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Trying is a fitting operative verb here.

Fiction | Flash Fiction
June 30, 2023

It is twelve o’clock on a Saturday afternoon when JoJo rolls off me and collapses on his white and gray striped pillow. In ten minutes, he begins to snore heavily on cue, shaking the entire bed. JoJo isn’t his official name; his parents aren’t that cruel. I call him JoJo out of adoration but predominantly as a perfunctory habit. What started as an innocuous joke ended with my husband being permanently cast as the Powerpuff Girls lead villain.  

I slip out of the unmade bed, his snores serving as my personal soundtrack, and stagger to my phone. Quickly turning it on, I flip through the apps until I find the excessively pink one with a butterfly icon. Or maybe it was an obscure representation of a vagina, I can’t be sure. I unlock the ad-riddled app, gently flick my right index finger on the date and toggle to indicate that I have been intimate today. “With or without protection? Position during ejaculation? Tender breasts? Bloating? Mild cramps? Mood swings?” are the follow-up questions. I recall an article that detailed how most, if not all, of these apps sell their unsuspecting users’ data to sinister third parties. I promise to rely on the unquestioning desk calendar for my next log. 

JoJo and I have been married for seven years and are constantly asked if we have children, the tone of the question growing increasingly accusatory with each year. Our negative responses are met with a pause and expectation of a satisfactory explanation that our roguish lifestyle demands. We always said that it would simply happen when it happened. Then, JoJo no longer wanted to wait. We’re trying for a baby, we began to announce. Trying is an operative verb here. Our attempts are scheduled, penciled in sessions approved and ordered by an austere calendar. Tracked, mechanical, and meticulously planned chores. 

If the truth is to be somehow extracted out of me, it would divulge that I do not care for children. I am always asked when I would have children; nobody has ever asked me if I wanted one. Not JoJo, not my parents, not even me. I don’t have an explanation for not actively wanting a baby to crawl out of my insides, but surely not everything needs a reason. Isn’t not wanting children reason enough to not have them? 

I haven’t said any of this aloud, and I don’t plan on it either. It’s like JoJo says, having a child is one stage in the natural progression of life. Besides, we have been at it for over a year. It would be diabolical to spring something like this on him now. A part of me feels like I owe it to him to give him a child, as if it is the bare minimum of courtesy I can extend to him for all that he has done for me. If I had become a doctor like I had planned, then things could have gone differently. We could be living in a bigger city where people are far too busy to go about monitoring the childless married couples around them, but I dropped out of college. JoJo never made me feel bad about it, but I had already done that to myself. When I was eighteen, I was ambitious and assertive. If that girl were told what would happen to her, she would recoil in disgust.  

Once people hear that we are planning to conceive, they release a flood of unsolicited advice, warnings and lectures. I am now suddenly public property, and my body becomes the community’s body overnight. My elderly neighbor pops into our house uninvited to hand over a glass of greenish yellow contents that she assures will help impregnate me. JoJo’s colleague describes her tryst with pregnancy and the resulting birth story and the horrific four-day labor in greater detail than I’d ever want to know. “Enjoy your pregnancy. It’s easily the best time of your life!” she exclaims. Their invasive questions assume an eerie familiarity with my pink pregnancy tracking app, and I am now certain that the app’s owner auctioned my entries to these people.   

When still in college, JoJo and I had said that we saw ourselves having babies, but I had also said that I wanted to become a doctor who would play the violin on weekends. JoJo will make a good father; he’s sure of it, and I’m sure of it too. He wants to read stories aloud to the person we’re trying to make, go on ice-cream runs, buy outrageously overpriced baby clothes. Swayed by mainstream pop culture and veiled consumerism, he wants to do everything he thinks a good parent does. He’s going to tell our child all about the struggle we went through to have a child and how we have a miracle baby. What would our magnum opus think if it slipped out that the mother never wanted to be a mother in the first place?

The giant red circle around today’s date on the calendar foretells the evening that is about to unfold. JoJo returns home earlier than usual, prompted most likely by a prying reminder on his phone of the grand opening of my fertile window. In seconds, we’ve made our way to the bed, and he’s muttering into my hair. I am not really paying attention to him. As we’re trying to make a baby, I am trying to recollect something that I had once learnt but had sloppily let slip away—that my body was mine alone and belonged to nobody else.