Five Ways of Dealing with a Pregnant Woman on the Subway

By Douglas Collura

I

The man sits on the packed subway car. The pregnant woman stands, holding a pole. The man rises and, grabbing the same pole, nods back toward the empty seat and says to the woman, “Please.” Barely looking at him, she smiles confidently and shakes her head no. The man is too embarrassed to sit back down. Though easily thirty years older, he can’t appear weaker than a pregnant woman. He glances back at his seat, some other guy now in it.

II

The man in the seat, the pregnant woman by the pole. He rises, nods, “Please.” “Oh, I don’t need that,” she says. “I can’t be the reason a pregnant woman carries an unnecessary burden,” he says. “Do you have children?” she says. “Uh, two,” he says. “Then you’ve already been the reason a pregnant woman carries an unnecessary burden. Twice.” “You know,” he says, “I feel as if I’ve insulted you.” “Would you like it if I made assumptions about you,” she says, “like, oh, he’s old, he must be weak? I, sir, am not weak.” The woman turns away. The man feels older and weaker. He glances back at his seat, a yawning mouth that some guy curls into and shuts.

III

Man in seat, pregnant woman by pole. He rises. “Please.” “Don’t you threaten me,” she says. “I’m not,” he says, surprised. “Courtesy is a plot to lull women into submission,” she says, “an echo of every bullying male who’s ever lived, from emperor to pope to NFL wife beater.” He looks around nervously. “I wish you wouldn’t—” “I know your kind,” she says. “You’re one of those MOFOS.” “No need to curse,” he says. “It’s not a curse. It’s an acronym. MOFOS. M-O-F-O-S: Men Ordering Females Onto Seats. Well, I’m a WOMCCOE. W-O-M-C-C-O-E: Women Ordering Men to Cut the Crap Or Else.” She holds up a fist. Heads turn toward them. He doesn’t want to get into a fight with a pregnant woman; even if he wins, it will look really bad. He glances back at his seat, some other guy in it. The pregnant woman’s fist inches closer.

IV

Man seat, pregnant woman pole. He rises, grabs the pole, and says, “Please.” She lifts her shirt, pulls out a plastic prosthetic baby bulge and hands it to him. “Made you stand!” she says.

V

The man sits on the packed subway car. The pregnant woman stands, holding a pole. She looks around as if waiting to be offered a seat. The man is lucky to have one. He slipped in as some other guy got up. Leaning his head back, shutting his eyes, he pretends to be asleep.

 

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Douglas Collura lives in Manhattan and is the author of the book, Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into, which was a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. He was also the 2008 First Prize Winner of the Missouri Review Audio/Video Competition in Poetry. His work has been published in The Alembic, BLACK&WHITE, The Broome Review, Coe Review, Crack the Spine, The Cynic, Dislocate, The Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, The Evansville Review, Forge, Good Weather for Media, Paterson Literary Review, Lips Magazine, Many Mountains Moving, The Monarch Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Sierra Nevada College Review, Salt Hill Journal, Soundings East, Spillway, Stickman Review, The Tower Journal, 2Bridges Review, and other periodicals and webzines.


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