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Authors: Consuelo Saah Baehr

Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel) (10 page)

BOOK: Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel)
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The next day he called the Margaret Sanger Clinic – a suggestion made by the New York Health Department. They invited him in for counseling. “I don’t need counseling. I just want to know what’s involved in getting an abortion.”

“You need counseling,” they insisted. “Believe us.”

On his lunch hour the next day, walking back to the office, he stopped dead on the sidewalk, making a man behind him curse. Who said it was definitely his baby? It could just as well be someone else’s baby. A lot of someone elses. He couldn’t wait to find a phone and confront her. He was suddenly furious.

He dialed her number from an outdoor booth and took a deep breath. “How do I know it’s mine?”

“What?” She blasted the word into his ear. “You total shit. You think I would say it’s yours if I weren’t sure?” She slammed the phone down. He continued to the office. He didn’t know what to believe. Before he called he had been positive it wasn’t his but now…well, he believed her.

After work he went to a bar and had four shots of scotch. He saw there watching the Yankees play the Boston Red Sox until eleven o’clock and finally headed home. When he got into the elevator, there were two young men inside and they gave each other a knowing look. He had never seen them before. The minute he pressed the button for his floor and the doors closed, they began to beat him up. The confines of the elevator worked in their favor. They backed him into a corner and he had no place to go. They punched him repeatedly – perhaps his clothes made them angry – and then cut him. He wasn’t immediately aware of the cut.

They took his watch and twenty-three dollars but left his wallet. They got out on the seventh floor, leaving him alone. The moment the door closed, he threw up, a severe heaving – he could hear it gurgling in his throat. It was such a shock, he shot up to his feet – only surprise could have allowed him to move any one of those throbbing muscles and leave the elevator. He waited until his breathing was calm before knocking. He didn’t want to scare his mother to death and there was no possibility that he could fit his key into the lock. When she saw him, she drew in her breath but didn’t scream. “
Espere
…wait.” She put her hand on him as if to root him to the spot, got her pocketbook and pulled him back to the elevator. His vomit was everywhere. “I did that,” he said.

“Dun worry. I clean it later.”

She took him to the hospital where they stitched up the gash on the side of his cheek and covered his face with ice packs. It was decided to admit him and see if he showed any signs of concussion or internal injuries. They suspected two ribs were broken and who knew what else. The Darvon began to work. He felt woozy but relatively normal. In the morning, his only thought was to call Barbara. Suppose she tried to reach him? She would think he had run out on her.

At first she didn’t believe he was in the hospital, then she insisted on visiting him. “It’s probably your fault,” she said when he told her what happened. “It’s your state of mind that attracts trouble.”

She screamed when she saw him. “My god!”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be here…especially since you’re…you know.” He remembered vaguely something his grandmother had said about a niece who had been frightened while pregnant and the baby had been born deaf.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

He didn’t know whether she meant about her, the baby, his face or his future. He took the easiest one. “You mean about school? I’m going,” he said resolutely. “I’m supposed to be there on Wednesday and I’m going to be there on Wednesday. I’m okay. I mean there’s nothing major broken or anything. They’re not going to keep me out just because of a few bruises. Besides, I’m, going to need a good job to help support this baby. “ As he said it, a flutter of fear went through his gut. Life changed all the time. Look at what had happened to him in just two days.

Chapter Nine

There were three ways to get to Princeton from New York. A bus from the Port Authority stopped right at the University. Your parents could drive you or you could drive yourself, although it was foolish to bring a car to Princeton. They made it so cumbersome to park that the farthest point to which you would ever drive was probably where they would make you keep the car. The most acceptable way to arrive was on t he comfortable Amtrak train out of New York on its way to Washington with a stop at Princeton Junction. Once there, you would transfer to the ‘dinkey,’ a shuttle that brought you the rest of the way. If you were an upperclassman assigned to Spellman dorm, the dinkey practically deposited you in your bed.

