Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Biological Imperative

BY C.J. BRENNER

I broke up with my last boyfriend because he thought I’d like to have his baby.  As it turns out, I did not.  I don’t blame him for being confused, though, as it wasn’t until those dark and sweaty crucial moments that I realized: I’d like a baby, just not his.  We wrapped things up pretty quickly after that.

After surprise comes loneliness.  And doubt.  My head and my gut fought every night about wanting something that belonged with me because it had been part of me.  My head said ‘Just wait.  Get a hobby, something better will come along.’  My gut raged and whined and searched.  The rest of me listened to the nighttime traffic and tried to sleep.

Knowing that someone needs you around is reassuring and addictive. You can rearrange the pillows all you want, but they don’t get riled when you’re out late.  I found myself sympathizing with soccer moms, because really, they don’t do it for the kids.  My head lectured my gut, ‘You don’t want his crazy genes.  You just miss a warm body in bed.  Get a quilt, you’ll be fine.’  While my head had it totally resolved, my gut staged a quiet coup and took on a mission.  It was going to take care of something no matter what.

Flesh wanted an audience; I was resonating.  Businessmen went slackjawed on the train — nothing new — but my coldest stares couldn’t brush them off.  Vagrants and busboys flocked to me.  Even in dirty t-shirts and greasy hair, I was everyone’s mamí.  When girls started giving me their numbers, I knew something was up.

I had to stop going to the park because dogs wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I began to wake up with itchy red welts all over my body. Three in a row on my leg; one on my arm; a trail running along the ridge of my last rib.  They would itch like hell for an hour, then fade, only to itch again two days later.  I grated my skin off with a hairbrush. It didn’t help.

The exterminators came in, the laundry was sent out.  The bedbugs stumbled into anything left on the ground.  I found one in my foundation, the flat red body coated in Cool Alabaster.  I doused the carpet with sprays and powder, and they crawled up the walls in formation like a horrifying marching band.

When I squashed them in scraps of paper, my blood shot out of their bodies in speedy black lines.  ‘You cried for a baby,’ I told my old blood, ‘but this is what you get.’