Weakened

I was asked awhile ago to write for Black Box Warnings. If you aren’t familiar with them, stop trying to look them up…they have since quietly faded out. Over the holidays the site went down, and so while I sit here with my thoughts on the wonderful people that ran that site, and hopes that things will get better for them and they can return soon, I decided to share the post with you from here. I hope you enjoy it, though enjoy might be the wrong word. I hope it let’s you in for a moment. I hope it makes you feel.

That’s what writing it for, right? To make us feel something.

So I wrote about feeling weak. I wrote about the moment when I noticed weakness in others around me.

I learned to cherish weakness, the humanity of that emotion.

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You tell yourself you shouldn’t say anything. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. This isn’t a new ride for you, but you feel like you’ve been waiting in the line for it forever. Your body’s been craving this thing, this filling. You’ve been striving for it, every ounce of your DNA straining forward, as if it were just out of your reach. But you knew you’d get it, and you did, and now you hold the proof in the little plastic strip in your hand and the plus sign is bright and pink. It practically screams it’s a girl, but it’s too soon to know such things. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. Besides, they used pink for boys in the past. It could be his son. It could be his boy.

It’s his first anyway. Just because you’ve done it before, doesn’t mean he has. No, he will be excited. He will be nervous and frightened, because he is a good husband, a good man, and a good father to the two mini-clones of his wife that run around the house in the early morning hours with an energy you both envy. He will be proud of you and touch your belly and hold you close for a few moments. He will smile and grab his phone and you won’t even think about it. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before.

His mother is calling you and you know he’s told them. He’s told them all. In his excitement he has leapt onto the digital rooftop and yelled out his news through the Facebook megaphone. You haven’t even been to the doctor yet, but you know, you know. Your body is changing, quickly it seems.

You are older now. Your body has grown soft. Your husband doesn’t complain. He likes the curves and the shape women call womanly, in that snarky tone of theirs. As if any one shape defines a woman. As if this is your definition: your broad hips that are soft on the sides, and the small pudge of a belly that never disappeared after your son had finished pushing the boundaries of your body and leaving the road map of faded white bolts across your skin.

You don’t remember how you told your father the first times. You should remember those sorts of things, but you think hard and cannot. Your father is a silent strength in your world. Words are scarce, but heavy. The memories you hold strongest are the ones where you saw him weakened. It seemed so odd, so out of place. It seemed so fake, that you stood there staring at that man and wondering who he had become, until you realized with a sort of bone-deep fear that he was the same man who held you when you fell apart and there you were, standing there frozen, while they told him his father was dying and you could hear him suck in a breath as if he were inhaling the world. It was a silence so deep before the break that caught in his throat and choked you. It sent you running from the room.

These things you remember, but not how you told him about his granddaughter. The little child he had to wear a mask to see the first time in the hospital. You don’t remember how you told him he would soon have a grandson, but you remember him in the room with you when you delivered. You remember saying, “I can’t do this” and him telling you, “You don’t have a choice.”

It’s that silent strength and you shouldn’t have said anything at all.

But you ran out, your feet scraping on the blacktop, bare in the cold frosty air that seemed to come earlier and earlier every fall. The leaves hadn’t even finished turning and the grass was still green, but there was a chill that seeped inside you and you knew it was too early. He was in his shed working and you said, “I have news” and he said, “You’re pregnant.” Just that, two words, and you both laughed. You smiled and he went back to work, smiling and silent.

You go to the doctor and you see the picture. It’s a peanut in black and grey. It’s a tiny little shape, like a croissant roll wrapped and fluffy. You see shades and a flicker that they point to and say, “Heartbeat”. Such a massive two syllable word. You look at your husband and he’s sitting there frozen, staring at the screen in some kind of wonder. He’s got no words and it’s that silent strength characteristic again and you feel at home and safe, even though it’s early. It’s so early.

You’ve been so sick. You’ve been living in sweatpants and your husband’s big t-shirts. You’ve had to battle with yourself and argue with the image in the mirror to make yourself want to shower, but everything smells bad and all you want to do is curl up and sleep. You are so tired. Your hair is a mess and you haven’t shaved your legs in so long, the husband laughs when he brushes against them. He drags you into the shower. He hands you a razor, like a silent plea to return to the woman he knew before. Something has changed in you, and you know it is different this time. You know it’s early.

His mother has invited you for dinner. It’s a holiday and special, so you shower and shave. He didn’t even have to ask. And you buy a new shirt and wear your new pants, because your body is soft and it’s changing so fast. You do up your make-up and slide in your earrings and your husband stares at this woman and wonders where she has been. You ride to his mother’s with his hand on your thigh, sliding closer and closer while the children are in the back and can’t see what he’s doing, or figure out why you are smiling like that. It’s a rekindling and it’s been so cold. You’ve both needed it for so long.

You’re on the porch later, when dinner is over, the phone clutched in white knuckles. You’ve never seen your father-in-law move so fast. He’s throwing your children’s toys into their bag, while your husband stuffs them in coats, and you are dancing in the cold while your mother-in-law packs turkey in a bag. You don’t even like turkey. And grandma is hugging you and telling you, “You’ll be okay”. Last year you told this woman you loved her, and she said, “You don’t even know me”. You felt sorry for someone who couldn’t accept a little love. Now you are here and you don’t want her to touch you. You don’t want anyone to touch you. You have to protect it and everyone is a danger, because something is wrong, and it’s so early.

If there is something invasive they can do, they do it. You have so many hands on you, inside you, machines that are beeping and blood being drawn. You have a negative blood type, so you have to get a shot. You know this. You know without it, your body will attack the life inside it, like a parasite it is trying to rid itself of. Always so quick to grow, in a body that wants to destroy. You start thinking, what did I do wrong? Why won’t it stop?

This woman, with her short hair comes in and you know, because her poker face is terrible. And she knows it, and blurts it out.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

You know it is real, because your husband can’t move. You are breaking into a million little pieces on their gurney. There is blood on your thighs and that thick, sticky gel on your stomach. There’s an IV in your arm, but it’s hooked up to nothing, and a bruise on your hip that will be there for weeks where they gave you a shot so you wouldn’t kill a baby that was already dead. You’re leaking out and he isn’t moving. Your husband. He’s sitting there and he can’t get up and you know it is real. You know he would come to you, but he’s having his moment. You are seeing him weakened and it frightens you, but you can’t run away and you can’t even go to him, because there isn’t enough of you left to stand up.

You are home and your father walks down the hallway. You’re in the living room, trying to find some channel on the TV that will occupy your children long enough to keep them away so you can save them the fear of seeing their parent snapping apart like a collection of wishbones. Your father, that silent strength. That man of few words. The one who once sucked up the world into his lungs and taught you how to crack. He’s there and he doesn’t touch you. He stands a few feet away and you are very aware that he doesn’t look you in the eye. You are very aware that you have switched places, and he is where you were as a child watching him mourn.

“I’m sorry about the baby.”