Imogen had always been slender and slight, one of those willowy women who carry their babies low. She carried hers like a honeydew: smallish, well-contained and apparently fastened in a temporary way to her abdomen. Her peasant blouses from Guatemala—much admired in 1977—accommodated themselves easily to this new, anatomical feature. Imogen’s gait had turned a little comical, a little wide-based and gliding, and this had led Dariusz to tease her sometimes, but gently. He had noticed, too, that Imogen’s breasts had become firmer, but very little larger. This suited him. He couldn’t imagine how they could be improved.
Dariusz and Imogen had long since relinquished any thought of having children. “Barren” was the word the gynaecologist had used in his meeting with the couple in 1957. They huddled together in his cold office on a rainy November day, listening to his verdict, not knowing what to say to him or to each other. “Barren.” It was a hard, wooden-sounding word that, like a fall down a long staircase, brought them roughly up against a hard truth. Or, so they thought.
Twenty years later, Imogen missed her last period in 1976 and then, as well, her first period for 1977.
Diana (the huntress) was born in an enormous, chipped, claw-foot tub in Dariusz and Imogen’s crowded bathroom on August 22, 1977, surrounded by a doctor, two close friends, a Spider Plant, a spectral Asparagus Fern and a leafy Cliff Brake. Imogen was splayed open, unselfconsciously, at one end of the tub. Dariusz kneeled patiently at the other in a few inches of warm water. It was a sultry summer day.
Bees nuzzled into the horn-shaped hollyhock flowers that swayed gently outside the open door of the house alongside the Lavatera, the Lupins, the Cyclamen and the sagging branches of the heavily laden Persimmon tree. Dragonflies hovered in mid-air over the vegetable garden and houseflies bumped and buzzed lazily against the kitchen window above the sink. Everything inside and outside was lush and green and alive and hot and moist and fecund. Somehow their ramshackle little cottage on Victoria Drive at Napier with its clapboard siding and its chaotic garden of rich colours and heady scents had erupted and coalesced into a riotous, bountiful shrine to newfound fertility.
Diana glided into the world uneventfully, even though a home birth had been strongly discouraged. Be-ponytailed Dr. Bensimon came swiftly to the house when summoned after Imogen’s water broke. There were no complications, notwithstanding that Imogen was, by then, 43. With two or three firm pushes, Diana emerged—forced out with ease like an edamame bean from its soft, salty green shell—into Dariusz’s large, warm, welcoming hands. There were no pyrotechnics, no new mother’s wailing screams. Someone finally got the baby crying by following the doctor’s instruction to briefly turn up the volume on the Marantz stereo playing in the living room: Miles Davis and Gil Evans, There’s a Boat that’s Leaving Soon for New York.
P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver. His fiction has appeared in anthologies published in Ireland, England, Scotland and Canada. His collection entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age was published by Libros Libertad Ltd. in 2013. Visit P.W. at www.pwbridgman.ca.
Photograph courtesy of P.W.Bridgman