“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway, 1927
I sink onto the fluffy white rug that occupies my tiny apartment bathroom floor and lie in the fetal position. Tears parade down my cheeks, free and bursting with fanfare. My chest rises and falls, shuddering up and down, the way it did the night I got myself into this mess. But this time there is no pleasure. Only pain. Penance.
My phone rings, jarring me. I roll onto my back and breathe deeply. I reach up and feel for my phone on the sink, my back flat against the rug.
“Are you ready?”
“I guess,” I say. I worry that my voice will break, or that he will be able to tell I’m crying, but instead I sound the way I feel inside–dead.
“I’m leaving now. I’ll be outside in five.”
“Alright.” I hang up without saying goodbye. My legs shake. I do not want to see him.
I slip into a loose Run DMC concert tee, ink black leggings, and bright red Nikes. I look like I’m heading to the gym. But what else do you wear when you are about to barter with Death? Do you dress up? Face full of makeup and that little black dress? Hi Death, how are you, please forgive my appearance today, but here is my heart…
Unable to wait inside any longer, I find myself standing in front of my apartment building. It is February, but somehow, with God’s funny humor, it is seventy-eight degrees in New Jersey. Everything’s off kilter. Hell has trotted up from the underworld to greet me, save me the trip down. How kind.
His red Mazda pulls up and slows to a stop before me. I slide in. I look him full in the face, my eyes locking with the brown orbs of his eyes, and I am speechless. I thought I’d have so much to say. Things along the lines of please stop me, please stop this, why don’t we try to think of a plan, why don’t you love me–but instead my only thoughts are, do you see me? Do you see what this is doing to me? Why is this happening?
“Should we put the address in the GPS?” I ask, desperate for the silence to be gone.
“I grew up around here, remember? I know where it is,” he says. I nod. I wish I brought water with me. My tongue feels like sandpaper caressing dried out skin.
We sit in silence for most of the ride. I notice he turns around twice but I say nothing about the GPS again. My eyes scan the industrial town, filled with barber shops, breakfast spots, cheap clothing stores, huge expanses of concrete where trucks are parked, and a power plant that can be seen in the distance. Spanish bodegas and car washes break up the pawn shops and liquor stores. How different it is from my hometown, filled with manicured lawns, expensive boutiques, McMansions, and white privilege.
“Have you heard that new diss track by Remy Ma?” his voice shatters the stillness. I feel his eyes flick over my face before returning to the road. I keep staring straight ahead. He’s pulling at straws. Trying to make this normal. Trying to talk about our passions, things we used to talk about for hours as we lay in my bed or on his couch. I used to get excited, become a chatterbox, desperate to connect with him and enthralled with the fact that somebody just gets it like I do. I think I fell in love with him over a healthy debate on relevant rappers or symbolism in Mad Men.
But today I feel nothing. It takes me a moment to process what he is saying. Diss track? Who? What? Did I even check my phone this morning? Probably not. I can’t remember. I just remember the soft feathery feeling of my white bathroom rug, so much more comfortable than this tan, hot leather of his passenger seat.
“No,” I whisper. I wish I could cry in front of him. Make him feel bad. Hand him some of this debilitating weight from the heavy anchor that has made its home in my ribcage.
“It’s actually pretty good,” he continues.
“I’ll have to check it out,” my voice is feeble. I wonder why it is taking us so long to get there.
The strange hot weather has brought the townspeople out in waves, permeating the streets with noise and bodies. He weaves the Mazda in and out of haphazard traffic. Loud reggaeton blasts from a nearby restaurant as he makes a left. I see the county courthouse from here. The irony.
“Will they be protesting?” I ask. “I don’t think I could bear that.”
He glances over at me. “This isn’t really a white area. They won’t be doing that.”
True to his word, as we crawl closer to the front of the eggshell painted building, there are absolutely zero protesters in sight. Nobody ready to scream murder or about Christ in your face. An older black man with a cane and a ball cap leans against the wall by the entrance. If you didn’t know any better, you would drive right by it. Planned Parenthood’s sign is small and only on the glass doors. But there it is.
“Do you want to get out here and start getting the paperwork done? I’ll find a spot,” he says, glancing at me again and then back in his rearview mirror. The street is lined with parked cars. Sweat trickles down my back. Kids in tank tops run by, squealing and shouting with pure joy, their mother a few yards behind. A car behind us beeps. I nod, fumble with my bag, and get out.
