by Anais Jay, Age 18, Philippines
Artwork by Katie King
The March fiction prompt was “a pot of gold.”
Thoughts about starting a family occupied most of my time as a teenager. Aside from getting a husband and all the romantic intimacies that were a girl’s fantasy, I had always wondered about the magical sensation of cradling my own child in my arms.
I remember how, when my mood permitted the intrusion of these thoughts, I’d observe the babies in the hospital’s nursery. I would even stammer to the nurse of my intention to hold a baby for even one moment.
But before courage could straighten my words, panic would freeze my tongue, and I would end up waving her off with an excuse that I was bound to leave for a meeting. Doctors weren’t supposed to run out of things to start and things to finish, after all.
Everybody believed me.
If I had agreed to serve as midwife from time to time, perhaps I could have held a child without worrying about the questions that strangers would impose on me. Why had I closed my eyes that long? Why did I look as though I had never seen a newborn?
My intellect and experience positioned me to conjure the most convincing of reasons, but I had never dared. The labouring mothers would only remind me of the one purpose I had forever lost the opportunity to fulfil. Worse; there persisted the fact that it was because I was old…and old women could not get pregnant nor give birth to new life.
I would be forever without child, but that did not stop me from retreating to the memories of my youth and pondering what if…what if I had a child?
Relief blossomed inside of me as I intertwined my fingers with those of the young soldier sleeping on his hospital bed. His warmth helped me ease my way back into reality.
To be the mother of this boy should feel nothing like the adrenaline of pressing my fingers against the bullet-hole on an officer’s shoulder or of missing the fallen gunner who made a habit of joking about hepatitis.
The closest comparison would be the mornings I spent listening to babies cry in a common hospital’s nursery, back when my appetite for challenges could still be quenched by common people and their common misfortunes. It must feel something close to having everybody believe I could protect them from every hurtful thing in this world.
My eyelids fluttered. My vision hazed.
In place of the solider, I saw a tiny body with a mess of yellow hair. Perhaps he would resemble my nephew’s large mouth and full cheeks. He could be as loud and ambitious as the blonde soldier who had thanked me for saving his leg from amputation.
And if, by chance, God gave me a son too plain for the world to applaud, I would not care. In another life, I would have already sacrificed status and beauty and every pot of gold for his happiness.
It was not so hard to imagine.
Anais says, “I considered entering the military but after realizing that I wouldn’t be able to interrupt my training to scribble notes on index cards, I changed my mind and decided instead to stick with the agonizing profession of writing full-time. I now enjoy shooting people with words and endless outbursts of mad art.”