JANUARY 13 (TUESDAY), 8 WEEKS + 1 DAY
When my sister showed me the picture, I thought I was looking at freezing rain streaked against the night sky.
It was the size and shape of an ordinary photograph, with a white border and the name of the film company printed on the back. But when she got home from her exam and threw it on the table, I knew immediately that it was different from other photographs.
The night sky in the background was pure and black, so dark it made you dizzy if you stared at it too long. The rain drifted through the frame like a gentle mist, but right in the middle was a hollow area in the shape of a lima bean.
"This is my baby," my sister said, picking at the corner of the picture with a perfectly manicured fingernail. The morning sickness had made her cheeks pale and transparent.
I stared at the bean-shaped cavity. The baby was curled up in the corner, like a wispy shadow that might be blown away into the night by the first breeze.
"This is where the morning sickness comes from," she added, sinking heavily onto the sofa. She had eaten nothing since getting up this morning.
"How do they take these?" I asked.
"How should I know? I just lay there. As I was getting ready to leave, the doctor handed it to me-as a 'souvenir,' he said."
"A souvenir?" I repeated, looking back at the picture. "So, what's he like," I continued, remembering the smell of the paint, "this doctor at M Clinic?"
"He's an older man, white-haired, quite a gentleman. He isn't very talkative, and neither are the two nurses who work with him. They don't say anything unless they have to. They're not so young themselves, probably about the same age as the doctor, and they look remarkably alike, almost as if they were twins. Their builds, their hair, voices, even the spots on their uniforms are in the same places-I can never tell them apart.
"It's quiet in the exam room, just a little shuffling of medical charts, tweezers clicking, needles being taken out of boxes. The nurses and the doctor seem to communicate by signals only they understand. The doctor just moves slightly or glances toward something and a nurse immediately hands him a thermometer, or the results of a blood test, or whatever. It's fascinating how they do it." She sat back on the sofa and crossed her legs.
"Has the clinic changed much?" I asked.
"Not a bit," she said, shaking her head. "After the elementary school gate, I turned at the flower shop, and when I saw the sign I felt as though I'd gone through a time warp. It was like being sucked back into the past." Her cheeks still looked cold and transparent from the walk.
"The examination room is exactly the same, too," she said. "That tall, narrow cabinet, the big chair where the doctor sat, the screen made out of frosted glass-it all looked just the way I remembered it. Everything seems old and out-of-date, but it's absolutely spotless. The only new addition is the ultrasound machine." She pronounced the words slowly, as if she were speaking about something very important. "Every time I go, they make me lie down on a bed next to it. Then I have to pull up my blouse and tug my underwear down below my belly. One of the nurses comes with a big tube and squeezes this clear gel all over it. I love how it feels, all smooth and slippery-it drives me crazy." She let out a long sigh before continuing. "Then the doctor rubs my belly with a thing that looks like a walkie-talkie; it's connected to the ultrasound by a black cable. The gel keeps it stuck to the skin, and they get a picture of what's inside on the screen."
Her finger reached out and flipped over the photograph that lay on the table.
"When they're finished, one of the nurses wipes my stomach with a piece of gauze. I always want it to go on a little longer, so that makes me a little sad." The words seemed to flow out of her. "When they're done, the first thing I do is go to the restroom and pull up my blouse again to look at my stomach. I always hope there's some gel left, but there never is. It's not even smooth when I rub it-I feel so let down." She sighed again.
One of the socks she'd pulled off tumbled to the floor. Outside, a light snow had begun to fall.
"How does it feel to have a picture taken of your insides?" I asked, staring out at the snowflakes dancing in the wind.
"I suppose it's about the same as when he takes an X-ray of my teeth."
"Yes. It's a little embarrassing, and it tickles." Her lips closed slowly, and she was quiet at last. She has a habit of talking for a long time without a break and then suddenly falling silent. But all that talking didn't seem to do her much good-she was always so nervous afterward. I was sure that she would be running off to see Dr. Nikaido before long.
The baby haunted the shadows that fell between us.
JANUARY 28 (WEDNESDAY), 10 WEEKS + 2 DAYS
Her morning sickness is getting worse. She seems convinced it will never get any better nor disappear, and that depresses her. At any rate, she can't eat anything. I've suggested just about every food imaginable, but she refuses everything. I even got out all the cookbooks in the house and went through them with her, but it didn't help. I realize now that eating is actually an extremely delicate undertaking.
Still, her stomach is so empty it must ache, and she finally said that she needed to put something in her mouth. (She couldn't bring herself to say "eat.") She decided on a croissant. A waffle or some potato chips might have done just as well, but a croissant left over from breakfast happened to be peeking out of the bread basket. She tore off a piece, forced it into her mouth, and swallowed it almost without chewing. Then, to wash it down, she took a tiny sip from a can of sports drink, grimacing with disgust as she swallowed. It didn't seem like eating at all, more like some difficult ritual.
My brother-in-law has been bringing home articles that he thinks will help: "How I Beat Morning Sickness" or "What Fathers Can Do for Morning Sickness." It's hard to believe, but the pregnancy seems to be affecting his appetite as well. At the table, he just pokes at his food and barely eats anything. "I can't eat when she's feeling so bad," he says, sighing. She seems to think that he's acting this way just to be nice, but I've noticed that when he's massaging her back while she forces down a croissant he gets terribly pale and clutches his other hand to his mouth. They huddle together like a pair of injured birds and shuffle off to their bedroom, not to be seen again until morning.
My brother-in-law seems particularly pitiful to me, since he has no reason to feel sick, and I find myself getting angry over his little sighs and whimpers. It occurs to me that I'd fall in love with a man who could put away a three-course French dinner even when he knew I was paralyzed by morning sickness.