She had lost the baby. Or misplaced the baby. In the dim early morning light, eyes wide staring at the ceiling, she is certain. But how? How could such a thing happen? She searches her memory. Anxiety makes it hard to focus. She fed the baby breakfast yesterday. She remembers that. They went shopping. The baby was in one of those enormous plastic shopping carts that’s supposed to be like a little automobile. Impossible to manage through the aisles of the store. But, no, the baby wasn’t in one of those. The baby is too small for those. The baby was in the baby seat of a regular cart. She remembers there were other babies in the store in carts. It made her think of rabbits making bunnies, humans making more and more babies until retail outlets are overrun, babies are declared pests, control measures must be implemented.
Did she leave the baby in the cart? No, she put the baby in the car. But where? She had so many purchases, the cart mounded high, all that jammed into the car. But the baby was in the car seat, of course. Had to be. It’s the law. No avoiding that.
He does not seem concerned. He doesn’t ask. He sits with his newspaper, his coffee, his napkin under his chin, a corner of it tucked behind the knot of his tie. Sometimes coffee sneaks into his moustache and drips on his shirt, his white shirt. That happened once, and he had to change the shirt, and routine was upset, replaced by novelty and vocalizing and rage. She knows that routine is important in the morning. She must not upset routine.
She drifts around the edges of routine, experimenting with invisibility. It seems to be working. She continues to search her memory, going deeper. An image of the baby, a wrinkled sack of flesh fresh from her womb. What a joy! What a relief to be free of that horrible bump, like a giant tumor. Not a malignancy. What, then? A benignancy? Yes, that’s what. A benignancy. An indignant benignancy. A benignant indignity. The words tumble around in her brain like wrestling children.
But she must get back to looking for the baby, really looking. As soon as he leaves. It looks like he’s going already. He’s standing. He gives her a peck on the cheek. Not so invisible.
Once he’s gone she waits a suitable length of time—she knows exactly what a suitable length of time is, although she’s not sure how she knows. Just as she knows the baby is not in the house. Women know things. Female intuition. She packs a small bag with necessaries. The search could take some time. She leaves a note on the counter:
“Gone to look for the baby. Will call with news of progress.” Below that she puts two x’s and a small heart. “Pam,” she writes.
Photo by Djuliet