The air dragged back and forth sending chills straight through her bones, while the pains catapulted through every nerve in her body. She was drenched in the smell of cold soggy sweat and hospital detergent. She clenched the static sheets and gritted her teeth as a thousand small knives pierced her lower back. After an animal like howl she reached for her shadow of a husband out of habit. Her fears collided with her reality like waves crashing on to the shore. I should’ve just let them cut me open. At least I would have been sedated.
“One more.” The white masked man raised his head from in between her legs and with such humiliating warmth said, “One more”.
It wasn’t until she pushed that she realized, an epidural wasn’t enough to keep her from the pain of cradling stone and the damaging blows of dead silence. She inhaled the hostile draft, and as it bit the back of her throat the room faded to black and her drooping eyelids finally collapsed. There was a stillness that dusted the entire room. She caught sight of a woman uncomfortably holding a perfectly wrinkly, perfectly miniature human shell. She gave in, allowing the silence to strangle her, releasing the ounce of hope that allowed her to believe she would ever hear one of her babies cry.
She caught a glimpse of something wavering drunkenly in the corner. Her eyes sought after the flash of a human being until they settled on her husband. It wasn’t his fault; he was a good man when she met him, sensitive and kind. Most of all, he wanted her.
“How long have you been wandering out here by yourself?” he said.
“For as long as I can remember” she said with downcast eyes, fidgeting like a child.
“Well I’m glad you came my way,” he said. Their marriage was simple and sweet, somewhere in-between fresh cherries and nectar; it was natural for the two of them. They learned to love each other on Sunday Afternoon strolls, while falling asleep in front of the TV, on chipped park benches under blossom trees, and on creaky wooden porches with tall glasses of iced tea. “Well that’s just fine,” He said, holding a piece of sunshine in between his teeth as his wife announced her first pregnancy, “Just fine.” But he couldn’t find the hope in the second or the third, because he grieved so heavily for those that came before. So it wasn’t his fault see, he was a good man.
Now he stood in the corner of the room glaring at this woman, as she held the little stone that already had his ears and his nose, and he didn’t want any part of it anymore. Long before he stumbled out the door and disappeared forever, the tears rolled down her cheeks, baptizing the skin she clutched deeper into her bosom in mourning so thick it dripped like molasses.
Each day she lost a little bit more, parts of her detached quietly and slipped away on the tails of the wind. It was slow, like the shedding of trees that goes unnoticed until there’s nothing but a raw, bare skeleton; only that which can withstand the changing of seasons. One day a memory fluttered by and perched itself on her shoulder. As it whispered to her she remembered the cold feet, sticky peanut butter, and the coarse mane of her dusty stuffed animal. The memory picked her up and dropped her in front of three pale blue steps, leading to the door that she walked through as a child many years before. A friendly face answered the freshly painted door and took pity on her wanting form as she attempted to explain her presence. Once granted temporary permission to enter the house her memory grew heavier by the second.
She felt disoriented as she stood at the entrance to the small kitchen. Where were the worn white cabinets and cold tile floors? It had never really occurred to her that anything from her childhood would have changed. She swept her hand lightly across the grey linoleum counter, looking for the chipped edges and dented corners from the nights when her father would stumble through the doorway. She lost herself for a moment, remembering the stench of whiskey and cigarette smoke that lingered even after he had gone.
As she made her way to the living room she remembered the aged wooden floors. To others the incessant creaking could become a nuisance, but as a child left alone for days or weeks at a time she found that the noise comforted her. Now as she was making her way around the room and in-between the furniture, the silence had almost wrapped itself around. She stood in the corner now, able to study the entire space. There were matching rugs and neatly arranged clusters of white and silver trimmed picture frames. Every bulky furniture piece was drowning in mint green throw blankets and navy blue accent pillows. It all felt very, occupied. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted the “Home Sweet Home” plaque and instantly felt sick to her stomach.
Desperate for some air, she flew to the front door and stood at the threshold taking a deep breath. The sunrays danced across her skin and the breeze grazed the tip of her nose just like they had all those years ago. Back then she stood in the doorway with a blanket swept tucked under her shoulder, her favorite baseball cap, and two peanut butter sandwiches, determined to test destiny. Now she stood facing the little house so that all the colors flying off of the setting sun framed her perfectly. She thought about how not much had changed at all. Yet still, she decided to close that door to the past once again, though the future made no hopeful promises. Just as she exhaled all that she had been holding in the memory threw open its wings and drifted away.
About the Author: Gabrielle Lawrence is an Genre Head Editor at West Wind Literary Journal and an Associate Editor for Linden Avenue Literary Journal. Her creative work typically focuses on topics of race and gender. She enjoys writing poetry and nonfiction, and hopes to pursue her M.F.A. in creative writing next fall.