Yes, I hate my sister Neoma. She’s always coming over and leaving coffee rings on my table —a particular decaf I have to special-order. She wears $45 lipstick called Heart’s Blood™ and leaves red blots on the linen napkins she makes me set out for her. She waxes her eyebrows away and then draws them back on in the shape of the Gateway Arch. She’s overly concerned about the sleeping habits of other Stellar Success Preparatory Toddler Program moms. She has wall decals that say “Live Laugh Love,” and “Our Happily Ever After.” She says stuff like “let go, let flow” or “God called an angel home.” She texts me videos of her toddler shrieking on the toilet: “isn’t she darling?” She texts me pictures of her newborn during middle of the night feedings: “isn’t he precious?” And I hate him too, because he is so precious with the fat cheeks and the lashes like a bird’s wing and the funny bald patch and the incoming teeth that are suddenly ravaging her nipples.
She has a million reasons for why my precious fat-cheeker came out blue and shriveled: I used a cheaper neonatal vitamin than her, I ate some sushi before I knew it had taken, I didn’t dump my cat out in the country as soon as I got a positive test, I went on a plane in my second trimester, my gynecologist is a Black woman, I eat too much spicy Indian food, I like my eggs over-easy, I shave my hair down to the skull, I don’t shave my legs, I have big fat thighs I fed instead of my baby, I got married at city hall when I was thirty-two, I don’t have a treadmill at home, I don’t keep a spotless house, I don’t moisturize, I don’t wear make-up, I don’t worry too much about the state of my waist, I don’t choke down kale and think about how virtuous I am.
She likes to tell me my partner has sloping shoulders and spends too much time with flowers. He has more than one pink shirt. He has no more than one muscle. He reads too much, and not the sports section. Don’t tell me he’s still wearing briefs. I saw him crying at a movie, during the Facetime announcement, at the funeral. Have you had sex since? Can he even get hard? Has his doctor tested his testosterone levels? His sperm count? How about its motility? He is over forty.
And of course she’s full of good advice: missionary, pillows under your hips, lie still holding it in for at least half an hour. Iron supplements only, no red meat. Mozart Spotify playlists. Yes berries, no grapes. Yes cashews, no macadamias. No sugar. No caffeine. No carbs, obviously. Take two weeks off work and go on a meditation retreat. Maybe switch out the man while you’re at it.
Today she’s plastered my table with brochures for IVF. She taps her nail against each bullet point as she reads the sales pitch aloud. She tells me not to worry about the money. That’s what GoFundMe’s for. And if it doesn’t work, you can always adopt!
Heart’s Blood™ on my mug, Heart’s Blood™ on her teeth. I don’t bother telling her she looks like she hoovered a packet of ketchup. I hope she goes outside like that. I hope she forgets both kids in my living room on her way to hot yoga.
The baby’s a good little sleeper in his pack’n’play. I could set a pillow over his fat cheeks. It wouldn’t take long. I wouldn’t even have to hold it down. And then I could tell her: Neoma, there was probably something wrong with him anyway. This is nature’s way of taking care of things like that. You can always try again.
Jasmine Sawers is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in such journals as Ploughshares, SmokeLong Quarterly, and The Offing, among others. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net 2020. She is proud to serve as an associate editor for Fairy Tale Review. Born and raised in Western New York, Sawers now writes and pets dogs outside St. Louis.