Sleeping Next to the Monster With Yellow Teeth
Pen Name Jane peeks behind the curtains of a household with a new baby.
Oh, what a special time! You’re pregnant with your first child, and you and your husband are so proud.
You can’t drink anymore, but that’s fine. It’s worth it, right? Your husband still can. So he does, and he goes out to bars. And for a while you go with him and everyone loves having you around because you’re the designated driver.
But you quickly realize that drunk people are boring and it is only temporarily amusing to say to yourself, look, this guy is so drunk he is telling the same story again. You try to talk to anyone, but they are all happily enraptured in the retelling, like kids who can’t have enough of the same storybook (but you don’t know about that yet).
So you just roll your eyes and decide: OK, you’re ready to drive everybody home, but it is 9:15 and they are just getting started. So they order you appetizers, which are yummy but cause you to have heartburn that may burn a hole in your chest.
Plus your back hurts and your feet hurt and you feel like it’s you and the baby against the world. You’re in parenting purgatory. You’re not quite one yet but you’re already suffering some of the consequences like you have a social life suicide bomb ticking away inside you.
And it all starts to infuriate you: that everyone else can sleep comfortably and not pee their pants and get up from seated positions.
Finally you have the baby and you get even less sleep, and you are soaking wet all the time from leaking milk and sweating out hormones and diaper malfunctions.
And it’s you and your baby against the world, except now your world has shrunk to just you, the baby and your husband.
So you attack the only thing available: the father. He seems to mock you with his ability to leave the house and eat hot lunches and take long showers. Meanwhile you haven’t showered in a week and your hair is dreaded against your head and your teeth are yellowed from plaque and you scream, “Why don’t you spend more time with me and the baby?” So he holds the baby so you can shower, but the baby just cries, your fury builds and you look at him through your sleepless insanity eyes, and you hiss and tell him for no reason that everything he does is WRONG.
He feels awkward and useless. He looks at his baby and he looks at the monster that used to be his wife and he doesn’t know what to do, except the one thing he knows how to do, which is to go to work. So he puts on his coat and kisses the monster on the forehead and goes to the office. And the more he leaves, the more your anger builds and the more you attack. And you just can’t understand why he doesn’t want to be with you.
He learns to survive and to not ask you for anything. Instead he starts texting you, little litmus tests of your anger, like sticking a finger into a pot of water to see if it is hot. “The guys are all going to the baseball game tonight.” It is just a statement, not a request. It’s vague and non-committal so that way when you text back, “DON’T YOU DARE EVEN THINK ABOUT GOING OUT TONIGHT!” he can say that he was just trying to tell you he’ll be home early with no distractions because all the guys are out. That’s all.
Eventually, the years pass and you get some sleep and you’ve washed your hair and changed your clothes consistently every one or two days and he starts looking like the sweet man you married again. And actually, he loves your baby, and it turns out he was helping a lot, and he is a good father. And you want him to be happy.
But he still sends you those litmus test texts, still poking you to see if you’re hot. And you find yourself confused. Why is he treating you like some crazy lady?
For you have completely forgotten that you were ever a monster with dreads and yellow teeth.
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