Crystal Pate as Paula
It's not time yet.
I heave once more into the toilet bowl, all bread and lettuce splatter. My fingers claw the porcelain edge like a desperate hug. I can smell my own breath. This isn't happening. This can't be happening already. How it is happening now? I attempt to clear my throat, yanking a string of paper from the squeaky wheel and waving it across my mouth like a flag of defeat, rubbing away all the traces that might give my secret away. No one else knows. Except him. It's not real until others know. I'm sorry, God. I'm sorry for not being grateful. But I'm just not ready. It's not time yet. Is this how Mary felt? As if in answer, my stomach pounds upward, heaving my head and arms toward the yawning bowl like a violent marionette bow.
I'm grateful, I am. Acid burns the back of my throat. Gasping for air, feel like I'm drowning. He doesn't know what it puts our bodies through. None of them do. They think it's like magic. Math. 1+1=2. He should be grateful. I want to make him happy. But I don't know if I can do this. It's barely been a month, and he already is coming home with wood. Wants to build the crib himself. Wants to contribute. Don't even know if he can build one. How am I even sure if I build it inside of me? My hair falls in my face, and i run it back behind my ears, feeling the cold sweat on my brow. I have to get back to the front desk. I have to smooth my dress. These artist types will stare. Largest gallery in town, and a place filled with critics, someone's bound to notice. They don't have to be the brightest crayon in the drawer to see through you, my dear. Stand up. No, not again. I heave once more, an unforgiving stream of guilt. At that moment, the click of heels. I hold my breath from beyond the stall door. They dance toward the sink, stop, water on, washing, water off, blow dryer, click away. It's not time yet. I feel like I'm holding my breath for hours. Pneumatic door hinge gives the signal. I exhale, inhale quickly.
My phone starts buzzing from within the depths of my purse, amid all the lipstick, credit cards, and floss, like some dull, latent heartbeat for things to come. I slap the flush handle. My purse continues to murmur as I stand up wobbily on my heels, smooth my dress, and head to sink. I splash water on my face and refuse to look at my double in the mirror, a peripheral tease assuring me that we are one in the same. But I resist. Because if I see it, it's real. If it's not real, then there's still time. The phone continues to vibrate. I know my mascara is smeared. Wash your hands. Like doctors do. Thorough. I refuse to answer the phone. It's not time yet. It can't be time yet.
I look up.