Fig, people always said to me. Why don’t you have children? You’re so good with them. And what was I supposed to say to that? I almost did once. But, my husband failed me, you see. And I lost my baby—a girl.
My baby. I’d waited for her for so long, doing two rounds of fertility treatments that emptied our bank account and ended in an empty womb. I’d given up hope … and then, a missed cycle … two … a pregnancy test. It was all confirmed that tearful day in the doctor’s office. He’d handed me a wad of tissues when he told me the results of the blood test, and I’d bawled like … well, like a baby.
She’d only been the size of a clementine. I’d been following her growth in an app on my phone, every day checking the way her little body was changing. I sent screenshots of it all to George who responded with emojis. She went from a tadpole to a tiny transparent person with fingers and toes. And then she was nothing. My miracle girl, gone. My body expelled her in pieces. A violent thing no woman should ever have to experience. George hadn’t been there, of course. He’d been at work. I drove myself to the hospital and sat alone, while the doctor explained that I was having a miscarriage. When George found out, he’d not even cried. His face had gone pale like he’d seen a ghost, and then he’d asked the doctor how soon we could try for another. He’d just wanted to erase her and try for something new. George, who had me cut the crusts off his grilled cheese sandwiches and blow on his soup until it wouldn’t burn his mouth, hadn’t cried like the baby he was. I was angry, bitter. I chalked the miscarriage up to the neglect I felt from him. Good luck to George and his cold heart. I wasn’t going to be his mommy anymore. I was a mommy to a real little girl, and I’d found her again, hadn’t I? Of all the billions of people on the planet, there she was, just five blocks away. It seemed too good to be true.
I found myself taking long walks, all the way up Cavendish Street, past the park with the purple benches, and the frozen yogurt shop where you could pull down a lever and pour your own yogurt into large paper cups. I turned left by the Little Caesars, where there were always at least two cats sitting outside on the wall, and stopped in the Tin Pin for a quick cappuccino. The Tin Pin had very good cappuccinos, but all the girls that worked there looked like whores. I tried not to look at them when I ordered, but sometimes it was hard not to. It was difficult to understand what all of that pink, puffy flesh had to do with coffee. I’d written some suggestions and put them in the suggestion box on the wall: Have girls wear less provocative clothing, I said. Hire some older ladies who have respect for their bodies, I said a different time. And then finally: I hope you half-naked fuckers all burn in hell. But, nothing ever changed, and the girls never covered up those little muffins stuck to their chests. I couldn’t remember if mine had ever been hard like that.
There were tables and chairs on the sidewalk, and since the weather was nice, I carried my drink outside and sat watching the traffic, keeping my eye on the cats who hadn’t moved a smidgen since I arrived. And then, when I was done, up and on to their house on West Barrett Street. I hated to admit it, but their street was nicer than mine. The trees were larger; the houses more cared for. It was the small details: the white shutters around the windows, and the tulips edging the flower boxes that made it seem more … more … personal. At the moment, there was a carpet of pink flowers across the street. I could see the little girl squealing in delight and asking Bad Mommy if she could run in-between them. She’d probably let her too. Never mind the cars, just play in the street, dear. Careless, reckless, distracted.
I lingered outside their house pretending to tie my shoelace. When that was over, I labored over picking something up off the sidewalk, commenting to a woman walking by about the litter. She glanced at me like I was mental and kept walking, her earbuds pushed in her ears. Probably listening to something foul like that Justin Belieber. My ears prickled. There was a noise like a child. I listened for her. Laughter from inside, or perhaps a cry—any trace of her little voice—I felt starved for it. But, there was nothing but passing cars and the occasional dog barking. I sighed in disappointment. And then I saw it: the house next door to theirs was for sale. At first I registered it with surprise, but then something inside of me started to prickle. What were the chances? All of the pieces were falling into place. I needed something new, didn’t I? Deserved it. All of those bad memories lingering around me like ghosts. There didn’t need to be, did there? I could move right here to this little box house with the cream shutters and the olive tree out front. Make new, beautiful memories, and be next door to my little girl. Who knew what would happen? Who knew…
I told my therapist about my plan to buy the house.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. “You’re buying a house to be close to a child you think has the soul of your miscarried baby.”
Dr. Matthews was youngish—too young to really know what she was doing. For the most part that’s what I liked about her. She was less judgmental than, say, someone who’d been doing this for two decades. We were both learning together. Come to think of it, she was probably really grateful to have someone like me to study and learn from.
“Oh, come on.” I smiled. “I’m not that crazy. Selling my house and moving for a person is a little far-fetched. It’s just a coincidence. I really like the house.”
Dr. Matthews stared at me while tapping her pen on the yellow pad she was holding. What did that mean—the tapping? Was she frustrated with me? Did it help her think? Or was she imitating a metronome trying to get my thoughts to have rhythm? Tiny dots were appearing where her pen hit the paper creating messy little flecks of blue. What type of professional used blue ink? She looked like she had been a band geek in high school, pasty with mousy brown hair and glasses. Today she wore a yellow cardigan and matching yellow shoes. I bet she played the trombone, and as a result, gave great head.
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