by Oreen Scott
Non-ficion story about events that happened when I lived in a certain house
|The white stucco house on Des Meurons was converted into a triplex. Two apartments on the bottom floor, and my tiny one on the top. To get to my place it was necessary to go around the back of the house, open a door, walk up a flight of stairs and open another door into the apartment.
The apartment didn’t have hallways, the outside door lead directly into the kitchen, which had an archway that opened into the living room, the bedroom and the bathroom were directly off the living room. As sparse as that apartment was it also had rare beauty, on the bathroom floor lay an intricate design of tiny black and white ceramic tiles, and on the living room ceiling an artisan had used his imagination to create a pleasing design of plaster grapes, leaves, and urns, but a bare light bulb hung where a chandelier ought to have been.
Although my finances were meagre, I managed to furnish my new home as best I could. For twenty dollars I found a tall and narrow unfinished pine chest of drawers, not at all suited for the purpose of holding clothes, but it had to do. I spent forty dollars on a box spring and mattress, bought a floral blue comforter, stained the chest blue spruce, painted the bedroom a serene blue, and bought a bassinet. The bedroom was as complete as I could afford to make it. On credit I purchased a two hundred dollar naugahyde couch, but I couldn’t afford a kitchen table, or a high chair.
Rick got the crazy idea I needed a cat, and brought me a kitten. I thought I needed a cat like I needed a hole in my head. But, she was a charming little black ball of fur with eyes that had the same piercing expression as my mother’s, since my mother’s name was Esther, I named the kitten Hester.
Larry and Joe lived in the apartment directly under mine. They were young, divorced and totally cool, at least that’s what I thought at the time. Joe, a dark mysterious Burt Reynolds look alike, missed his two sons dearly, fought hard for custody, and lost. Larry , the more outgoing, was a truck driver whose mother owned a cafe and bar where Joe and Larry ate their meals. Larry dated a lot of women, at least that’s what he claimed. Joe, still nursing wounds from a recently finalized divorce, didn’t date, much to Larry’s chagrin.
A practical nurse named Jackie and her room mate Jeanette occupied the second apartment on the main floor. The girls were desperately seeking boyfriends and as often as they could afford to they were out at the bars dancing, smiling, flirting, sometimes getting lucky, most of the time leaving alone.
I too was single, but with a difference. The last few months of my pregnancy were spent on Des Meurons, and I brought Richard home from the hospital to Des Meurons.
Like many pregnant women I had a burst of energy just before going into labour. I washed all the floors, did a lot of baking, cleaned and defrosted the fridge, then my water broke. I called the doctor, who told me to wait until I had labour pains. I instinctively knew this was bad advice. I called Rick, which was complicated because he claimed not to have a phone, but I could reach him by calling his friend Sid.
“What did the doctor say?”
“He said to wait.”
“Well then wait.”
“I don’t think I should wait, I think something is wrong.”
He was annoyed because I had inconvenienced him and hung up. At that precise moment I faced a painful reality, I would be raising this child alone.
Hysterically I collapsed into a kneeling position on the floor, painful gut wrenching sounds came from my mouth, my face was buried in my hands, and my hair dangled in front of me. From across the room Hester noticed the hair and darted, rolled over onto her back and started batting at my hair. I looked at her, laughed, pulled myself off the floor and walked over to the window.
It was a bright, sunny, cold Winnipeg winter afternoon, and I saw a woman waiting across the street at the bus stop. I thought of the Skeeter Davis song, “Why does the sun go on shining? I can’t understand. No, I can’t understand, how life goes on the way it does.” The truth of the matter was, I could drop dead at the very moment and the woman across the street won’t know. The bus would come along, she’d get on, and it would still be a sunny, cold Winnipeg winter afternoon. I’d go it alone, and I’d be alright.
Against my better judgement I decided to wait for labour pains, and called my friend Vera just to chat. Although I was as big as a house we had never discussed my pregnancy, and we didn’t that day either. The call ended, but Vera called back.
“When is it coming out of the oven?”
“I’ll keep the car warm. Call when you need to go to the hospital.”
Not wanting to disturb Vera in the middle of the night, when I could no longer sit, stand or walk without discomfort I called a cab, and on the way to the hospital I found myself giving assurance to the cab driver that I wouldn’t give birth in his cab.
I never did experience labour pains, and I almost died before the doctor decided to perform a caesarian section. I was in the hospital for three weeks with an infection that antibiotics couldn’t reach. Waiting was a bad idea. Waiting almost killed me.
“How can you not get angry?” Vera asked.
“What’s the point, doctors or only people, they make mistakes.”
During my hospital stay, Vera visited every day, Rick didn’t. On the day of my discharge Vera came to pick me up, Rick showed up. she slipped quietly away.
Every night it was the same grind. I’d come home from work, feed Richard, play with him, put him to bed, wash and sterilize bottles, pull the wringer washer out from its corner, screw the hoses into the hot and cold kitchen taps, empty the bag and pail of dirty diapers into the washer and when they were clean, put them through the wringer and hang them on the rack in the living room.
In the morning I’d get up, fold diapers, fill the baby bottles with formula, pack-up the things Richard’s sitter would need for the day, feed and dress Richard, get on the bus that took us to his sitter, drop him off, and get on the bus that would take me to work.
It was a good thing that Larry tried his best to hook Joe and me up because winter was coming and I don’t think I would have made it over the winter without Joe’s generous offer, all winter he supplied transportation.