Sophie Nunberg

I study the events of my birth like astrologers do stars in the sky. I’m already late when, two days before I finally do break my mom’s amniotic sac, a 6.9 earthquake nearly splits our city clear in two. My parents’ marriage never had a chance and now, I never seem to be on time.  

The morning after the shake, my father takes the only picture of my mother pregnant. She is in a royal blue cashmere turtleneck pulled taut across her stomach and electric orange pants. Now, my phone storage is littered with self-portraits.  

When the contractions do start, she loads herself into the backseat of my father’s gray Alfa Romeo; he finishes a cigarette outside. The detours of closed roads twist them around the city right into San Francisco’s Castro on Halloween, of all days. The tiny Alfa is swallowed by the ecstatic air of the city’s favorite holiday. The rounds of colorful lights dive like comets into my mother’s lungs. Now, this is why I wear electric blue eyeshadow from brow bone to lash line every day in the sixth grade.  

My father edged the car forward, the slow crawl through stole any hope of my future patience. I imagine yelling, we are a family of yellers. They make it to the hospital, my father doesn’t go into the delivery room: cementing the terms of our relationship. After the divorce, my father buys a house on the street where they block off cars on Halloween. 

My mother, enthusiast of all things modern medicine, gives birth to me without an epidural. Now, this feels too intimate for us.  

I am exactly eight pounds and exactly twenty inches, with exemplary vitals. A perfect baby, the obstetricians note, asking if they can show me around to the residents. This was my parents’ favorite part of the story, how the doctors carry me away. 

Sophie Nunberg is a French-American writer from the hills of San Francisco. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she serves as the non-fiction editor of Cream City Review. You can find her all over social media as @fwarg.

Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #45.

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