- What I Know Good
I look away then quickly back as the technician rolls down the front of my friend's pants and places sterile blue paper over her lap. The tech picks up a bottle that looks like it should hold tile caulking and covers the pale melon stomach with a glistening slick of lubricant. The ultrasound appears like a Doppler map, fuzzy and distorted, some rain-spattered windshield through which we stare into the womb. My friend, Tammy, has her own screen; her husband, Phillip, and I crane our necks from where we sit along the wall. The startling yet familiar lub-dub of a heart sounds softly over the static. The tech chases the baby, but the squirming body refuses to do a full frontal for the camera. She is sure, though, that it's a boy.
"How sure?" asks Tammy.
"Ninety-four percent sure. He's healthy, too," she says, and helps us find the tiny buds of kidneys, the small flower of the heart, the nearly transparent stems of arms and legs, each specific and exquisite, as if we toured a delicate underwater garden.
"Can you feel him moving?" I inquire softly, not sure if I'm supposed to talk in this setting, being there on the sufferance of an invitation. Tammy shakes her head, and the tech just looks at me, her face gray in the dim light of the ultrasound.
"He weighs about a pound," she replies and stops the screen to take a picture of his backside.
"Oh . . ." I breathe and watch, as if the images can explain why everything is the way it is, or at least why I am the way I am. We are in the dark here, peering inside, looking where we have no right to be. Held in the vase of her body we find him like a vine unfurling. I think about what I'll say to this kid in 20 years, how I'll start this story: I saw you buck naked inside [End Page 89] your mama or I knew you before you were born, you little snot or We looked at you as if you were the secret the body keeps about love.
I hate bowling. I try not to hate much in my life, saving that for such things as the rape of Alaska or any of the Bush administrations, but I hate bowling. I have very firm ideas about what is a sport (track and field), what is not (yachting, horse racing), and that uber-category, what is an Olympic sport (volleyball, but not beach volleyball—too modern, or American, maybe). It has to do with the body, how clear it becomes, how unconscious and transparent the movements as it bends and changes.
But . . . Tammy and Phillip like to bowl, so I reluctantly drive to the Bowling Center, sit in the parking lot for 15 minutes to make sure they arrive before I do, then saunter in trying not to look uncomfortable. I haven't been here in years, since my stepdad made us come on Saturday afternoons. New computers automatically calculate game scores, someone updated the jukebox from the Beejees to Beyonce, and people have shifted from domed bowling bags to wheeled suitcases. Everything still seems close, dim, punctuated by random rolls and crashes and the clink-ping of pinball machines and pool, all the sounds bouncing off each other as I peer around, trying to find my way. Tammy and Phillip have a lane directly behind the desk where the games are sold and shoes distributed. She's already resorted to those too-cheerful gingham prints marketed to pregnant women, and he's in the customary T-shirt and jeans.
I've been gone for almost ten years, 14 if you count the college years when I only came home to do laundry or earn money in the summers, but I am always just a little nervous in Calhoun, my hometown. The bowling alley is like a microcosm, dark and cave-like, each group isolated in their own lanes and games. No one really crosses the lines, just keeps doing what they're doing. A...