technology; I thought about what I knew would happen to this child, how it didn’t stand a chance if it was saddled with me as a mother, or with my parents in the picture, and with—oh, forget about it. There was no chance this kid could stay with me, and I knew it. Life had already taught me not to want what I can’t have. I said no, I didn’t want to hold the baby. Not even for a second. We never even made eye contact—I wouldn’t allow myself—and so they whisked him away, and with him a whole other way of life was gone forever. Me? They pretty much gave me an Aspirin, a bowl of tapioca and, after one day, a discharge. Jeremy stayed there for light treatment to correct a slight anemia.
Afterwards, life at home was grim at best. Father had no idea what to say or do. Mother? Thank heaven for Valium. I hammed up the too-tired-to-talk aspect of the birth, and Mother hopped like a bird between my room and the TV room down the hall, sleepless and restless.
“It was Rome. I know it was Rome. What happened there?”
“Nothing happened there, Mother.”
“It was nine months ago. How stupid do you take me to be?”
Of course I eventually told her what I thought had happened, but what could they do about it? Call the school and demand compensation or justice—and, in doing so, reveal that they hadn’t even known I was pregnant, possibly inviting a squad of social agencies onto the front doorstep to question their viability as parents? One of Mother’s many moods was paranoia. In this case it worked to my advantage. For the months leading up to the birth, and in the days following it, I played out in my head all possible what-to-do-with-the-baby scenarios, and in all of them Mother came out looking bad. Adoption was the least harmful scenario. I said, “Hospitals must have closets full of adoption papers. I’ll ring and ask for one.”
As for my baby, I did look at him once in the nursery while he slept in his see-through light box, and he was beautiful. I thought of those handsome Austrians on the roof, and was sure they were all good genetic raw material. Nature can be cunning that way.
And my heart did go out to my son, but I placed my faith in the provincial adoption system, that it would give him a family as bland and middle-class as my own—or perhaps protect him from families as bland and middle-class as my own. I offloaded my guilt onto bureaucracy—with hindsight, a stupid and childish thing to do. That’s what I blame myself for. Not the rest.
* * *
I was enjoying the relative peace now that Leslie and Jane had left. Leslie was no doubt on her cellphone, blanketing the airwaves with gossip, and my phone would shortly be ringing—Mother.
Jeremy stirred, as if having a bad dream. Then his eyes opened, and even with just the hallway light shining on us, I could tell he could see again.
“What is it, Jeremy?”
“What about farmers?”
“I had this vision.”
“You mean a dream?”
“No. Dreams are boring. I had a vision. I told you I have them. It was these farmers, out in the Prairies, growing wheat or something, and it was spring, but they weren’t planting their fields. They were standing out in the middle of those rural roads that go right to the horizon, and it was midday, and they were looking up at the sun shining through an all-black sky.”
“Why were they doing that?”
“They were hoping they’d see something there.”
“Further instructions on what to do. I think they believed that the world was to end that year—that’s why they didn’t bother sowing their seeds. And they weren’t crazy or anything. They accepted the end times as a given, and weren’t fighting the idea.”
“Were there any farmers’ wives in this vision? They might have a different view of it.”
“They believed too. They were on their porches, throwing their jarred preserves into their yards—beets and beans and tomatoes—with the glass shards like