Luis arrived for orientation week with a black eye, cuts and contusions and a potential father. His cheekbones were puffed to the color of a ripe El Dorado plum. Staring out of that carnage, his normally placid blue eyes now appeared to have seen too much.

He brought his belongings in twin Samsonite two-suiters with elaborate clasps that, according to the ads, could be dropped from airplanes; roll down rocky embankments only to be found locked and unscratched. The color, a cool grey-blue, had appealed to him in the vast luggage department of Macy’s.

A self-assured boy with sandy hair and a small boil on his chin introduced himself as Luis’ senior advisor. He made a point of not staring at his battered face, gave him a small map of the university, directed him to his room, checked off his name from a list and wished him luck.

Luis’ stomach fluttered once or twice as he inhaled the medicinal smell of the halls. The room wasn’t spectacular but neither was there anything specifically wrong with it. It looked out onto a healthy lawn and leafy trees. It was a room for two, not overly large but with an alcove that contained a lamp and a worn overstuffed chair. He chose the bed away from the window in a gesture of amiability toward Fred Burdette, who, according to the letter he had received, was the roommate they had chosen for him. He made his bed, put away his things and sat down to wait.

Fred Burdette was of medium height with a round, pudgy face, four or five freckles on his nose and very curly, dirty-blonde hair. He wore round, tortoise shell glasses and looked middle-aged. He slung two canvas laundry bags with the name Exeter stenciled across them onto the empty bed and fell between them with a huge sigh. “Voilà, il commence,” he whispered wearily, taking a long, careful look at Luis’ face. “I hope the other guy looks worse.”

“Yeah…thanks,” said Luis.

“What’s your name? I lost my introductory letter.”

Luis had taken in the laundry bags, the slim watch, the baggy fawn-colored slacks and the soft wool sweater, knowing instantly that half of what he had brought, most notably the two heavy suitcases, was hopelessly wrong. He decided his name was wrong as well. “I’m Bob,” he said.

“Hullo, Bob.” Fred Burdette half rose to reach for his hand but Luis shrank back, struck one fist into the palm of his other hand and groaned in disgust. “It’s not Bob.”

“It’s not Bob,” Fred Burdette deadpanned. He looked at Luis solicitously. “Do you wish it were Bob?”

“Not particularly.”

They were both silent. “Why so disappointed then?” asked Fred.

Luis smiled ruefully. “I didn’t want to tell you my real name.”

Fred contemplated this soberly, his hands between his legs. “That’s very original. Very original. Do you want to tell me now?”

“Luis.”

“Louise?” His eyebrows shot up. “That’s bad. I can see why you said Bob.”

“It’s not Louise,” said Luis laughing.

“That’s a relief.”

“Oh, god.”

“Let’s start again. I’m Fred Burdette.”

“Luis – that’s Lewis to you – O’Neill.” He stretched to his full five feet ten inches and extended his hand.

“A pleasure,” said Fred.

Princeton provided Luis with a bed, a dresser, a chair, a desk, three sixty-watt bulbs and arrogant roaches that paraded around looking no more refined than the roaches in the projects. Fred Burdette immediately rented a refrigerator from the refrigerator agency and a telephone from the telephone agency and invited Luis to share both.

Two days after he arrived, Luis went to the employment office. “Any jobs?” he asked of a small, red-haired girl.

“Oh, my god,” she said staring at his face, “how can you take a job?”

“The worst is over,” he answered bravely but that only made her more solicitous.

“What happened?”

“Oh, you know. What always happens. A punch here, a punch there.”

“Please….sit down. I’ll see what’s available.” She kept glancing his way, looking for signs of an emergency. He noticed that her arms were completely freckled, as was most of her face. She was thin, too, but had lovely green eyes. “Mostly dining room jobs,” she said. “In Commons.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Yes. Loading dishwashing machines, removing dishes, replenishing dishes, mopping….general work.”

“I’ll take mopping.”

“Say good-bye to your beautiful hands,” she gave him an experimental smile.

“Yeah…well…they’ll go nicely with my face.”

