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Portraits and Stains; Some cathartics via Meanwhile
Topic Started: Feb 26 2017, 03:22 AM (102 Views)
NotAFlyingToy
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Southern motherfuckin' democratic republicans.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The year was 1998, and his hands were shaking.

“Really?” he whispered, his brown eyes meeting her blue ones, matching tears shining in their eyes, bright and full of hope, wanting, love. In her hand, a little white stick, blurry and stretched due to the moisture that beaded on his lashes.

“Shit, Layla, really?” he repeated, exaltation exploding out of his lungs in a hiss of breath as he rushed towards her, her bubbling laughter bursting into the air between them. Their apartment was small, cramped - she preferred the term cozy and shot him a look whenever he described it as such - and the sound of their mutual joy echoed throughout the space they shared, the blue walls adorned with portraits of aunts and uncles, pets, childhood memories.

All at once he could picture them replaced with first steps, first haircuts, first words, first birthdays. Hospital visits, sonograms. Happy tears like this moment, the moment so scary and large and absolutely breath stealing.

“You’re - wow, are we okay with this?” she asked, the stick clattering to the floor as she boosted herself up his hips, cupped his face with her hands, the bristle on his cheeks pricking against her palms.

He rubbed his face against her skin, kissed her - loud, messily - and laughed into her lips.

“We definitely are,” he said, his grin splitting his face as she let out a wet bark of laughter, wiped at one of her eyes.

The moment stretched between them.

----

He woke up wet, uncomfortable. His pajama pants were soaked in blood at the knee, spots of red on powder blue. He shifted, turned to roll over, and he felt the bed shake lightly, a sound whimpering out from his right.

He rolled over, and she was curled inwards, responding to his touch with a flinch, a quiet sob. His hand, when he lifted it to his face in the dark, came out smeared dark.

The covers were thrown off, then. He shifted to his knees, one knee sinking in more dark, more wet, and somehow he knew before he even crawled to her, knew what he was going to find in the crook of her arm, knew that the joy that had stretched to this place, filled this place, was cut into ribbons.

He shifted around her, and there was a red smear on her arm, her gown, the bed. Her eyes were wet, her crying quiet, shivery, her gaze locked on a point past him, far past him, into another plane - possibly where her child had gone before she’d even had a chance to meet it.

“Layla?” he whispered, almost in reverence, almost as you did in church when you were afraid of interrupting something sacred that you didn’t understand. She didn’t respond to his call, and he pushed a piece of her hair back, leaned into her view. Her eyes tracked him, but they were lifeless as they met his own, dead as they searched his face.

“Layla?” he said again, because he was useless. Because he didn’t know what to do. Because there was nothing to be done.

Their child continued to soak the sheets underneath her as they held the gaze for far too long, too shocked, disbelieving to breathe.

---

She didn’t want to tell their family about it - the silent thing that sat between them, loomed between every conversation. They communicated in hushed tones or panicked screaming, their relationship relegated to either a one or a ten on a scale of emotions. She didn’t want to tell anyone about it because it had barely even existed before her body failed on her. She didn’t want to let anyone know because maybe she could never have a child again, so why did it matter. She didn’t want to donate the crib she’d bought, carefully chosen after three hours of deliberation with him, reading reviews online, chatting to store owners, his hand splayed carefully over her slightly rounded stomach.

She didn’t want.

He didn’t know what to do.

In the face of this, in the face of the grief that was a yardstick between them, an insurmountable peak that had risen in their relationship, he shied away, closed up. He felt like he should’ve spoken to her more, tried to get through to this cloud that followed her around.

She spent an hour sometimes, staring at that crib, her hands on her pelvis. He spent just as long watching her from the hallway, his fingers curled.

One night, he woke up to her on her knees on the bed, her fist curled on her naked stomach, blue and black and purple bruises forming on the skin there. He’d pinned her hands on either side of her body as she screamed and shook, telling him to just let her do this, let her go through with it, it’s what she needed. She kicked and scratched and bit at him and all he could do was take it, keep her hands at her sides, the tears flowing hot and fast.

She took sleeping pills sometimes, when she needed relief from the dreams that haunted her. They came in little orange bottles with a pharmacy stamped on the lid. He took sleeping pills sometimes, too, when he feared dreams might descend upon him. His pills came in brown glass bottles filled with liquid, stamped with a logo on them.

They yelled or whispered, and didn’t talk for two weeks.

---

“It’s in heaven?” she asked one day, seated next to him on the couch, the first words she’d spoken at a normal volume in weeks. She’d gone to a professional - he’d gone with her - and they’d cried together on a couch that was uncomfortable, cried and let their emotions mingle and quiver on the gross green carpet of an office that was sound proof. The man with glasses on his nose and a quiet cough got wet-eyed, too, as he picked up a pencil and dropped it over and over.

I don’t know what I can do to help you, he’d said, to both her and the man with the glasses.

You can’t, she’d replied, nobody can.

“I don’t know,” he said to her, not meeting her gaze. Her bare feet slid closer to him, and he placed an absent hand upon her toes, squeezing lightly.

“I don’t know,” he continued, “if I believe in a heaven. But I know that wherever it is, it can’t be…”

“I think you’d have made a great dad, George,” she said, softly.

He smiled, pulled tight at his lips, and shook his head, too watery to reply.

She put her legs in his lap, he rubbed at her feet, and they watched television in silence.

---

Cytoplasmic was the name of the thing that did this to them.

This time, as the diagnosis was in, as he stood shaking and staring at a piece of paper that called him worthless, de-manned, sterile, it was her turn to not know what to do. The piece of paper said that any seed he produced was far more likely - or absolutely going - to die inside her, shrivel and wilt under the body’s natural growing process. The blame she’d placed upon herself - mental and physical - grew in him, his eyes refusing to meet hers as he balled his hands around the sheet, crinkling it up.

He dropped it unceremoniously onto the floor of their apartment, staring at the white and black ball of their future.

She went to him, slid her hands up his back, rubbing at his shoulder blades.

“It’ll be okay, George,” she whispered.

“Will it,” he responded, tightly.

---

They didn’t really think about it anymore. Adoption was a process that was difficult and long, but two years later they had a daughter - Rhonda - who had dark skin and a wicked sense of humor. They got her at six months old, and she grew into a wonderful 13 year old full of sass and brains, beautiful and strong. She was the light of their life, and those portraits of childhood memories and aunts and uncles became first birthdays, first little league games, elementary school graduations, recitals. The apartment had changed to a little house, and they moved along in life.

They didn’t really think about it - hadn’t really thought about it - until a news ticker late one night informed them that the sixth class of kids had been abducted by terrorists.

George looked at Layla, then, and for a moment, they thought about their baby who stained the sheets of the bed, imagined her having grown and gone to that school, on that plane, to that place.

They linked hands, for a moment, remembered, loved, felt sorry for those families who were going through hell.

Felt grateful, too.
A list of the dying, a list of the damned.

V6
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