I take the elevator upstairs and find myself standing in front of a waiting room filled with women. They all stare. I hesitate, then notice Planned Parenthood’s sign with a little arrow pointing farther down the hall. I walk forward, leaving the women behind me and follow the signs until I see a front desk to the left. I walk up and clear my throat. My legs tremor beneath me. A young Hispanic woman with chestnut-colored hair and bright red lips looks up from her computer.
“Ava Quinn. I have an appointment at two?” My voice is hushed as though I’m in a library.
“Have you been here before?”
“Fill out these forms and then give them back to me. If you plan to use any health insurance, provide that information too,” she says, handing me a clipboard thick with paperwork.
I nod, grab a pen from the little pink mug on the counter, and face a new sitting room. This one is also filled with women, but scattered here and there are men. I am the only white girl.
The chairs are big, revolving, comfy looking chairs, but when I sit down in a black one there is a loud squeaking noise that causes me to flush red. I picked the only chair that had an empty one next to it. I silently pray for him to hurry up and come back from parking. For a fleeting moment, I fear that he’s just dumped me here, driven off, left me to deal with the wreckage I’ve become. My right hand shakes as I spell out my name on the top of the first form. A….v….a….
“How’s it going?” he asks, appearing before me. He plops down in the gray chair next to me and grimaces as it squeaks. He rocks it back and forth a bit before looking at me.
“It’s alright,” I say. I look at the forms again. Have you been pregnant before? Are you currently pregnant? What medications are you taking? Are you allergic to any medications? What are you here for?
Good question. What am I here for?
He leans over, close, and I smell his smell, the smell I’ve known for years now. I look at his dark skin, his beard. I envision a palette with walnut and eggshell paint, slipping and sliding and melting into a beautiful, dark chai.
“Look at this,” he says now, showing me a meme on his phone. He smiles. “That Remy diss track is blowing up.”
“Mmm,” I give him a half-hearted smile. Part of me wants to slap him. When he looks back down at his phone, my face falls again.
We wait for a total of two hours. The waiting room occupants start to dissipate around three. The front desk nurse announces that everyone waiting will be tended to, but any new arrivals will be turned away. Someone asks if we can open a window. People strip off sweatshirts and fall jackets they brought along with them. The heat, or my hell, is at its highest and almighty point.
I watch a young black woman be called, then a teenage Hispanic girl with her father, a heavyset black woman, and then finally a interracial young couple sitting near us. They look happy as they stand to follow the nurse. I watch the man look at his girl and smile, and my heart, which I was pretty sure was long gone by now, aches like an old injury in the rain. I glance at the father of my unborn child. His face is still buried in his phone. He is not even looking at me. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us.
When they call my name, I leave my bag with him and follow a petite nurse in light green scrubs to a back room. She confirms my paperwork with her back to me. I hear myself saying yes to a series of questions regarding my health. My legs and hands tremble together, in sync, like a scared puppy.
She turns around to face me and hands me a cup.
“Pee in this. Then I have to prick your finger for blood. We’ll confirm whether or not you’re pregnant,” she says. I swallow hard and nod. “I’ll be right here when you’re done.”
I do my business and wash my hands. I peer at my reflection in the mirror. Do I look any different? I rub my eyes. These last few days, has anyone who knows me really seen me? Could they see my soul is being seared in half?
Do they see me? Do you see me? I want to scream.
I turn away from my reflection. I let out something between a choke and a sob and clutch my stomach. Thundering waves inside of me beg for release.
I inhale sharply, wipe my face clumsily and exit the bathroom. I hand the nurse the cup and sit down in a chair she gestures to. She pricks my finger, letting the blood pool on a small slip of paper. She exits and returns within minutes.
“Yep, you’re pregnant,” she says. I’m thankful her voice is not too cheery.
“Yeah, I took three tests,” I mumble. My hand reaches for my phone. I shoot him a quick text. 100% pregnant. Are you sure this is what you want to do?
Yes. The response is instantaneous. I feel as though he has slapped me.
The anchor in my chest plummets. I think back to the phone call three days prior, his voice in my ear: “It’ll be really hard for you, Ava, those long nights, daycare, daycare cost…of course I’d take care of my responsibility, but it’d be weekends, and your family is about an hour away, it’ll be really hard for you Ava…” Not hard for us. Hard for me. He made sure to specify that.