She turned serious. “I hope…I hope everything works out all right.”

“Thanks.”

As he turned to leave, she called after him. “They’re always looking for guys to sell ads for the paper. You could try there if the mopping gets too much for you.”

“Thanks again.” He smiled as widely as his bruises would allow.

“Oh, don’t mention it. I’m here to help. Come back…anytime…tomorrow…” she giggled nervously. “Ask for Regina Cross.” Then she blushed.

“Okay,” he waved his hand. Her sincerity touched him. In this supercharged atmosphere, a little friendliness was a valued asset. Maybe he would come back later.

He thought about Regina Cross on and off for the next few days. The idea that he might impregnate her as he had impregnated Barbara kept him from going to see her. Careless raptures could turn serious. She was probably well off if she was at Princeton. And well bred. It was the latter that made him feel horny. He felt like getting in the sack with a freckle-faced, well-bred girl but he didn’t feel proud of himself for feeling that way.

He remembered Neil Barron From Aubernon and Cagney who once told them that from the day he was sixteen and nine months to the day he was nineteen and six months, he had maintained a bothersome and sometimes humiliating erection. “It just never went down,” he said morosely. “Everything made me think of sex. Toothpaste, eggs, light bulbs, red meat, chicken, traffic lights.” “Why traffic lights?” “Well, they say stop…and go.” His only thought in those days, he told them, was how he could get laid without waiting and how he could store up potential lays so there was never a day when he might have to do without. Every day, he tried to make a new conquest so he could rotate the women. Every woman he saw was simply a place to park his penis. Their faces melted into one face. Their conversations were all one conversation – a conversation to be finished so he could take them to the sack. It didn’t even have to be the sack. It could be a car, a wall, a chair, a tabletop.

There were two general reactions to Luis’ face. The men averted their eyes and made believe nothing was wrong. The women’s faces crumbled and they asked a million questions. He began to believe in the mothering instinct. For Fred Burdette, who knew the truth, it was amusing to watch Luis gain notoriety and a certain rakish status.

“Conjecture is sweeping the campus like a hot August wind,” he told Luis with some delight. “The question is: who beat you up? And why. Was it the Mafia? A jealous lover? You have instant recognition without doing anything.”

“You don’t consider pain and the fear of being killed anything?” Luis looked indignant. “My ribs are still taped. I can’t turn over in bed,” He was more than pleased. He needed any edge. You would have had to be made of Styrofoam not to be intimidated by Princeton. It was so…old…and traditional…and subdued and judgmental….and perfect.

There seemed to be a sub-surface anxiety over who you were, where you had come from and where you were going. It wasn’t enough to call the preppies snobs. They were otherworldly beings whose indifference was stunning to anyone with normal ambitions. If you weren’t motivated by a desire for money, status or achievement, why do anything? Decent, wholesome people who just two weeks ago had considered themselves the cream of the crop were reduced to self-loathing toads.

Luis wasn’t worried about his preppie potential. He had real worries. Would his face heal without scarring? Was Barbara really pregnant and, if so, to what extent was he going to provide for her and the baby? He was often preoccupied thinking about the baby. He saw it as a boy with Barbara’s woolly, blond hair. He had called twice before leaving but had only reached her answering machine. The message recorded wasn’t the message of a desperate or recently weakened individual. “Hello,” said the tape in a vigorous voice, “if you hate to talk to this machine, just say your first name. Maybe your last name. How about your initials? Say ‘fuck you’ if you like. Anything will do. I’m great at recognizing voices.”

“Fuck you,” he had recorded in a fit of anger. Part of his anger, he knew, was due to the fact that he felt powerless. He didn’t want her to have an abortion yet he wasn’t willing to give up his rendezvous with Princeton.

Then there was the biggest worry of all. In order not to lose his scholarship, he had to keep his grades up. The idea that by spring he could be out on his ass was unthinkable. The love and pride he felt at being there couldn’t be overestimated.

BOOK: Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel)
9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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