States is not God even though they both work in mysterious ways, here they are both unseen and all powerful, many Puerto Ricans look to them both for salvation and prosperity and will drop to our knees if either one of them tell us to, even though everyone here has a few family members they have lost to both of them.
QUE DIOS NOS BENDIGA (Cross yourself.)
QUE LA ESTADIDAD NOS BENDIGA (Wave your flag.)
For forty days I have been wandering in the desert that US imperialism has made. And if I have run into, crashed into, collapsed into the warm and inviting arms of sin, I don't mind. God is a gringo in a suit that can't get me off anyway.
I waited five days before I consulted the white plastic fortuneteller/pregnancy test. For five days I thought about having to make one of the hardest decisions in my life. It wouldn't be a baby anyway, right? It's hard to reconcile pro-choice politics with the feelings that come from terminating something that all those pink and blue books say will give you unprecedented amounts joy. A mere collection of cells. A creature that will smile and grow and give your life meaning. Which one is it? Then there are those women who have babies for all the wrong reasons: to have someone to love you unconditionally, to have someone to love unconditionally, hoping it will make a man love you unconditionally, to put your womb to use before it lays to waste. I don't want to be one of those women. For five days, however, I loved the potential group of cells in my may-or-may-not-be-empty womb.
I am scared of what these feelings mean. I am scared that my friends will think I have turned into some kind of pro-lifer evangelist, giving a spirit to a blob of blood and proteins. Yet for as much as I denounce religion, I can't reject the pulsing spirits I feel inside of things (everythings): Have you ever sat on a rock in the middle of a river after it has rained long and hard, ants stinging your thighs, the chirping of frogs filling your ears? The leaves of the trees that hold you in that moment shield the sun from your eyes. Then they open to let the sun warm your shoulders, still cold from the swim you took to get to the most perfect spot in the world. Has that ever happened to you? Yes? Remember that spirit you felt as you hugged your knees close to your chest and closed your eyes? Then you must believe there is a spirit in the pin head-sized gathering of cells that began to take shape inside of you when you squeezed a man closer to you, squeezed your vaginal muscles tighter and tighter (no te vayas) as that man came inside of you. How can you not want to protect that bead of potential life in the same way you wanted to protect that man from everything bad this world will hurl at him, as his head rested on your collar bone and you noticed with every swelling of his chest as he inhaled, your chest caved as you exhaled? There are many things in this world I want to cradle in the clammy crook where my bicep meets my forearm: the baby brown bird with a broken wing I found on the street the other day, fresh baked bread that has risen perfectly, a branch separated from its tree during a storm, a book that makes me miss my stop on the subway, a beautiful man after he has fallen from orgasm, the idea of being a mother even better than my own.
For five days I thought about this moment right now, in the bathroom, sweating, shaking, not wanting to look at myself in the mirror, not knowing which result would be the right one. Then I peed into a white plastic fortuneteller and waited for two minutes for either one or two lines. One line=I'm good. Two lines=I'm fucked. (???)
Why was I doing this all alone? Certainly I wasn't the only one who got myself into this mess! These are the names I called the man who made me think I was preggers:
These names floating in and out of my head as I carefully read the instructions to my pregnancy test.
(Setting: Raquel's pink and blue bathroom in Río Piedras. It is early afternoon. The mirror is broken, the toilet is running, the garbage can is full to the brim with toilet paper. There are two cats fighting loudly outside and the neighbor is blasting "Loba" by Shakira. It is hot. There are two identical Raquels. They are both sweating. They are both naked except for a turquoise towel wrapped around their chests. They are sitting on the edge of the blue bathtub. Raquel is reading the instructions to the pregnancy test. Other Raquel is looking at them over her shoulder.)
Raquel: (Visibly angry.) What a douchebag, he couldn't even return my phone call.
Other Raquel: (Smiling. Not really listening to what Raquel is saying.) He's probably just busy. He's beautiful! Think about what his baby would look like!
Raquel: No. I don't want to think about his stupid baby. I swear to God, it better not be inside of me. Fucking jerk, he knew I was going to do the test today.
Other Raquel: Well maybe he didn't get the message because he had no service, you know that can happen where he lives. (Gets up and dances around the bathroom.) ¡Ay pero que lindo, que precioso, que HOMBRE!
Raquel: Well that dick should have been paying attention to his phone. God, I hope I'm not pregnant! If I am, I swear , I'll rip my uterus out and beat the shit out of him with it!
Other Raquel: It'll be okay. Just because he's not here, doesn't mean he doesn't care. After all, he's wonderful! And maybe we can have wonderful babies together!
Raquel: (Now infuriated.) You know what, fuck you! You just don't get it!
Other Raquel: (Insulted.) Hey! No, fuck you!
Raquel: No, fuck you! (She picks up other Raquel by the hair, flushes her down the toilet, and sighs heavily as she sits back down on the rim of the bathtub.)
How to Take a Pregnancy Test When You Are All Alone:
For five days I entertained the romanticized idea of what it would be like to have a child:
I would sing to her and dance with her to give her the lightness of spirit that will allow her to travel inside the spirits of others and heal them. You see, my baby would be a traveler. And I would pack her suitcase with epiphanies, lullabies, hands to hold, and bombas molotov.
My baby would see inside of you, see through the wool you try to pull over her eyes, see solutions in people blinded by ignorance. See possibilities, shiny and brilliant as shards of broken glass, in this society inured by colonialism. She would have x-ray vision, even though she would probably wear thick glasses, like her mother, the kind that magnify your eyes and make you look like a spider(woman).
I would exercise everyday so she could be strong enough to Fuck. Shit. Up. Tear down seemingly impenetrable walls of silence. Slice through handcuffs with the sharp blade of her tongue. Lift the weight of US occupation off of our chests with her bare, calloused hands. Carry the baggage our grandmothers have hauled for too long with their long, sinewy fingers spotted with age, broken by generations of hearing "no, eso no se hace." She would be strong enough to love whomever she wanted, fearlessly, fiercely because I would have planted that love inside of her, fearlessly and fiercely.
I would give offerings to Yemayá and Ochún so my baby could be one with them. Offerings of the blood that escapes from my skin as I fearfully jump and crash into their laps. Offerings that would help those water goddesses drown out the Devil's distractions so my baby could swim through this world with her eyesWIDEopen in water with waves so powerful they knock the weak off their feet and wash away the non-believers.
So I sit on the edge of the blue bathtub and stare at the white, plastic fortuneteller that comes in the aluminum wrapping that comes in the white and pink box, that is Walgreens brand because my first response to First Response was, "hell no, my unemployed ass will not spend eight more dollars for the same shit I can get for $11.99." And I wait for the second blue line to not show up. And in the empty white space that confirms my empty uterus, after the two minutes of obligatory waiting time, I see nothing.
I don't have to say.
I don't have to plan
I don't have to worry about
I throw out the white plastic fortuneteller in the white plastic bag it came to me in, roll a cigarette, pour a glass of wine,
Puerto Rico is hybridity. It's what colonialism has done to it. It's a delicious hybridity at times (we say "browncito" instead of marrón) but at other times it's devastating (the stubborn belief that anything that comes from the US represents progress). I tried to capture that here. Also babies make me crazy. Not in the cute way but in the way that makes me say, "wtf do i do with this little thing now?" so I naturally freaked out when I thought I was knocked up. And I've been thinking a lot about God lately. People in the mainland US should know more about Puerto Rico. People in the mainland should read these two books: Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism and None of the Above: Puerto Ricans in the Global Era.