I want to have children because I want to make something that bleeds, she says, I am tired of wood and paper and ink and the making of lifeless things.
He says but that’s utterly selfish, and he says this with shock. He stops stirring the white sauce, stops adding cheddar cheese and he stops these things so that he can look at her.
Her chin quivers. He knows this quiver. It is the horse-quiver of strain, of holding fast against vast internal pressures. It is her stubbornness and her strength and he falls in love with her again.
There are curtains, he notes absently in the pause for breath that fills them both, there are curtains that fall vertically from a pole to the floor and he has seen them many times over the days and months and years and he has not seen them at all. They have flowers on them. A collection of pleased bees dart from one to the next. Contrails chart their paths. The colour yellow has been used.
He clears his throat in the hope it will bring words like rain and break the pause and break this thing that she cherishes, this thing he has known of for a long time.
There was a time when their fucking was violent and their hips tattered each others and they would quietly smile at each other during lightening storms. But this way of making love gives way to gentler patterings and mumblings and she led him to simpler things and deeper.
This violent time was when they were young, when they called themselves young, when the world was fresher and newer and stranger, when love had the sense of adventure that approached movies, when it was a triumph to be wet by the sky together.
His name was Tim and hers was Melissa and it doesn’t matter what mine is at all.
Here is what Tim was able to say: nothing. His mind had filled up and sponged outwards and soaked many memories and the tang of nostalgia sat on his tongue and bound him.
She, Melissa, was proposing something new. She was proposing something radical. She was proposing something impossible. The world was not fresh and new for them anymore. Her womb had never seen his penis unclad. This was a decision that both of them had made, together, that this act would have this meaning, that it would free them from strain and bind them together but that it would be qualified with plastics and pills and made harmless and joyful. This was a decision which had lasted as long as they had. This decision had long passed beyond Tim’s thoughts into the place where rules are abided by.
But this is coming too much from Tim, too much, when it is Melissa who has said something important, very important, amongst the clutter of domestic life, the collections of questions involving brands of bread, locations of keys, holidays, pets (Rooster the cat) and reaffirmations of love, reminders of phone calls to errant family.
There are only two of them in this story and Melissa is proposing to introduce a new character, a third, a shapeless mass with nothing interesting to say.
Melissa says what she says because she is tired of her life. She is successful. Having zero children frees up much time. Having access to two incomes means swift mortgage repayment. It allows investment properties across the Tasman. Hobart is the next hot market. She knows exactly what Tim does from Monday to Friday, and even what happens to him on the weekends when he seeks out friends. They have good lines of communication. They have worked at talking, not let themselves soften into habit. They are proud of the couple they have formed.
Melissa looks at him shocked wondering how he does not know the tide of inside her. How is it that Tim doesn’t know the way time stretches out in commutes in the car, in supermarkets, in the doldrums where no wind blows? Doesn’t it show on her face, roiling beneath her jaw? Hasn’t she told him a hundred times, over and over and over? How can it be that with all this talking, the child is still in her head?
Just for practice.