After my conversation with Jalen, I had expected things to improve. He had accepted that we would be a family, after all. I guess I had just thought that, after he learned about the baby, he would… come around more? Want to be there?
But it wasn’t. Though he called every once in a while, he was still as absent as he had been when I was trying to avoid him.
Jane: “Doing some writing… alone.”
Jane: “I bet if Jalen were here, he would have taken this to the mailbox.”
Jane: “There’s no one here to be embarrassed about this :(”
Jane: “Jalen gave the best cuddles. I wish he was here.”
Jane: “Okay, so the cuddles I received were mostly sexual. But I bed he’s a good cuddler. I still wish he was here.”
And, immediately after our conversation, it had kind of seemed like he had the intention of sticking around. The day after the news broke, he came over and stayed the night, after all. He slept beside me, in my bed, one hand resting on my belly. It was nice. Comforting, even. I felt protected in a way that I had never felt in my entire life.
Jane: “It’s kind of surreal, to think that this is how we’ll go to sleep everyday for the rest of our lives.”
But then he just… didn’t come back?
Jalen (via chat): “I’ll come by to visit soon. I’m just…”
Jalen (via chat): “I’m trying to get my sisters used to the idea, you know?”
Come by to visit. When I asked about moving in, he avoided the topic, or said that the lease wasn’t up on his apartment (nevermind that he co-signed the lease with his sisters, who would still be living there). When I asked about marriage, planning, who to invite, he would only say, “We have bigger things to worry about right now. We’ll get to it eventually.” Then, he would change the subject.
It was maddening. I thought that I would have someone there to take care of me through my pregnancy, someone to rub my feet when they got swollen and to bring me cupcakes when I had midnight cravings. Instead, I was subsisting on my own, in this tiny little house, sleeping on an air mattress that, while it had once been a godsend, was now hell on my back.
While I loved Jalen’s childish side, in that moment, I hated it.
Little did I know that I would grow to hate it even more.
One day, when I was maybe six months along, I heard a knock on my door. Strange, I hadn’t been expecting anybody. No body had come by to see me for months.
Jalen: “Hey babe.”
Jane: “You finally stopped by!”
Jalen: “Yeah, I thought it was about time that we did this…”
He pulled out a ring.
Jane: “Is that an engagement ring?! Oh my goodness, Jalen, of course, ye-”
Jalen: “Wait! I actually thought it could be our… wedding ring?”
I looked at him, unsure of what he meant.
Jalen: “We already kind of got engaged, didn’t we? The night you told me you were pregnant. We decided that we were getting married then, yeah?”
Jane: “…yeah, I guess so. But then… what’s the wedding ring for right now?”
Jalen: “Our elopement, of course. Are you ready?”
Jane: “Wait, right now???”
Jalen: “Yeah. We’re gonna get married right now, get it over with. I already have the papers.”
Jalen: “That’s cool with you, right?”
I didn’t know what to say. No, that wasn’t cool with me. Why weren’t we having a ceremony? Why weren’t his sisters here? I didn’t have any family, but I knew he was close to his… And I had really wanted to wear a big white dress, and invite a bunch of people from the town, and kiss him in front of everybody, so that everyone knew that I had a family. Somebody loved me.
Jane: “…um, yeah, sure. It’s fine. I’m cool with it.”
He slid the ring over my finger.
Jalen: “Now you do me.”
Jane: “How… romantic?”
And, like that… we were married.
His stuff was out on the lawn. Not a lot, just couple boxes of clothes and some books on programming that he mostly just kept in his pockets anyway. As we moved him in, I tried to keep a smile on my face. So, this was it. The beginning of my new life. For whatever reason, I thought there would be more… levity to the occasion. Or that he would at least want to carry me over the threshold.
Jalen: “You have BlicBlock on this hunk of junk?”
Jalen: “Oh, yeah, be sure to hang my work pants. Don’t want them to get wrinkled in your tiny drawers.”
Jalen: “Oh, and can you iron a pair for tomorrow? They’re probably all messed up after being in a box.
But this was good, right? He was staying. That was good.
Despite my (only a little forced) joy at Jalen’s moving in, it quickly became apparent that this house was not built for two people. No matter how much it had improved since I first moved in, the plumbing was still poor, I still had no kitchen, and I had just spent quite a bit of money on an addition for the baby’s room. There was nothing I could do to improve our situation.
The first thing to go, surprisingly, was not my temper with Jalen’s insistence on using the computer at all hours of the day. Nor was it my… disappointment, let’s say, when I discovered that Jalen had an abysmal credit score and no savings to speak of. No, the first thing to go in our house was the plumbing. And that was what led to my temper.
Jane: “Jalen, honey? The toilet’s broken. Could you fix it?”
I was very pregnant. I was sleeping a great deal. And, more importantly, I had to pee. All. The. Time.
Jane: “Jalen?? The toilet’s still broken. Think you could get to that?”
Jalen: “I’m hanging with Jimmy!”
I considered trying to fix it myself. But the moment I bent over with the wrench, I lost my balance. I nearly landed face first in the toilet bowl! There was no way I could fix this toilet, with my center off balance as off as it was.
Jane: “Jalen?! I really have to pee. Like, now. Can you please fix it?”
Jalen: “Just a second. I’m about to finish this level of BlicBlock!”
I couldn’t decide whether to be more angry or more humiliated. But both emotions built on each other, coupled with my strong pregnancy hormones, until I couldn’t do anything but stand there and cry. At some point, I expected Jalen to look up from his computer, apologize, or at least ask what had happened. Instead, he kept steady on playing his game, while I mopped the floor.
He kept on playing the game until after I got out of the shower.
Jalen: “Hey, babe. What’s for dinner?”
Jane: “FUCK YOU! WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST FIX THE FUCKING TOILET?!”
Jalen: “Hey, hold on, calm down. I told you I would-”
Jane: “DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!”
He shut up for a few minutes. For a moment, he looked like he might go get back on the computer, but when I opened my mouth to start yelling again, he turned away from the technology and moved to the fridge.
Jalen: “Babe? I brought you some food.”
Jane: “Fuck you. I’m going to bed.”
Jalen: “I guess I’m sorry?”
That was a low point in my pregnancy. And, I’ve got to be honest, it didn’t much improve after that. He didn’t much improve. I loved him, and I didn’t want him to leave. I refused to let myself yell at him again-I didn’t want to push him away. It took a good deal of effort.
Jane: “Good night, Jalen.”
But for the moment, we were quiet. We were calm. As a slept, I talked myself into thinking that we would be okay.