Math is no longer done in numbers; there are boards and dots and arrows. Six hundred is taken from 650, nine hundred from 964 and the sum is estimated. That’s not how math works. At what point did we start complicating numbers?
Jesus Christ. How? How??
It’s math or it’s not. Pick one or be done.
Steve places a kiss on my shoulder. “You’re amazing when you do this.”
“That’s hardly impressive.”
Insecurity follows me like a hiker does a path and I realize I have to teach “new math” to fourth graders. “This is weird,” I say.
“You’re weird,” Steve counters.
“You’re not funny or cute.”
“I’m not trying to be.”
The coffee table sits between us, holding two cups that call out to us like abandoned fetuses. His actually holds coffee, and mine a shot of whiskey.
When I do sip, he says, “Should you be doing that?”
“Does it matter?”
“Since when does it not.”
I take another drink. “It helps me focus.”
The color of his fist is pallid like an elephant’s hide as his knuckles bind tighter and tighter. I stay focused on my sad excuse for math, and he focuses on the fact that he hates me. Well, hate is a strong word. He’s in a quarrel with me, presently. The two of us don’t function in feelings and emotions anymore; we are avoidance and parallel lines that like to feign perpendicularity.
His adam’s apple bobs like his neck holds the whole word, and it’s like that sometimes – his words carry weight and magma and water and humanity. He doesn’t realize that not everything warrants a launch code for the bombs behind his teeth, perfect and white and ready to ruin our night.
“Refill?” he asks when the cup is empty, but I don’t ask for the booze, because I know he’s going to bring back water or peach juice. I don’t watch as he walks around me, slouching like a mountain to the ground. The same kind of slopes on the page before me, made of numbers and calculations, and now, well, bullshit.
I am wrist deep in the bullshit when Steve says, “We could be happy, you know.”
I shrug and remind him that’s not possible. “I want to go back for my PhD. You want to be a music producer. Hard to do that unless we try and…move on.”
“You’re being vague.”
“To be fair, so are you.”
My pencil pauses over the page, the chain of intercepts that I’ve formed.
He finally says. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s not a military secret. You can say the word abortion.”
It settles between us, makes an equation from its syllables and letters. Steve over complicates it, factories churning a remix in his mind. It’s not that big of a deal, until he makes it one. I turn back to my paper. “People get it done all the time.”
“There’s one….clinic in the state.”
“And it’s a couple miles a way. I don’t see the big deal.”
“We could get married and raise it.”
“We’re twenty five years old. We don’t know anything about babies.”
“We could learn.”
“Or we could not.”
Steve didn’t say anything to that.
“Bianca,” he started after a while, prying my hand from the writing utensil. “It’s not a black and white, easy and done issue.”
“Right, because nothing says ‘successful career’ like being a mommy in grad school.”
“You work with kids.”
“I also watch Star Wars. Doesn’t mean I want to join an intergalactic space war.”
He collapses against the couch and lets me go. “You’re doing this.”
“Yes I am.”
He watches me from the other end, eyes inky and full of spiteful yin. “Does our baby mean nothing to you?”
“Of course not. But this isn’t the right time, and we both know it.”
“How do you know?”
“Steve, look around. We can barely take care of ourselves.”
He sighs. “There’s always adoption.”
“There are millions of kids in the foster care system already.”
“But it’s a baby.”
“It’s not a baby. It’s cells.”
We could go back and forth but I couldn’t make him understand the weight motherhood pressed on my shoulders. It was the size of a beast, with leather skin and heavy hooves. I wanted kids, someday, when I was happier and more secure.
For now, this would have to be fine.
I stood and left him there, going to my bedroom for my old textbooks with the math. The real math and I tear the common core nonsense into two. Reworking my lesson plans, I sit and wait for Steve to come and join me. He doesn’t enjoy it, but the air is clear between us for a moment.
He tries to argue again.
I silence him and say, “Please stop talking.”
Anastasia Jill (Anna Keeler) is a queer poet and fiction writer living in the southern United States. She is a current editor for the Smaeralit Anthology. Her work has been published or is upcoming with Poets.org, Lunch Ticket, FIVE:2:ONE, Ambit Magazine, apt, Into the Void Magazine, 2River, and more.