Dangerous Confirmations

“Turn left here.”

I glance over my shoulder and note the impenetrable wall of traffic. “Uh, no can do.” I coast into the intersection and look forlornly through my driver’s side window at the road I should be on. A scowl of annoyance folds my cheek and I heave a sigh. “Well, I guess I can swing around at the next light.”

The next light is a No U-Turn intersection. I’ve already committed to the turn lane by the time I realize this, so I take the left anyway and figure I’ll just make another left on the other side of the overpass and come back ’round to my initial destination. Of course there is no left turn possible so I stay in the furthest left lane that I can, hoping soon some light will allow me to reverse direction and get back on track. I am reminded of my dad, whom we’ve occasionally teased with names like “The U-Turn King.” Yes, karma, I see you over there in the corner. Ha ha. Very funny.

“Hey,” Nik remarks, “I think this street is the one you were trying to turn left on originally.” As I breeze past the crosswalk I duck my head and look up at the rapidly passing street sign and, yes, this is the street I originally missed turning onto, obviously it had curved sharply right after the intersection and now ran parallel to the initial road.

“Perfect,” I say.

The next nine minutes involve sixteen left turns, two U-turns and a punched steering wheel (okay two punches were attempted but I’m such a poor executor of my frustration only one of my blows actually lands on the wheel which is half a foot directly in front of me), but at last we’ve found the correct road—and the correct direction, which was a point of consideration I hadn’t thought would play a particularly strong role but proved to be nearly as vexing as locating the proper street. I silently say thanks for my wife’s insistence that we leave the house with time to spare, “just in case.”

I consider what peculiar decisions we’ve taken to arrive at this point in time and space and trace it back to Nik’s central neurosis. It’s like this: We had an ultrasound which confirmed the gender of our baby (a girl) six weeks ago. They took a picture from an unflattering angle off the monitor with an arrow pointing between her legs and typed across the image, “It’s a Girl!” It’s one of the many things that will only fly (with me) for a very brief window of time. Anyone expressing this much fascination with my daughter’s reproductive organs beyond that had better come equipped with an expensive diploma, a stethoscope and a healthy fear of lawsuits, hedge clippers and firearms. But Nik has a sort of casual paranoia: She doesn’t concoct elaborate scenarios in which aliens kidnap her or governmental bogeymen plant tracking devices in her toenails, she prefers to presume that cosmic forces plot against her in an effort to thwart her shopping trips and decor decisions. In this case she’s convinced that we require independent verification of our unborn child’s sex or she will refuse to purchase needed items, register for gifts or accept charity on the (let’s face it) 50/50 shot that the doctors are incorrect.

Which is what has us traveling this twisty maze of unfamiliar streets, looking for the offices of a private ultrasound technician specializing in—ahem—state of the art 4D ultrasounds. The term 4D is something that would probably only get a pass in the logic-adverse world of commercial prenatal products and services. The real fourth dimension is a spatial construct separate from the commonly understood planes of height, width and depth which is described as reasonably as the concept can be in this mind-fracturing article. I think what the marketers mean in this case is that the imagery incorporates the fourth dimension of spacetime which is linear progression via chronology. In other words, the images are arranged in a sequence. Never mind that this is classically defined as, you know, video. I guess it just doesn’t have that same cutting-edge ring to it.

These sorts of establishments offer a variety of services, not unlike studio photographers, only with extra-womb shutterbugs you have to find particularly seedy providers before you encounter the analog to the “genitals only” package. They are intensely specific about this option, including several blocks of disclaimer verbiage in assorted font sizes reminding customers that even an accidental glimpse of the baby’s head, neck, chest or face region is likely to cost upward of $200 additional dollars in service fees. As I settle into the longer stretch of non-highway road on the route I wonder what sort of trickery they plan to employ to prevent us from catching a glimpse of our daughter (?). What if the arbitrarily selected placement of the ultrasound wand happened to be right above her (?) face? They wouldn’t really charge us extra just because the baby was trying to use my wife’s navel as a periscope, would they?

I decide, as is my cynical tendency, they most definitely would. I try to gently prod Nik to get the child to turn around or something. “Where do you think her head is?” I ask casually, breaking the relative silence.

Nik shrugs, she’s still staring at her handwritten instructions. We’re a pretty wired family but we’re notoriously bad about keeping our printer stocked with ink, so we spend a lot of time looking up directions online and copying them by hand onto the backs of envelopes or torn receipts. I let the question linger in the air. She finally looks up. “Huh?”

“Do you think she’s facing toward your front?” I ask, still keeping my voice suave.

“I dunno, I guess so.”

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