“Let’s get you in the next room for your ultrasound so we can see how far along you are, and then Janice, the head nurse, will come in and explain the procedure. The doctor will see you too,” the nurse is watching me. We hold each other’s gaze for a moment. Does she judge me? A woman, almost twenty-five years old, sitting here and completing this act? Does she wonder what my story is? Can she read my mind? If so, please save me. Save me from myself.
But it is much too late for that. I did this.
She brings me into another room where the ultrasound machine sits next to an examination table. The nurse gives me privacy as I undress and put on a robe. I start doing the math in my head. I should be about four weeks. Just shy of four weeks, actually. In two days, on the 27th, it will be exactly a month.
When she returns, she explains she’s going to insert the vaginal probe and instructs me to breathe.
“This may be slightly uncomfortable,” she says as she gently touches my right knee so I spread my legs wider. “If it hurts, tell me, and I’ll stop.”
It doesn’t hurt. It is uncomfortable. I take a deep breath and hold it. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, thundering, the storm brewing again. My stomach is taut. Legs tense, as though I’m preparing to run from a predator. I have a fight or flight sensation.
“I can’t get the right…” the nurse trails off as she stares at the ultrasound screen. “Ah. There it is.”
“You can see it?” I ask, surprised the question pops out of my mouth.
“Yep,” she says. “It’s really very small.”
“How many weeks am I?”
“I’d say…about four or five weeks.”
I nod and let out the breath I’d been holding. I was right. I know exactly which night it was. I remember my black running shorts, my loose white scoop-neck tee. I remember looking at him, laughing. Telling him I’m celibate now. He told me I could be celibate again in twenty minutes. And here we are.
“Do you want to see it?” she asks softly. “I know some people don’t.”
“Yes,” I whisper. She turns the ultrasound’s monitor towards me. I don’t see it. I squint my eyes. She points to a dark mass on the upper left side of my uterus.
“It’s about the size of your pinky fingernail,” she says. I look down at my hands, the pale pink polish still intact.
“Would you like a picture? Some people like to have one…” she trails off. Silence has taken a seat between us, looking back and forth between her face and mine.
The nurse nods, finishes up her work, exists, and I dress. Once clothed, I am shuffled towards a farther back room, beyond the doctor’s offices. This room has a long table and gives off the appearance of a conference room. Boxes are stacked on the left wall, files upon files. There is a whiteboard with the nurse and doctor’s shifts scrawled across it. Flyers adorn the walls, as they did in the waiting room, offering pregnancy support groups, birth control options, counseling, and health checkups. If you want to change your mind, they can help you, a little voice inside my head whispers. I swallow hard. I need water.
Janice, the head nurse, enters the room. She plops down in the seat across from me and shuffles the paperwork briskly, all business. My eyes travel over her face, noticing the three freckles on her right cheek, her amber-colored eyes, and tanned skin. Gorgeous, long blonde dreads are piled on top of her head. I watch her gold hoop earrings catch the light and flicker as she moves her head back and forth. Janice places her hands down and sighs, looks up and right into my eyes. The voice in my head whispers again, she sees you.
“Do you know how this works? I see here that you decided to go with the pill. You’re incredibly early, so that should be fine,” she begins.
I nod before realizing that the pause between us is because she is waiting for a proper response.
“I don’t–I don’t really know how it works,” I say.
She pulls out a bright pink sheet of paper, adorned with instructions and cartoons demonstrating the steps.
“You take one pill today with the doctor, wait 24-28 hours, then take four additional pills in your mouth, let them sit in your cheeks–kind of like a chipmunk’s cheeks filled with nuts–and after thirty minutes, you swallow them. If you vomit within two hours of taking them, you must go to the ER. If the blood loss is this heavy–” she points to one of the cartoons depicting a dark, fully soaked cloth, “–you need to go to the ER. This and this–” she points to two other cartoons on the page, “–that’s normal. Remember everyone’s body is slightly different. There is a number written here–that’s your on-call nurse. She will pick up at any hour. If for some reason she doesn’t, well, we do shower and such, so leave a message and she should get right back to you. If you don’t hear back within a half hour to an hour, call the clinic directly. Or if it’s serious, go to the ER. Do you understand?”
I look up from the instruction sheet that absurdly reminds me of a worksheet from elementary school. My mouth is even drier than before. I nod. Tears return from earlier for their encore.
