One Question

A girl in a turquoise shirt and a round swollen belly turns around and looks at me.

“Can I ask you a question?”

I nod. “Yes, absolutely.” I’m glad someone is talking to me without being solicited.

The students at Hidden Lake are getting to know me more, but at first I felt like a bit of a phenomenon – the person with a camera or a notebook slinking around the room, sitting at their desks, in their bean bags, asking them questions, writing stuff down.

They’ve been nothing but welcoming, though.

Sometimes going into unfamiliar environments can feel strange but the students and the teachers at Hidden Lake have an innate ability to be honest and open with anyone. And the students – typical teenagers – seem to like the attention, especially when I bring a camera.

“Hey,” many of the boys will say. “Take a picture of me.” And then they pose.

One day, after leaving the school I was outside loading stuff into my car. Daniel –  a student who is in a class I often visit – passed by. “She took pictures of me yesterday,” he shouted to his posse, a group of teenage boys with low-hanging pants.

It sounds like pride in his voice.

I look for the opportunities to build rapports with the students. This could be one, so I close my notebook and give the girl my full attention. I don’t have any idea what she’s going to ask me, but I assume it’s about her senior project or about setting up a website or writing a proposal paper.

“Does ‘conceive’ mean when the sperm meets the egg” – she puts her fingertips together – “or when the baby is born?”

I don’t hear the last part of the question and I answer, “Yes.”

“Which one?” she asks.

“The first,” I say. “When the sperm meets the egg. When you become pregnant.”

Should I have said ‘fertilize’ instead of ‘meet’? Meet makes me think of the two sitting down to a cup of coffee – one sperm, one egg – working out some sort of deal, maybe shaking on it before they leave together, ready to embark on life as one.

I look at the girls belly and wonder when her baby is due.

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