Maria reclines, looking quite comfortable. The chair that I am in has no padding on the back, so I lean forward a bit. Ms. Ultrasound is readying the machine, pressing buttons and turning knobs. Once everything is calibrated and she's turned on the baby finder, Ms. Ultrasound has Maria raise her shirt so that she can smear Maria's stomach with a gel. She tells Maria that they heat up the gel before application, which seems like a nice gesture, and I'm about to ask her why they stopped there and didn't put padding on the back of the chair I'm sitting in, when she flicks on the screen of the ultrasound machine. Maria and I are drawn to it immediately, hoping that we'll get a glimpse of our baby, even though Ms. Ultrasound has yet to probe Maria's stomach with her little radar gun. I stand up from my chair, not in protest of the non-padding, but because I feel the need to stand up and I can't sit down, I need to get closer to the screen, and I hear my mother's voice saying something about not sitting too close to the screen, it's bad for your eyes. With her right hand Ms. Ultrasound holds the radar gun, poking it into Maria's belly, and with her left her fingers deftly bounce around the control board, silently pressing buttons and keys without that click-clat that accompanies computer keyboards. She does not look down at the control board, which is complete with one of those little ball things that act as a mouse and that you'll sometimes see in old arcade games, and she does not look at her right hand. On the screen emerges controlled black and white and grey chaos. Lines are fuzzy, and you want to slap the side of the screen to get a better reception. Ms. Ultrasound's sort of waves her left hand over the control board and the outline of a baby appears, conjured and organized from the black and white and grey chaos.
By all accounts it appears human. Little hands, little fingers, little feet, little toes. And...he's a boy. A little boy inside of Maria (later I will tell her that her gender is now neutral, cancelled by the baby boy inside of her). Maria and I hold hands and squeeze, because sometimes that's enough, especially when you're in front of Ms. Ultrasound, who tells us that she has dogs not children. The baby now has a definitive pronoun. We have felt for some time that he was a boy. I had a dream in which I was holding an infant boy wrapped in a blue blanket in the lobby of a hospital. But I wouldn't consider that dream prophetic or precognitive because Will Smith was in the lobby as well. Reading a magazine.
So I am going to be a father of a little boy. Many fears present themselves: I don't think I've seriously thrown a football or dribbled a basketball in years. I took karate classes when I was a kid, but I'm uncertain as to how I would do should I have to "lay someone out" at a carnival or state fair, because that's where I always imagine that sort of thing happening, scuffling amidst funnel cakes and legs of turkey with some guy named Hank after he knocks my kid's snow cone to the ground. I'll probably be the guy who slips a big drunk a twenty so that he'll throw the fight and I'll come off as Dad of the Year, or Best Dad Ever, or whatever other paternal titles they hand out these days. And then there are things that I have to learn to do, like change the oil in a car, learn to fly fish and possibly skin an animal.
During the ultrasound I wondered if the doctors ever take that machine out to a lake or something and go fishing.
Aside from being sublime and awe-inspiring, the ultrasound was strange because I was able to see our baby in a way that I've never seen myself. This could be taken metaphysically, an introspective moment, something sweet that'll make Oprah cry. But really it's just that I've never seen my own spinal cord, nor the spinal cord of someone that I know.
The baby is healthy and Maria is healthy and I still put chocolate chips on my waffles, which is not healthy. We often sit and watch Maria's stomach for movements, tiny tremors from within. We put earphones on her stomach and play songs for the baby, trying now to give it a positive predilection for good, sound music. And sometimes when the baby is not moving, when he is resting, Maria will prod at her stomach, saying, "Wake up, baby. Wake up."