Monday, October 12, 2009

The private, the intimate, the juicy life (I)

Like college girls sharing a dorm room, Desdemona and Lina were both synchronized in their menstrual cycles. That night was day fourteen. No thermometer verified this, but a few weeks later the symptoms of nausea and hypersensitive noses did. "Whoever named it morning sickness was a man," Lina declared. "He was just home in the morning to notice." The nausea kept no schedule; it owned no watch. They were sick in the afternoon, in the middle of the night. Pregnancy was a boat in a storm and they couldn't get off. And so they lashed themselves to the masts of their beds and rode out the squall. Everything they came in contact with, the bedsheets, the pillows, the air itself, began to turn on them. Their husbands' breath became intolerable, and when they weren't too sick to move, they were waving their arms, gesturing to the men to keep away.

Pregnancy humbled the husbands. After an initial rush of male pride, they quickly recognized the minor role that nature had assigned them in the drama of reproduction, and quietly withdrew into a baffled reserve, catalysts to an explosion they couldn't explain. While their wives suffered in the bedrooms, Zizmo and Lefty retreated to the sala to listen to music, or drove to a coffee house in Greektown where no one would be offended by their smell. They played backgammon and talked politics and no one spoke about women because in the coffee house everyone was a bachelor, no matter how old he was or how many children he'd given a wife who preferred their company to his.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides.

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