Sunday Storytime: “Blameless Parasites.”

Here is another snippet from Fait Accompli. This one is from Nadia’s POV, set after she’s discharged from the hospital and placed in the charge of DC’s Department of Social Services.

If you’re unclear about the language or politics in play here, I encourage you to visit the “fait accompli” tag for more info.

***

It was like an injury that had to get worse before it could start healing.

That was how Claudia, at my counseling sessions with her, taught me to think about the pregnancy. It was like someone had beaten me up and left me with a broken leg; it wasn’t my fault the leg was broken, but I would have to work around the injury and take care of the fracture if I ever wanted to walk normally again. The pregnancy was the injury I sustained from a rape during my imprisonment, and I wasn’t expected to be secretly excited about the babies growing inside me, but I would have to give them live birth if I wanted to get my life back. 

I liked that about Claudia, how she was so up-front about what I had to do. She respected the fact that I didn’t love the babies-to-be, and yet she encouraged me not to be angry at them. Blameless parasites, she called them. “They’re a couple of blameless parasites who didn’t sign up for this any more than you did.” I appreciated having a way to think about my condition that didn’t leave me simmering with anger at the injustice of having to carry around that swollen belly, like the fetuses were supposed to be a silver lining that would make me feel better about having been used as a fuck-toy for no good reason. Following the rules of a healthy pregnancy was for my benefit, not just theirs.

What I really hated about the condition–and which no amount of clever analogy could fix–was how weak it made me feel.

Dr. Coronado, my new obstetrician, decided I was too risky a patient to go back to work, especially at something strenuous like waiting tables. Claudia found me a studio apartment in what was not the worst neighborhood in DC, but far from the best. There I was, a defenseless pregnant woman with nothing to do with most of her days, living alone in a not-great neighborhood full of Extras. I didn’t go anywhere most of the time except for my prenatal appointments, counseling sessions, and the grocery store. The harassment was not as bad as I thought it would be, but between the way I was raised and what I’d just survived, I was counting down the days until I could live somewhere else.

The good thing about the pregnancy, on that front, was that most guys took one look at the tummy poking out and assumed there was a man associated with it. The rotten thing about it was that there were always a few Extras who thought they could pursue me anyway, and for them, the belly was just an advertisement of vulnerability. It meant I couldn’t run away as fast as a non-gravida, and that I had to be careful about fighting back, lest I should be held responsible for a miscarriage. All that, and it was only going to get bigger and heavier over the next five months. Most days, I could go to Safeway and home again without getting anything worse than some idiot telling me to smile for him. Occasionally, I would hear some creep shout out his desire to fuck my ass, suck my tits, or have me perform fellatio. Having already lived alone for four years, I knew that the main thing to worry about was getting followed. I was good at keeping an eye on my surroundings without looking frightened, but when the lewd catcalls happened, it was difficult not to drop what I was doing and run away.

The scariest part of every trip outside was the part where I came back to my apartment and unlocked the door. I couldn’t enter that corridor without breaking into a cold sweat, and I couldn’t relax until I was inside with the door firmly locked. Dr. Coronado said the anxiety was bad for the pregnancy, but any drugs he could prescribe for it would be worse.

With all that, one would think I’d be happy to stay at home and relieved that I wouldn’t have to get off the Metro late at night from a restaurant job, but I really wanted to work. At Marco Polo’s, I made friends, but here I couldn’t imagine staying long enough to get acquainted with anyone. Worst of all was the idea that I was too delicate to work. I hated thinking of myself that way; it made the leering Extras outside seem ten times bigger, and every day filled me with rage against the men who’d done this to me.

I liked my prenatal appointments, even though Dr. Coronado was so often the bearer of bad news. He didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he acted like he gave a shit about me, and that was a welcome change.