It’s past four o’clock and the gnats have come up. They swarm together in clumps, invisible until the boat reaches them. Jenny keeps her mouth closed as the vessel moves through the shallow, reedy channel so she won’t breathe them in. The halter strap of her bathing suit chafes against the back of her neck, and the skin on the bottom of her thighs sticks to the blue vinyl of the deck cushion. Beside her, David jiggles his long legs up and down. He wipes his freckled forehead with the back of his hand. The sun has burned pink stripes on his cheeks, just underneath his eyes. They motor through the water, passing tall reeds and green bushes thick with beach roses. An insect in the marshy grass repeats uunh—uunh—uunh.
“I’m not ashamed of it,” Gretchen says. “It just didn’t work for me. Some people can’t, you know. Many people. And I completely resent the pressure.”
“It’s not anybody’s business,” Jenny says. “You don’t owe an explanation.”
Gretchen lies on her back on the deck with her knees bent and her clean, white sneakers resting on the rail. A delicate bracelet of freshwater pearls dangles from her thin wrist. “You feel like you have to, though. You have to justify the whole thing. It makes me uncomfortable. The baby hangs off you, and you feel like you’re some kind of animal. And you’re supposed to love it. You’re really supposed to just want to. Well, Sammy has a bottle and he’s fine. And Milagros can give it to him.” She looks at her watch, a slender silver disc with a madras strap. “She’s probably giving to him right now.” She sits up and looks into the cooler.
Jenny wants to confess that she breast-fed Delia until last year, when the child was two. Instead she says, “There are more important things than what a baby eats.” . . . Read More.