“You aren’t alone,” she says. She doesn’t take her eyes off mine.
“Will it hurt?” I whisper.
Her eyes widen, almost in disbelief. “It will not be easy. People have different pain tolerances.”
“I’m scared,” I say. I am. Three pill bottles sit in front of me alongside those instructions. They scare me. I scare me. My eyes scan the little stick figure girl on the first page of directions. All of those warnings to GO TO THE ER are listed next to her little smiling face. Why is the cartoon girl smiling?
The door opens and the doctor walks in. He’s a middle-aged West Indian man, and he shakes my hand, gives me a warm smile.
“I’m Dr. Braithwaite,” he says. His hands are soft and cool in mine, his accented voice equally as soft, but warm. He seems more relaxed than Janice, who is still sitting in front of me and waiting.
“Has Janice gone over everything?” he asks.
“Almost,” Janice answers. Dr. Braithwaite sits down next to her. I’m struck again by this conference room setting. If no one knew the wiser, we could be meeting about their marketing, medical device sales, adoption services–anything. And yet I feel Death sitting in the chair next to me, opposite Dr. Braithwaite and Janice, nodding its head as it diligently listens to the process of my sacrifice. My penance.
“Now, if for some reason the pill does not work, are you open to returning and having a physical procedure done? Once you take this pill here today, there’s no going back. It can lead to birth defects or a high-risk pregnancy.”
“Alright,” my voice cracks. Was that a flutter of hope in my heart, one I hadn’t even realized was there, that was just killed? What else, or what more, will this tragedy take from me? My eyes avert themselves from the two of them. I look at the whiteboard again. Janice works the next three days in a row. Dr. Braithwaite doesn’t appear to have any days off.
I wonder how many times these two have done this waltz, how many girls have sat here with teary eyes and inconsolable pain. I wonder how many felt numb. I wonder if it is even possible that some may have felt nothing. I find it hard to believe. I’m already becoming aware of my physical body responding in mourning. A primal gut feeling. An animalistic pain. I think of those nature documentaries with the mother elephants, crying over their dead young, burying them, and returning year after year. An elephant pilgrimage.
Janice watches me. Dr. Braithwaite does too.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Janice finally asks. “This is a non-judgmental zone. But you seem to be faltering. You could even wait two or three more weeks and come back if you want. You’re that early. We have endless support if you want to keep it. We have adoption brochures. This is not your only option.”
“Who is here with you? Is anyone?” Janice asks.
“The father,” I whisper.
“Is he forcing you to do this? If he is, you can disclose that to us. We will protect you. We cannot legally proceed if he is.”
The doctor places his hand on the table and Janice, who was leaning over the table towards me at this point, realizes what she’s doing and sits back.
I wipe my face, sure that if I looked in the mirror now, there’d be blotches across my skin, if not a fully red face. I stare down at my fingernails, avoiding eye contact, eyes tracing that pink polish. My pinky fingers. The little mass inside my uterus is only the size of my pinky nail. My face crumples into itself. My God. Why is this happening? I am so sorry. Mommy is so sorry.
“He’s not making me…but he doesn’t want it,” my voice wobbles. He. Does. Not. Want. Our. Child. Or he does not want a child with me. Maybe he’d be fine with having a kid, if I wasn’t the co-creator. Because we could do this. We could pull this off. We both have jobs. We live five minutes from each other. We aren’t fifteen or seventeen. We are twenty-five and twenty-six. But you aren’t together, this isn’t love, you can’t do it alone, the little voice in my head whispers. I feel a mix of disgust and rage boil in my stomach, rising like bile up my throat.
“You said he’s here?”
“Does he want to come in? Hear the process?”
“I’ll ask,” I say, and reach for my phone that has been sitting on the table.
The nurse is asking if you want to come in and sit with us and the doctor.
Not really. Do I have to?
“What did he say?” Janice asks as my phone beeps. I show her my phone. Her voice is clipped as she says, “Ask him how he wants to pay. I’ll be waiting for him by the front desk to receive full payment.”
“Thank you,” I say quietly. Janice nods, takes some paperwork with her, pauses, holds my gaze for a moment, and then exits.
“Excuse her,” Dr. Braithwaite says kindly. “She’s protective. We want you to be as comfortable as possible, and as safe as possible.”
