The second shock was lunch. She stopped to buy a sausage at a cart by the park. She bit into it and instantly thought, “This is it. I am going to die.” —NER 20.4 (1999).
When she was young, mothers—or her mother, at least—would speak of those bad girls, presumably pregnant, who left home at the first opportunity, but Monica wasn’t waiting that long. She left before her first opportunity, using school breaks to escape. To run away: if you could call it that, since she had her mother’s acquiescence, if not her permission, in the matter. Her father was irrelevant. A farming accident had paralyzed him, days after Monica’s youngest brother—her mother’s second boy and seventh child—was born. There were no more children after that, which made clear, in a public sort of way, the full nature of the damage her father had suffered. Monica let her mother know that she would “just die” if she couldn’t get away from the farm, and the fervency of her conviction must have convinced her mother as well. “Just don’t get pregnant” she said, as if that were the source of all evils, and it made Monica ashamed to be alive, to be one of the seven reasons for her mother’s unhappiness. But then her shame quickly turned to anger. Her parents. They were so stupid. Switzerland was supposed to be the world’s richest country, and even here, they couldn’t make a living. Why had they had so many children when they couldn’t afford them?[read more]