Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

I Was 18 and Pregnant

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

I Was 18 and Pregnant

Article excerpt

Shut out by my father, I found comfort where I least expected it.

When I was 18 and about seven months pregnant, I bumped into a friend of my mother's at the clinic. Tante Safi was Egyptian -- like my mother -- and had lived in America for more than 20 years. I called her tante, French for "aunt." She had struggled with cancer for as long as we'd known her.

I understood why she was there. Routine blood tests.

And she understood why I was there. My belly was enormous. I was waiting for the results of a glucose test.

Tante Safi asked me where my mother was. I wanted to tell her that my father had stopped talking to me when he found out I was pregnant, and that my mother was supposed to do likewise. She still called and took me out for burgers and gave me an old purple jumpsuit she wore when she was pregnant.

But I didn't tell Safi any of this. Instead I said that my mother was probably at home.

Tante Safi smiled at me. I could tell that it exhausted her to talk, and even to smile.

We got our test results at the same time. Tante Safi asked me if I wanted to come over to her house for lunch before driving back to my apartment in Yonkers. I agreed.

She lived in a pretty but modest home in the woods in Greenwich. Her sons had gone to prestigious private schools there. Her house was cold, as it was every time I visited. She always wore thick socks and sweaters indoors. I loved the cold of her house. My parents' house was always too hot. They turned the heat up so high that my hair and skin dried out all winter and I couldn't breathe.

Tante Safi was tall and very slim, and her movements were always slow and coordinated. It never occurred to me that chemo had contributed to her physique. I sat in her sunroom and ate a pasta salad as she made tea. She spooned sugar into my mug and then wiped her palms on her pants. This inelegant move surprised me, and I liked her for it.

Before I left, Tante Safi asked me when my baby shower was.

I was silent. No one was giving me a baby shower. My college friends had classes and lived in dorms. My mother couldn't give me one because she wasn't supposed to be talking to me. …

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