“I appreciate it,” I say, letting out a whoosh of breath that I didn’t even realize I’d been holding in.
“Do you have any further questions after everything Janice has explained?”
“Will I be able to have children in the future?” I plead. My voice is urgent but quiet. Dr. Braithwaite’s face remains kind, open, and inviting. He is nothing like the women I grew up seeing in pediatrics, nothing like my gynecologist, nothing like my therapist–there is compassion here. No clinical smiles, or eyes that show me their true feelings regarding my weight, extracurricular choices, my sex life. Dr. Braithwaite sees me. He sees that this is the most real, most adult thing I have ever faced. My little inner Ava, the Ava who believed in Santa, believed in Cinderella Happily Ever After Love, could never have imagined such searing pain. Or that you could bring such tragedy upon yourself.
What does one do when one realizes there is no one to blame for the rupture in your soul other than yourself?
You hold yourself accountable.
“Yes,” the doctor says. “You will be able to get pregnant again.”
“But they all make it seem like it’s much more likely you’ll have problems–”
“That is a myth. It is very rare that this procedure leads to future issues getting pregnant. This is safe. You are early, and the pill will cause the shedding of the uterine lining, forcing a period almost–except much more powerful. I am not diminishing what you are about to go through. But what I’m trying to say is, any future issues that arise are most likely caused by pre-existing ones.”
“Willmybabyhateme?” It rushes out of me like a gust of wind.
“Are you doing this out of malice?” he asks calmly. Dr. Braithwaite tilts his head, those coffee black eyes holding mine. He does not look away.
“No,” I whisper.
“I didn’t think so,” Dr. Braithwaite smiles softly. “I feel you are a good person. I can feel how big your heart is, see how much this is tormenting you. This hasn’t been an easy or heartless decision.”
“I’m scared I’ll get to heaven someday and my baby will be waiting there and ask me why I didn’t want it,” I am sobbing now, ugly harsh sobs, and Dr. Braithwaite reaches across the table and places his hand on top of mine. Hands that are still soft, still cold, and calming. The tears I am drowning in part as though Dr. Braithwaite has morphed into my personal Moses right before me, simply by his touch. I gulp for air, feeling the salty tears stain my cheeks. My lips and breath sputter as they did when I was a young child, crying so hard that my throat and body feel worn out, as if I’ve been screaming and screaming. I shiver.
“I think,” Dr. Braithwaite says quietly after I’ve calmed myself, “I think you are making this decision for a reason. I think you truly love your unborn child, and you want to give your child the best, healthiest life possible. You don’t believe you can do that right now, do you?”
“No,” I say truthfully. It feels good to tell the truth, no matter how ashamed of it I may be.
“And you believe your child deserves that life. That you deserve that life. Right?”
I am quiet for a moment. Still. Death regards me coolly, waiting for my heart. My mind races, plays a quick movie trailer for me, as it has been doing ever since I saw that plus sign on the little stick. A little toddler, running barefoot through green grass. My child, with my piercing blue eyes and his smile. His laugh. Messy fingerprint masterpieces on the kitchen fridge. Tutus or basketball shorts on the bedroom floor. Light, bright yellow light, reflecting from nursery walls. Mommy. My penance. You have to make sacrifices. It’s time to grow up. My heart thumps roughly.
But these flashes before me will not be my reality. Reality will be graduate school at all hours (if I can even afford it), a $15 an hour job as a clerk, no home, no time with my child. Reality is twisted faces with screams emitting from lips, his relationship with another woman, so crucial in his life, splintering and cascading into a million pieces because of an innocent child. The shame, the pain, the resentment–the fact that the true reality would mirror my own childhood. The childhood pain I dedicate my whole life to eradicating. The life I am determined to never, ever pass on to my own.
“Yes,” I say softly. “And my baby deserves better than this, better than him. He doesn’t love me. I don’t want my child to ever think that they were never wanted. I don’t want my child to feel any shame. I want to be a mom so bad. I just can’t…now. I’m still building a foundation for myself…He made it clear I’d be alone.”
“He doesn’t deserve you,” Dr. Braithwaite says this in a factual tone, though not unkindly. “Sometimes things like this–they happen because your life needs to propel you in other directions, because relationships, or people, need to part ways and a tragedy has to push them there. This will change you. You will grow. You will be stronger. And you will prepare your life so you will be ready to start the family you deserve, and want to have. When you are ready. This decision is for you, Ava. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone else. This is for you and what is best for you and your unborn child.”
