Egg Babies Easily Broken
At school, they give us eggs and say they’re our babies now. The boys laugh and shuffle their feet and the girls nod intently, lips in firm lines. You cup your egg in your hands, hold it up to the side of your face.
We should get married, you say to me.
The boys kill their eggs at lunchtime; the boys get big red F marks in the teacher’s ledger. The cafeteria is sticky with yolk-blood.
Some of the girls have wrapped their egg babies in napkins and toilet paper, tucked them into purses. You’re still carrying yours in both your hands. You have me dip your school goulash into your mouth, spoonful by spoonful, my egg baby tottering on my tray.
You don’t care about F marks or S marks or any of that.
This is my baby, you say, roll it in your hands.
You say: Soon it’s going to hatch.
You’ve been saying we should get married for years now, giving me pretty little rocks, strips of chewing gum, colored-pencil drawings. Fingertip kisses, your mouth-flutter on my skin like bird wings. My parents say they don’t like for two girls to get married, how will we have grandchildren, they say.
Pretty brown egg in your hands, you roll it along my forearm.
This will be our baby.
There are crackles of shell all over school from what the boys did at lunch, egg baby pieces crunching under our shoes. The custodian sweeps and sweeps, but the egg fragments will never go. In a decade, in two, in three, freshmen will step down and hear the shatter of eggshell, say what was that.
You’ve made a makeshift bassinet from your pencil case and some rubber bands. You’re the only one still uses a pencil case, sparkle-pink and zippered. The pencils you dump on the floor clatter in a satisfying way.
We keep our eggs for days, us girls. Diaper them with bandages, pretend-feed them with eyedroppers when the teacher is watching. The boys and their big hands write essays on personal responsibility, the boys learn the pull-out method. The boys meet girls behind the bleachers, in the back seats of cars, say sweet things, make sweet promises.
The girls think of the delicate skin of an egg.
We turn them back in to the teacher, except you, please, please, it’s mine, and you get an F mark like the boys, write an essay on giving things up, on sacrifice.
The girls laugh at you, keeping your egg. The girls go with boys, necks peppered with sloppy kisses. In the back seats of cars, the girls think of the sound of an egg breaking.
You keep your egg tucked against your body, held in place with sticky gauze. You roll up your shirt, place my hand on your egg so I can feel the warmth of it, tremor of life within, say: Soon. Promise: Soon.
Cathy Ulrich is really good at breaking eggs and not getting the shell everywhere. Her work has been published in various journals, including Gone Lawn, Third Point Press and Cleaver.
Cover Photo by nasied