Everyone who made love the night before
was walking around with flashing red lights
on top of their heads-a white-haired old gentleman,
a red-faced schoolboy, a pregnant woman
who smiled at me from across the street
and gave a little secret shrug,
as if the flashing red light on her head
was a small price to pay for what she knew.
You paused for a moment and I heard you smoking
on the other end of the line.
I pictured your expression,
one eye screwed shut against the smoke
as you waited for my reaction.
I was waiting for it myself, a list of my own news
gone suddenly cold in my hand.
Supposing my wife found out, what would happen then?
Would I have to leave her and marry you now?
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad,
starting again with someone new, finding a new place,
pretending the best was yet to come.
It might even be fun,
playing the family man, walking around in the park
full of righteous indignation.
But no, I couldn’t go through all that again,
not without my own wife being there,
not without her getting cross about everything.
Perhaps she wouldn’t mind about the baby,
then we could buy a house in the country
and all move in together.
That sounded like a better idea.
Now that I’d been caught at last, a wave of relief
swept over me. I was just considering
a shed in the garden with a radio and a day bed,
when I remembered I hadn’t seen you for over a year.
“Congratulations,” I said. “When’s it due?”
By Hugo Williams