46
 

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession, and here are my faux pas:
I had sex with a man I mistook for my fiancť. I know that sounds unbelievable. I mean, how could anyone make such a lamebrain mistake? But, Father, as God is my witness, I really and truly believed this man was my betrothed. If only you could have seen him, compared the two in your mind, Iím absolutely positive you couldnít have told them apart either. At least thatís what Iíve been telling myself for the past six days. Identical twins could not resemble each other more. Problem is my future husband, as far as I know or he knows, has no such twin. So what am I supposed to tell him? 'Darling, I just had a roll in the hay with your mirror image?' I mean honestly, Father, who but an utter chump would swallow such a cock-and-bull tale? No offence. I mean, you're required to believe me; nobody in her right mind lies to a priest. But think of how farfetched that will sound to the father of my unborn child. Oh; just to review: Iím two months pregnant; my lover and I are engaged; sex out of wedlock is wrongóIíve confessed and been forgiven for that already; and yes Iím sorry for doing it again, but thatís not the issue. I mean it is, except the act itself is far less important than who I did it with. Besides which, practically speaking, we didnít have intercourse. Petting was all. Well, ultra-heavy petting, but I never touched his prickópardon my language. And the guy, which really galls me, never let on. Can you imagine? Allowing a girl to gush all over you when it isnít even you sheís glad to see? Is that low, or is that low? I hope the bastardís Catholic and has to tell his own goddamn priest! Ouch; sorry. Add that to my list, will you? Anyway, you can see the spot Iím in. He, my fiancť, is out of the country at the moment, looking after his dad, whoís just gone off the deep end, apparently, but thatís another story. Should I mumís-the-word or admit what Iíve done when he gets back? Iíve come for Absolution, true, but I sure could use advice. You know, some priestly input? Tell me, Father, in my shoes, what do you think you'd do?"

Clad in another easy-access outfit, this one more of a coverall, zippers on either side (from inseam sleeves to armpits to outer seam pant-leg cuffs continuousóthe getting-in more problematic than the getting-out), Joanna, lighter in spirit if heavier in midriff, worries about her future. First and foremost, what lies ahead for her illegitimate child? Her unscreened childóelecting, as she has, thus far, to disregard convention: planning to marry after giving birth, abjuring prenatal tests, both at odds and unswervingly consistent with the dictates of her Faith, the situation complicated further by revelations from New Zealand where her bona-fide-intended with her father-in-law-to-be appear involved in some unlawful, hideous enterprise; generating transplant parts from viable individuals, or from subjects nearly viable but human nonetheless, has been banned, and though examples of such monstrous ventures have come to light on occasion the universal view is that all are sinful (in ways that make her own moral lapses practically innocuous).

 

*

 

Home now, framed by a triptych of her vanityís full-length mirrors, Joanna moulds her palms to the makings of a bulge, her convex belly noticeably rounder than usual thus hypothetically pulsing with the fetal life inside, images Rockefeller broadcast on his camcorder cell causing expectant-mother cringes. Much as one might worry about exposure to infection (some insidious re-emergence of HIV, for example), Joanna's worst apprehensions concern the health of her unborn child. Blessed or corrupted by genes already mixed? Are hers less dubious than his given the fact of Fell's recent disclosure about "Rem's" mental illness? If Fell indeed is "a chip off his old man's block," she, as the "chip's" future bride had better pray for a baby girl; Joanna's world in any case, once right-side up, has turned upside down.

whoosh... whoosh... whoosh... whoosh

the opening... whoosh... the closing... whoosh

of flaps, of flesh, of valves

conducting oxygen... whoosh...
in hemoglobin... whoosh

nutrients matched with care
despite the random-seeming nature
of exchanges strictly programmed
by a protein-led conspiracy
to persist, perform, create,
connect a million trillion dots
whose most explicit information
sets a dimple,
curves an eyebrow,
shapes an ear,
designs a palate,
gives the irises their color,
tells the teeth, the nose "grow straight,"
instructs the spine to fashion interlocking vertebrae,
cues the organs first to form,
assume position,
then to tense/relax in sync,
determines hair, its hue, its texture:
wavy, curly, kinky, limp,
decides what handedness to predispose
(a lefty or a righty),
renders skin tone, casts complexion,
sprinkles freckles, birthmarks, moles,
imparts intelligence (leastwise aptitude),
stamps the wit with dullness, sharpness,
dictates humor, or a lack thereof,
defines the slant of smiles,
the style of grimaces,
grins to scowls,
the tragicomic range ingrained,
inherited,
genes the gods by which all traits,
demeanors,
quirks
are preordained,
as irrefutable, irresistible, unavoidable, non-negotiable as a fingerprint,
voice inflection,
blood type,
signature,
DNA
the spiral staircase that encloses every step
from sperm meets ovum
to a bodyís sure surrender to the ravages of old age when
whoosh... whoosh... whoosh...
reverts to silence
in absentia

Nude before herself (times-three) Joanna, in reflection, puts a finger to her lips, regards her tummyís subtle swell, inclines and whispers to its unfledged occupant "shush."

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