Audrey T. Carroll
Standing in a pool hall in Little Rock at midnight, half of us smoke Camels and candy-scented vape, talking about when those of us hitched plan to have kids—the stigma of being pregnant for interviews and the supreme torture that must be loading up a U-haul in Arkansas in July while growing a little greedy thing inside of you—like having a kids is ever a plan, and suddenly you feel like you slipped on your mother's blue pinstripe pants suit and someone has mistaken you for a responsible adult. One of them takes you aside in the middle of an argument about the evils of advertising that you tried (and failed) to cut off at the pass, an argument that someone says is only happening because water signs like to argue but you know her drunk swagger on heels when you see it, and he tells you how sorry your man was for snapping at you earlier, because the guy you're speaking to was He Who Saw The Fire In Your Eyes when you spoke on the phone, heard the steely edge in your voice that made the other patrons of the restaurant stare at you, and though you can't remember what you said that offended their Southern sensibility, at this point it hardly surprises you that you have. Even a quiet Queens girl can be offensive in the South. You've already forgiven the snapping at you because you're hoping for your own kind of forgiveness, have already started practicing resenting the hypothetically inflating womb you anticipate, resenting the changes over which you will have no control, the fear that the child will break you, make your body weak when the last thing you are allowed to be is weak. Late but never missed, you wonder if it might be possible to plan or if you're just the same teenaged control freak who needed exacts—books by multiples of fives on shelves; symmetrical lining up of cut-out magazine pictures on walls; even footfalls—the only order, the only safety, in exactness.