“I asked to keep a picture of the sonogram,” I scratch my neck and look away from the doctor’s gaze. “Is that weird?”
“No,” Dr. Braithwaite too looks away for a moment before returning his gaze to me. “In my culture, when something momentus occurs in life…negative or positive, we have keepsakes that pay tribute to it. There’s a reason you want it, there’s a reason you asked for it, and nothing–nothing–about deciding to keep the sonogram is weird.” He smiles on the last word, and I find myself reflexively giving him a small smile back. For a moment when his eyes meet mine, I feel as though I see God himself. A peace washes over me, Dr. Braithwaite’s cool hand still calming me by the smallest of touches. You will be okay, the voice in my head whispers.
“Now,” Dr. Braithwaite says, reaching for the bottle on the farthest left. “If you are ready…”
I close my eyes for a second and breathe in deeply. I wash the first pill down with cold ice water moments later. Dr. Braithwaite’s hand remains holding mine, his hand stronger than the anchor in my chest. I am not doing this out of malice. I am doing it out of love. And at the same time I am breaking my heart.
The storm inside me breaks, and I know I will never be the same again.
“It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” the man said. “It’s not really an operation at all.”
The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.
“I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.”
The girl did not say anything.
“I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.”
“Then what will we do afterward?”
Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway, 1927
A Year and Two Months Later
I see them, sitting at Tiki’s famous outdoor beach bar. A regular summer spot for almost everyone I know in Jersey. I should have known this was a possibility, that this run-in could and would happen, but I had assumed it would be in Rahway, the town we all three live in, not in Point Pleasant, an hour away. Her reddish, blonde head is thrown backwards mid-laugh, her mouth wide and beautiful as she inhales before letting out another burst of light. His face, too, is lit up, laughing along with her.
The sun cascades across the light wooden floors, beaming onto everyone’s freshly bared skin. Palm trees, unnatural to our state, are surrounding Tiki’s outdoor seating area. They drift back and forth in the wind, unbothered. It is the first warm day of the year–gracing us with its presence mid-April, not the end of February, like last year.
The cold Corona tastes sour after I see them. I shake my head, trying to look away. I need to tell my friends. My three girls are all distracted, talking about walking on the beach after happy hour. They have absolutely no idea that Mack and his girlfriend are sitting within ten feet of us. They have no idea that this moment I’m witnessing right now is one of, if not the, biggest reason I did not keep our child.
Even afterwards, I daydreamed what I’d name the baby. What the baby would look like. I romanticized having my own place, Mack being an engaged father and going above and beyond for his child, but even in those unrealistic daydreams I never fooled myself into thinking he would eventually love me. Mack’s lack of love for me is the one thing I never doubted. I know this as factually as I know that the sky is blue, that the ocean is deep and vast, that the leaves change color and die in the fall.
I know that if I had kept our child, who would be about six months now, Mack would be around once in awhile, if ever. Checks would come but there would be no warmth. A relationship, his real relationship, would have crashed and burned. My child would have been born into a whirlwind of pain, a tornado of scandal, and suffer for their parents selfish, irresponsible sins.
I have no idea where I’d be living, if I would have needed to go on welfare, how or who would even watch my child while I worked. That part I will never know.
“Guys,” I say, trying to get my friends attention. Mack and his girlfriend wave down the bartender to order more drinks, all smiles. Mack looks relaxed in a way he never was around me. Not a hint of worry across his face. He never told her. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. I breathe in a shaky breath.
I look down at my flat stomach in my new red Myra bathing suit. I think about the LSAT registration confirmation email on my laptop at home. The tickets to Florida. The saved apartment listings I want to tour when I visit Tampa next week, stored safely on my Zillow app. All of these things I must do now, all of these leaps I must be brave enough to take in order to pay homage to the unborn child I will forever mourn. I endured my penance. Now, I must build. Build so I will never be put in a corner again. Build so I will have a foundation to call home when I do become a mother.
Every day, I am determined to learn the sacrament of forgiveness.
What does one do when one realizes there is no one to blame for the rupture in your soul other than yourself, you ask?
You hold yourself accountable. You forgive yourself. You learn to love yourself.
“Do you feel better?” he asked.
“I feel fine,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.”
Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway, 1927