Crap! She remembers!
In November I had the following conversation with a pregnant woman who sells fruit on the street near my house. I am bundled up in Peter's old sweatshirt buying some apples from her, and she is chatting me up about the cool weather.
Fruit Mamma: That's 8.50 RMB.
Me: Here you go.
Fruit Mamma (pointing to the bag in my hand): Did you get that sandwich to go?
The critics might argue that I should have known she wasn't talking about my sandwich. After all, it was already wrapped up in a bag, clearly "to go." My rebuttal is that Captain Obvious is alive and well in China. I offer today's conversation with a taxi driver as proof. This conversation took place in Chinese.
Me: Please take me to the New Oriental on the Second Ring Road.
Taxi Driver: Where?
Me: New Oriental School. The one on the Second Ring Road.
Taxi Driver: There's a New Oriental on the Second Ring Road?
Me: Yes, the main campus. It's right where Hanguang Street crosses the Second Ring Road.
Taxi Driver: I'm not sure I know where that is.
Me: Just head that way. I know where it is, I can tell you.
Taxi Driver: You're sure you know where it is?
Me: Of course I do. I work there. I'm a teacher.
Taxi Driver: Okay. (Beat) How long have you been in Xi'an?
Me: A year.
Taxi Driver: Are you here for work or travel?
Me: Maybe I should get another taxi...
So. Obvious questions? All a part of the game. Cut back to me and the Fruit Mamma.)
Fruit Mamma: Did you get that sandwich to go?
Me: Um, yes?
Fruit Mamma: Cool. Me too. How many months?
Fruit Mama: When will it be born?
(At this point, the sluggish part of my brain that speaks Chinese reminds me that the slang for "baby" and "to go" sound awfully similar to me. I do some fast thinking.)
Me: Uh, July.
Fruit Mamma: I'm due in February. Maybe our "to go"s can be friends.
Me: Yep! Okay, bye!
Fast forward to today. I haven't seen Fruit Mamma in awhile, because women are usually confined to the house for the last month of their pregnancy and the first month of motherhood. It's considered unhealthy to go outside during this time. There's a host of other superstitions that go along with this.
At the time of my original mistake we had plans to move to another neighborhood before my mythical baby was to be born. Those plans fell through, however, and Fruit Mamma's back today. As I buy a bag of tiny, delicious mangoes she looks me up and down and says:
That baby's coming soon, huh?
I experience a lurch of vertigo as all of the above, which I had forgotten, comes crashing back to me. I should have planned for this. Of course she'd remember; the strongest bond two heterosexual women can form is that of being pregnant at the same time. I have a deer-in-the-headlights moment as I try to think of a plausible way out of this situation and come up with nothing. Crap. What due date did I make up? I guess:
She looks me up and down and says dubiously:
I cannot resist trying to read her eyes to see if she thinks I look like I am more or less than six months pregnant. I am afraid it is more. Or maybe she's doing some math and figuring out that my pregnancy is lasting an unnatural amount of time...because as I am thinking this I realize my initial calculation may be off. Did that sandwich conversation occur on a warm night in fall or a cool night in summer? Am I pregnant with a rhinoceros? What's wrong with those crazy Americans? Did you know they actually bathe and go outside less than a month after giving birth? I feel the tendrils of panic creeping around me, so I blurt out:
Yep! Okay, bye!
Safely at home, I have Peter, the tiny delicious mangoes, and barbecued fish to comfort me. We concoct a plan (Peter and I, that is, the fish has no feasible suggestions). When next I see Fruit Mamma I will pretend that I thought she was asking me about when I was next going home to America. For some reason I find this mistake much less embarrassing than the actual mistake I made. I guess I'd rather have her think I mistook "go home and eat tacos" for "give birth." It's believable. After all, I did mistake "to go" for "baby."
Sigh. I think I'll be ordering that Rosetta Stone software on payday.