EXPERIMENT IN THE THIRD PERSON

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(after reading too much Lydia Davis)

 When the doctor confirmed the woman was pregnant, the man decided they would name the baby Victor.  Labor took thirty-six hours. The baby was lazy and refused to come out. The doctor had to use forceps.

It was a girl.  The man let the woman choose the name.  He said he didn’t care.  The woman named the baby after the female patron saint of Georgia. (Even though the man and woman were Jewish.)

In the hospital, the woman worried about the indented forceps marks on the baby’s face.  The doctor said they would go away, but she worried anyway.  She did not want a baby that was scarred.

The indentations did go away, but the baby continued to cause the woman to worry. Once she left the baby in the middle of the double bed for just a minute while she went away to get a cigarette from her pocketbook in the kitchen.  Suddenly she heard a thud that made her heart stop.  The baby had rolled off the edge of the bed and was lying on the floor. Had the baby damaged itself permanently?  The doctor came to the house, examined the baby, and said no.  But for a long time, the woman worried anyway.

The baby was also troublesome. She peed through her diaper on the woman’s velvet sofa.  Then the woman had to keep that sofa cushion turned over because the spot wouldn’t come out.  Every time she vacuumed the sofa, she wondered what would have happened if the baby had been a boy.  Maybe his pee would have stayed in the front part of the diaper and not wet the sofa.

When the baby became a child and went to school, she wrote a story for her third-grade teacher about the lazy scarred baby who was supposed to be a boy but wasn’t and caused her mother so much worry and trouble. She wrote it as if it were funny, hahaha, and her teacher gave her an A.

She was able to write these things because her mother had told her about them.  (It was her mother’s way of reminiscing.) That’s how she knew about Victor, and the thirty-six hours of labor because she was lazy, and the forceps, and the ugly blue indentations, and the father wanting her to be a boy, and rolling off the bed to worry her mother, and ruining the velvet sofa.

Much later, when she had become a woman and mother herself, she would ask herself what kind of unthinking mother would tell a little girl that her father wanted a boy, or that she was lazy and wouldn’t “come out,” or that she had been born scarred and worrisome and troublesome.

She herself never said anything like that to her own two children.

As an adult, she has occasionally tried to write again about her childhood, this time without the hahaha.  Usually she tears it up or deletes it, because now it sounds too self-pitying.  But what if she were to abandon the first-person voice of memoir?  What if she made it sound as if she were writing about someone else?

How would that be?

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