Monday, September 9, 2013

1012 Days of Portland, Oregon: Where there was once 2 there are now 3

In the days leading up to it, Janice kept telling me there was something wrong. She was even blaming it on menopause. Menopause? Really? You're too young, I kept thinking, kept saying. I thought it was a combination of stress, because the woman had a very stressful job. I also thought it was because her forthcoming birthday. Whatever the reason why she was late with her period, I never thought it was because of pregnancy.

I left Portland City Grill on that Sunday night in December. The walk home through the rain was nothing more than what it was, a walk home. Getting home meant getting back to my book. At the time it was A Coney Island of the Mind and On the Road and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Yes, the December books were pretty cool. I sat in the living room at the corner of the sofa under the lamp as the rain fell in sheets outside and Janice slept peacefully in the bedroom.

But on this night, things ended very differently than they began. I turned out all the lights, brushed my teeth and headed for bed. As an afterthought, I decided to floss my teeth. When I tossed the used dental floss in the trash, I saw the pregnancy test. “What the fuck is this?” I said. As I examined the test stick, confused on more levels than one, I noticed the second test in the can just under it. I looked through the medicine cabinet for the directions.

Sleep was not with me that night.

In the morning, I thought I'd just ask: “Janice, are you knocked up?” I was back on the sofa and she was just out of the shower. “Evidently,” she said. It was a bit of a snarky reply.

There is something very amazing about pregnancy. There was for me, at least. The two of us talked about the events to come, the doctor visits, the classes, the change of lifestyle, and the eventual addition to our very small group.

I will not lie, it's been tough. When asked, “how do you like being a father?” I'm inclined to tell the truth. “I like it better some days than others.” And for all the expecting mamas and papas out there, it's not nearly as scary as you may think. I say this only because the best thing about expecting is this: you have nine months to figure it out. Well, we were no different. When Janice and I talked about what we were going to do, it was all preparation. And we only had about 7 ½ months to do it.

When applied a person can get a great deal done in seven months. Since I was already on a track of getting things done, I used the time the best I could. My first order of business, of course, was getting rid of my student debt. Please keep in mind how subversive of an act this was in late 2011 and early 2012. In Portland, and your town too, the Occupy movement was still lingering on. There were still people who refused for whatever reason not to pay their student loans claiming unfair treatment despite having signed their name. There were people all over the place defaulting on all sorts of loans. And I was quietly sticking it to the man because with every payment I made I knew exactly how much money I was saving on interest. Even now, as close as I can tell, I denied the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation a few thousand dollars because I paid my loan off so early.

It wasn't just the financial portion of the pre-baby plan. I had other things hanging over me too. For instance, I had been struggling with my manuscript The Errors of Fabric for months. By the time the dust settled in January 2012, I took a pile of notes and some bits of dialogue and worked on the story. The Errors of Fabric took shape quickly. Sure, I was clearheaded, but I also had so much more to do.

Publications. I'd been working with Sophia Ballou for about a year. I'd committed to one essay a month and one work of considerable length a month. I gave Sophia Ballou one 50 page chapbook a month. This was no small chore. I got a few smaller publications too: “The Escape from Recess” in Red Lightbulbs. And “When It's So Cold in December” in WordPlaySound. But, of course, the largest publication of all was my novel Dysphoric Notions at Ring of Fire Publishing.

I suppose the long and short of it is this: when focused, 9 months is a great deal of time. You can get so much done in 9 months. I suspect this to be truth with or without pregnancy. It's an amazing thought to see the checklist getting smaller and smaller as the belly gets larger and larger. And the best thing was, in the days leading up to the birth, I had done everything I said I was going to do. And it was a good feeling.

Ring of Fire

The Lovecraft

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