Have you ever read the future in a thin blue line, as you wait in the handicapped stall in the fourth floor bathroom? Your stretched out knees have made a run in your pantyhose, which are cheap and rough and aggressively tight, so you slide out of your worn kitten heels and tug them off to pass the time. Balling them up and stuffing them into the little maxi-pad trashcan uses up about twenty seconds. Pregnancy test seconds, as any woman in the know will tell you, pass even more slowly than microwave seconds. Whether you are bound to be relieved or disappointed or tremulously hopeful and filled with joy, the waiting is the hardest part. Once you know, you know. You can confront that emphatic little mark and all its implications head on. When you know, you have options. “Options,” you whisper to yourself, hoisting up your skirt with the grooved thumb-grip clamped between your teeth.
You have to meet your husband for lunch. He has printed out do it yourself divorce papers from the Internet, and you both filled them out with the emotion of a fat man ordering a salad from the Wendy’s drive through. They need to be signed in the presence of a notary, and then taken to the courthouse basement. They have a registrar’s office down there, tucked under the century old building, and several people actually spend their days there, awash in claustrophobic fluorescence. Your phone buzzes, and you hastily wrap the pee stick in toilet paper and shove your feet into the heels. They don’t go easily without the stockings and your toes feel pinched together as you clip toward the elevator.
You’re hoping he’ll change his mind, but he has already told everyone that you’re on the way out. He feels committed now, more to his young intern than he does to you. You’ve tried to deal with it, tried to wait it out, but you’re tired now. You’re just so tired, and the last fourteen years seem like an elaborate practical joke and you really just want to go home. Your grandma died ten years ago, and all you want to do is fall asleep on her couch and feel her pull the scratchy afghan down on top of you and listen to the ceiling fan and the daytime soaps through a thick afternoon sleep.
You recognize the woman who processes your paperwork, and you make idle small talk as if to tell the world that you’re okay with this. Really, it’s for the best. You aren’t able to force a smile, but your eyes are dry. “Are you currently pregnant?” asks the clerk.
“No,” says your husband for you, as you consider your options.
“Where will you go?” he asks you as you sit outside your office in his car. You don’t answer, but your mind travels to your mother’s house and you think of her unused second floor. He’s put her address on the papers, but the truth is, you’re not really sure. The room at the back of that house has a window seat, and pale yellow walls. At once, you have furnished it with an oak crib. Simple and elegant, with clear varnish and a white quilt draped over the side. He is giddy with thoughts of the future and he wants to celebrate. He pulls your head down to his crotch, and because you are too sad and exhausted to protest, you do what he wants.
You’re late now, standing in the elevator, gritty semen coating your teeth as you paw through your bag for Altoids. You remember nursing your two daughters years before. Something about the feeling of the milk letting down, the shooting pain and inexplicable sweetness of that feeling rushes back to you. Nursing your own child makes you feel powerful. Goddess-like, fecund and fertile, you sit like a Madonna at the rocking chair, savoring the tugging of your child’s small mouth at your breast. How had you forgotten the feeling of those tiny foreheads, wrinkling beneath your kisses?
You have not given notice at the insurance agency. They are decent people and deserve to know if you’re leaving, but you can’t make your lips form the words that you need to say. You just clock in and out, and click sedately back and forth across the linoleum, each step sounding uplifted on the end, like a question, and the monotony of the days has anesthetized you to the eventuality. He wants sex all the time now, and this surprises you, that he isn’t saving it all for the intern. He is on you morning and night, and when he rolls away, he picks up his phone and texts her. He seems unreal to you now. Cold, as if you could stab him in the heart and he wouldn’t bleed out, but instead, pop like a balloon and just disappear.
Sitting at home, you know you can’t have a baby. You know this, and yet there is a fresh bottle of wine on the counter, still corked and covered in foil. It is well after five o’clock, and you haven’t poured even one glass. You close your eyes, and go in your mind to the yellow nursery at your mother’s house. Debussy sprinkles sweetly through the speakers, and the floorboards are gilded with sunbeams, filigreed though the lace curtains. The spangles of light dance across the two of you as you rock, and you graze your cheek against the soft confection of his hair.
Time passes and you do nothing and say nothing. You continue to clock in and out. There is an issue with the child support section of the divorce papers, and you need to file again. Apparently, you can agree to no child support, but the court has an issue with that. You’re secretly relieved. You’ve signed over everything, in fear of this impending discovery, but in this instance, the state can be the villain, and you can shrug with consternation. He wants the intern bad enough. He’ll pay to see your bumper fade down the alley. So you file again with the proper math, and even though there is no morning sickness, you are down five pounds. Probably because you haven’t had a drink in over a month.
Eleven weeks now, and on Monday, you will go before the magistrate for the final hurrah. You are in a paper gown, trying to keep your bare ass from touching the paper-covered exam table. Your palms are sweating as they wheel in the ultrasound cart. You’ve named him Luke, and he’ll be all yours. You know that the intern won’t want to play mommy to yet another, and your magical thinking makes you believe that this will all be fine. Just fine, no need to mention such a triviality. You still have time. You still have options.
You wait, expectantly. By this time, his little papillion fluttering heart will be easily heard, but the nurse pauses to adjust the connections. There is more of the receiver twisting around in the goo on your belly until the doctor says, “There we are.” You’re gratified and look up, but the monitor is facing away from you. “She’s not at eleven weeks,” he says, and then there is silence. “I’m getting seven weeks.” Says the nurse, and then you know. He doesn’t have to tell you but he does. “The unfortunate thing,” he says, “is that I’m not getting a heartbeat.” You know that this is the only way that it could have been, and yet, you dissolve into tears before these two strangers, and the nurse becomes your mother, and strokes your hair as you cry.
“Shhhh…sweetheart,” she says. “I know this is sad, but you’ll try again.” But you know that this was your last, best chance, and there will be no other children, and truthfully, you know that there can’t be. If only you hadn’t allowed yourself the escape of this illusion. You would not have so much ground to regain. They sponge off your stomach and you put your clothes back on and drive home. Less than a week to go, and your mother has no idea that you’ll be moving in with her two adolescent granddaughters. You think about giving notice at the insurance agency. You go as far as composing a letter of resignation in your mind. It’s a start. You dial your mother’s number twice, but hang up before she answers.
You expertly remove the ring of foil from the bottle, still sitting on the counter. As you stab the corkscrew into the spongy surface and twist, you feel as if you are murdering something. Later still, your husband rolls off you and picks up his phone. He does not notice as you curl yourself around your dead womb and cry and cry. There are just so many lines and boundaries that separate what you are from what you could be, so fine and smoky and ephemeral are these thin blue lines.
Anne M Weyer
Banner Image: By Ceridwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons