You Know You Want Me

by Beth Kander

It isn't a maternity shirt. There's no give to it; it was never designed to accommodate this unexpected situation. The pale pink fabric is taut across her ballooning belly, its seams stretched and angled. Rounded flesh protrudes from beneath the border of the overworked shirt, skin still seeking solace past the point where the fabric ends. The shirt is so strained, so overburdened, it bears no resemblance to how it must have looked in its own infancy, hanging on a rack or folded neatly beside all its identical siblings.

The woman wearing the tight shirt shifts, scratching the exposed section of her belly, letting her hand linger there only momentarily before pulling it away. Her pants are sweatpants, the waistband rolled down to allow room for the same bulging stretch of stomach that eludes full coverage by the shirt. Below the sweatpants, her swollen feet overfill her purple dollar store flip-flops. Above the shirt, her hair is unapologetically magenta. Her eyeliner is thick and charcoal.

She is sitting at the bus stop, waiting. The bus is late because it’s always late, which means it will be crowded. It would be nice if someone aboard might give up their seat for her, far along as she is now. But she doubts anyone will. They rarely do. She is not the sort of pregnant woman one yields their seat to automatically; her heavily lined eyes are easily avoided. She knows how these things go.

When the bus pulls up to the corner, slowing and sighing and lowering itself for her to board, she rises unevenly from the bench. The cursive letters on the overworked shirt are widened and elongated, pulled tight. You Know You Want Me, her shirt reminds the other commuters as she takes her place among them.