My teenage cousin has been knocked up by her teenage boyfriend. It was a well kept secret for a while, and Jennie’s original plan was to announce the fertilization of her egg at my birthday party. We found out the night before that she wasn’t going to herald the news, after all. No matter how fun it would be to count how many shades of purple my Nana would turn, I was glad that the chances of a murder/suicide situation had been significantly lowered. Instead of an announcement we all got a phone call from my Uncle Steve telling us that his teenage daughter was expecting. Don’t worry, Steve. My mom should have said. We know! We already saw the pictures of the pee stick that she posted up on myspace.
“She works at Wal-Mart. He works at McDonalds,” said my brother, viewing the pictures. “Together they’ll have the white trash baby.”
This may seem like a harsh comment, but my cousin Jennifer has always been a black hole of common sense and potential, which is really frustrating for somebody who works their ass off for every A. She was the child coming home from parties at the age of fifteen to vomit and pass out on the bathroom floor. She was also the one who got straight D’s in school because she “wasn’t challenged enough”. I never understood that. Can someone really be too smart for good grades? Do you think I could use that excuse in the job market? It’s fitting that her baby-daddy would be the same way.
We met him at my brother’s birthday party. Nick Spagnola looked like he’d been dumped in a pool of vegetable oil. His ordinarily slimy self was practically a puddle standing in front of me when he was first introduced to the family. At least he had the common sense to be nervous. He’s an awkward boy, with swollen lips and bug eyes, magnified by his transitions lenses. His hair is cut in a way that looks as though someone had taken a pot of elbow macaroni, dumped it in ink, and stapled it to his scalp. And he always has this look on his face as if he were an elementary age school boy caught with his hands in his pants. Guilty but happy at the same time.
I do not want my DNA mixing with his.
We didn’t have a second encounter with him until Jennie’s graduation party. She was already pregnant at the time, but we didn’t know that yet. I managed to play only a half-hearted game of Apples to Apples with him throughout the day. Halfway through the party, I saw him with a little baby boy. The boy was probably a year old, just learning to walk, smiling and waving at family members. He was short, plump, and topped with a pile of dark brown curls. Nick carried him, cradled him, and held his little fingers while he walked. For that small moment Nick redeemed himself in my eyes. Even though he tended to be an over competitive self-righteous idiot, he treated that baby like maybe, somewhere out there, there was something a little bit more important than himself.
“Is that his brother?” I asked Ashley. “He’s so cute!”
“That’s not his brother,” she answered. “That’s his son.”
Is he trying to prove his virility? And does he really think that this is the best way to go about it? I mean, it could be worse. In a town where half the girls get pregnant before graduating high school, only one out of three of my aunt and uncle’s daughters have been knocked up. That’s not a bad statistic. But most people would think that this kid would learn how to wrap his junk the first time.
And this was the argument that my mother had when my Nana came over one night, before the impregnation had been announced, claiming that Jennifer was bound to get pregnant. It was clear that they both had had a little bit too much wine, and had no problem expressing themselves.
“He’s made that mistake before, he knows not to make it again!” argued my mother.
“He has done it before!” shouted Nana. “Do you think he’s just going to stop that kind of behavior?”
Obviously, he did not stop “that kind of behavior,” and now he’s about to be an eighteen year old father of two. My baby cousin is about to be a teenage mother, and entered her freshman year of college pregnant. It’s like we’re on a dizzy timeline and I’m behind. If she’s having her first baby now, I should probably work on losing my virginity. And now we’re about to celebrate me becoming another year older, but she still seems like the same girl who accidentally pulled the head off my favorite Barbie doll when she was five years old.
Nick didn’t come to this birthday party and now it’s just her and me sitting at a table. My baby cousin is sporting a barely there baby bump and a three stone cubic zirconia “promise ring” on her ring finger. What’s he promising anyway? This may be old fashioned, but if he’s not promising marriage why even buy the ring? She sits in front of me. I stare at my fingernails, trying desperately not to stare at her stomach, searching for something to say. Unfortunately, there are too many things to say.
Are you going to be getting maternity leave at Wal-Mart? Are you worried about going into your first semester of college five months pregnant? Will you be taking a semester off to have the baby? Are you excited about this baby, or do you want to throw yourself down the steps? Are you concerned at all about your relationship with Nick? Are you ready for stretch marks and baby fat? What about labor? Or the number nights sleep you will be sacrificing to take care of this kid? Is it going to be a boy or a girl? Have you thought about names yet? When are you due?
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “So,” I began. “How’s work?”
No I didn’t say it. I didn’t say any of it. We avoided the topic completely. She and Nick might as well have been fornicating in the room with us. Jennie and I continued with the awkward small talk until we decided to plug in a movie. And there I was, staring blankly at the screen with my pregnant cousin. In complete silence.
The family didn’t stay long, maybe two hours or so. They made sure to get out of there fast. It wasn’t something that I hadn’t expected. I knew that people would be upset. I knew that people were going to storm out. People were going to see Jennifer and not be able to speak. But I did not know that as soon as the door closed behind my cousin that my Nana would turn around and say:
“I told you so.”