Thirteen Minutes

Me: “How about something we eat all the time?”

Nik: “I’m sick of all of that.”

Me: “So… if you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be?”

Nik: “I don’t know. I can’t think of anything. Give me some suggestions.”

Me: “Like, more suggestions than I already have?”

Nik: “You didn’t give me any suggestions.”

Me: “I should start carrying around a tape recorder.”

Nik: “You should start carrying around some sandwiches.”

Me: “…”

Nik: “…What about sandwiches?”

But in this case we were also saddled with an additional issue of being close to our budget limit for food, plus we were in an unfamiliar location and had two cars. We had a meal at home that we were prepared to eat but it was at least 45 minutes until we could get there and then another probably hour until it would be ready. I suggested we push the budget anyway and get some food.

As we exited the building Nik said she didn’t want to do that because she’d feel guilty the whole time she ate, knowing it was bad for our budget, and she wouldn’t enjoy it. I said that was okay and we could think of something else. We walked along the sidewalk that separated the lots. My car was in the one to the right, the employee lot, hers in the left for visitors. We stopped moving because we hadn’t decided how to handle the transportation. Nik was looking increasingly agitated. She didn’t think we could agree on anything to eat and didn’t even know what we could find.

I suggested we could head into the main part of Sunnyvale and see what we came across, then come back and get my truck before we came home. Nik finally lost it. Her eyes puddled with tears and her lip quivered in that sad/cute way it does when she’s trying to avoid feeling silly for being emotional. She spoke in short, liquid phrases. “I haven’t eaten since before I left home! I know we should just go home, but I’m so hungry I’m getting a headache… I can’t think straight…” Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of my unknown co-workers, who was trying unsuccessfully not to stare at the cad making a pregnant woman cry. Embarrassed now at her audience and tumbling into a self-replicating spiral of emotional overload, she clammed up and tried to urge me toward my truck to just get something happening so she could try to forget the fact that she was crying about food of all things.

I don’t always know what to do when people get worked up over small things. I don’t judge them for it, in my estimation people like me are probably too cold and reserved for this world. Frankly, there’s a lot of stuff to get worked up about. In that second with tears falling against her will onto her stretched belly (where else would they land?) as if to bathe my unborn daughter with tears wrought by my inconsiderate behavior, I made a command decision. “Come on,” I said. “We’re going to get hamburgers. And I’m going to drive you there.”

“What about your tru—”

I cut her off. “I’ll take the shuttle tomorrow morning. I’ll drive it home then. No problem!” I smiled at her, hoping to appear reassuring and not reveal that if my all-in gamble on swaggering confidence failed me I would have no backup plan for how to ease her pain. She choked on a little laugh and glanced nervously at the bicycle-fiddler, who might as well have been whistling and staring at the clouds. She blinked back the pooled tears and wiped a palm absently on her shirt, and circled her arm around mine so I could lead her to the car.


It’s really not the sentiment the bothers me. I appreciate that people are engaged with expectant parents the way they would never otherwise be. There is a certain universal human-condition aspect to being pregnant that causes a sort of softening of the edges on the barriers that people usually construct between themselves and the ubiquitous strangers who populate their same general space. It’s in the smiles from passerby, it’s in the breezy conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be struck, it’s in the sense of palpable excitement from random humans with no other connection to you than their appreciation for your contribution to our species.

Still, there ought to be some limits. In some cases those non-pregnancy barriers exist for socially relevant reasons. Nik had just undergone the most recent barrage of naming suggestions from some arbitrary, disconnected passerby which sounded more like names they would like to use on their own children than names they felt would really suit a child coming from the collated DNA of Nik and I. We hadn’t exactly kept a secret that while we were fully prepared with a previously agreed upon name for a boy, the revelation that we were having a girl left us without a solid contingency in place. Hearing this had seemed to open the door for people to supply us with useful suggestions.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t scoured baby name books and sites already. Options were hardly what we lacked. What we lacked was that sense of connection to the name, the feeling that it was the end of the sentence that started with, “So I was hanging out this weekend with Paul, Nikki and…”

Of course, I wasn’t making it easier. I insisted that whatever name we chose also had a solid nickname. My entire life the principal complaint I had about my name was that it couldn’t be shortened. It felt many times like people avoided calling me by name, preferring to address me as “dude” or “bud” or whatever because there wasn’t a decent “hey-I-know-this-guy-and-we’re-on-informal-terms” phrasing for my name. Even people who have single syllable names like Tom or Jim can go by “Tee” or “Jay.” I won’t pretend I’m upset that no one ever felt it was cool or funny to call me “Pee.”

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