I’m eight months pregnant, and we are hiking through the woods not far from the cabin and come upon a waterfall. We hear the water before we see it, at first a mild shushing and, as we get closer, a roar.
We have to go down a very steep path, and I move slowly. My balance is off because of my belly. Then we are at the edge of the pool. The trees hang over it, and their reflections ripple lime and emerald and yellowish on the surface. Hard creamy foam hammers between the black boulders above us.
When I tilt my head all the way back, the sky is a bright blue, circled by a crown of trees. The sun is hot, and I think about that famous nude Demi Moore pregnancy portrait on the cover of Vanity Fair.
I am seized with the idea that I want a portrait with my body like this, big and round with our baby kicking away inside.
“I want a picture of this,” I say to you, eyeing the camera around your neck. I’m not an exhibitionist, I swear, but being pregnant has made me wild. All my senses feel mixed up, I want to put the whole forest in my mouth and swallow it. I can almost hear texture; the rough lacy lichen doesn’t just feel rough, it sounds like the hiss of a freshly poured glass of fizzing pop.
“Get the camera ready!” I shout to be heard over the falls, even though you’re right beside me. One quick look towards the barrens, above the trees, a panorama scan to make sure we’re totally alone.
I peel off my blouse and shorts and bathing suit. I am naked.
“I’m just going to climb on those rocks,” I say. I wade through the pool until it’s too deep to touch the bottom. I climb out on the rocks near the falls, and the mist that shudders down on me is full of tiny rainbows.
“Wait until I get to the top,” I yell.
Demi is demure in her photo, hands strategically placed, her hair definitely blown dry by someone who knew what they were doing. She’s standing straight and proud. Some strategically placed blush to make her high cheekbones even higher. Is she glancing down with some kind of special authority? Like a goddess? If I can get up high enough on these rocks, I can glance down too! But Demi wasn’t contending with slippery moss. I’m half way up the cliff and can’t go any farther. I’m sort of stuck. It’s really slippery, my soaking wet hair is hanging in my face, and I’m on my hands and knees, afraid to lift my hand to fix my hair.
There’s only a very sharp, jagged rock on which to position myself, and I am going for the languidly-lazing-on-the-chaise-longue look, but it isn’t working.
And you’re yelling, “Get your face in the sun, you’re in the shadows, lean out a little, into the sun, no, turn the other way, can you put your shoulder a bit forward? That’s too much. Lean back, no, farther back and to the right. Your right? That’s your left. Okay, hold it, no, you moved!”
I am trying to yell back, “Take the picture, just take the picture, hurry up and take it”—but I have been seized with contractions of laughter. I am laughing so hard I am crying, and my big belly is shaking, and I am as full of joy and wildness as I will ever be in my whole life. I am naked and outdoors and in love, and our baby is elbowing me in the ribs.
After, I get my clothes back on as fast as I can, which is not very fast, because I’m wet and I can’t get the bathing suit back up over my belly. Just as I pull my blouse on, you say, “Look.”
You point with the toe of your shoe, and there balanced perfectly on a stone is a potato chip. A single crisp potato chip. It’s a ripple chip, and it’s not soggy. Whoever dropped that chip must have been swimming in the pool just before we arrived and taken the path back up on the opposite side of the falls. Then I see, at the crest of the hill, a flash in the trees above, the wink of sunlight on the windshield of an ATV. You follow my look.
“They probably didn’t see anything,” I say. But I secretly think, And so what if they did?