She had been laying in a bed for so long that she had seen the darkness from around the closed blinds turn slowly into a lazy hopeful light that stayed around in between her sleeping and waking, only to turn slowly back to the terrifying loneliness of hazy gray to slate to the heavy drapery of darkness again.
It crept around the closed blinds, seeping into their bedroom, coming for her as she stayed defenseless in a tangle of flannel and down. She thought it was Thursday, but she couldn’t be sure.
From her mostly horizontal, splayed position on the bed, she could see certain things in their bedroom. The T.V. on his dresser had gone a fuzzy blue color from being on, but inactive, like her. The blinds were pulled closed and she noticed how desperately they needed to be dusted.
Even in her best state, she knew she would throw them away and get new ones before she dusted those blinds because dusting plastic blinds was a thankless, hopeless endeavor where the ends never nearly justify the means.
Near their wicker laundry basket, a growing pile of clothes had grown from the floor, like a fungus. Clothes that she had gracelessly flung off in sleep- crying heavy always made her sweat.
Mangled alongside the crumpled piles of sweatpants and long-sleeved t-shirts were a mess of shapeless underwear fit for grandmothers, some stained red.
That morning, she’d woken up, her underwear twisted toward one side, the cushioned body pillow of a pad protecting nothing in its crinkled position along her hip, the inside of her thigh, her lower abdomen.
How did these things get into these places, she thought to herself. She pinched her legs shut, shuffled to the bathroom, crying and snotting down her face to readjust herself and try again with a new useless pad, a clean pair of unsightly underwear.
She looked in the mirror and her face a, hollow, sallow, puffy lump of grief, scared her. She tried to smile.
Nope. It’s worse with the smile.
Her hair clung along the side of her head, a greasy sheet of amour. Her lips were cracked, forming a crusty hole leading to her mouth and teeth that had not been brushed in too long, considering how many Oreos she had been eating.
Somewhere in her eyes, there was still the green color that was hers, but she struggled to find it. She squinted at herself and opened her eyes wide, pulling the gelatinous puffs of skin below them tight.
I used to be cute, she said to herself. I used to wear thongs and makeup. She looked down at her body, shifting already. Shrinking and abating already.
She looked but did not touch her own skin. She did not know this body anymore. She knew it only for what it could do, what it did, and now for what it lost.
She made her way back to the safety of the bed, flopped in and covered her head. At the foot of the bed, her brown dogs shifted their weight, lifted their heads and snorted in their half-sleep.
I’m fine, she lied to them.
Then suddenly, from underneath the covers, she became acutely aware of the bottle on her dresser, staring at her from across the room. She pulled the covers down just far enough to peek over the top. She squinted her inflamed eyes, and glared at it.
In the first few weeks, she had become too nauseous to eat or drink much. She gagged like a college party girl with too much vodka while taking her 3-inch chalky, brittle prenatal so she switched it for a gummy version.
They came in a variety of fruit-like shapes and were colored in citrus hues and tasted like sour patch kids. So delicious in fact, that her husband would take them too and joke, will I grow boobs now? Or ovaries?
And she would joke in return, maybe you’ll do the dishes now. Haha.
What would she do with them now?
Two weeks ago her distended midsection was covered in bluish clear goo at the pediatric cardiologist, her husband by her side. There was a T.V. in their room, playing Beat Bobby Flay. From where she lay, she had a clear shot of the screen, but he had to turn his head to see it, unable, from his position to watch her, watch the ultrasound screen, and watch Beat Bobby Flay at the same time.
They joked with the sonographer, Lynn, because at this point, nothing was certainly horrible. Nothing, yet, was certainly the worst thing that had ever happened to them.
They tried to keep their eyes from the ultrasound screen, uncertain of the tiny moving parts, the flashes of red and blue, the sonographers trained, emotionless face. Certain only of the fierce protection they felt for their tiny girl, 16 weeks, flipping and wiggling inside.
“What’s this show even about?” he asked her.
“So that chef,” she pointed to the regular Joe smiling next to Bobby Flay, “He’s like the best at making chicken tortilla soup, so he’s going to try to beat Bobby Flay at making chicken tortilla soup.”
“Who is Bobby Flay?”
“He’s the best chef ever. So that guy’s, like, the underdog. It’s like cooking David vs cooking Goliath.”
He nodded and looked across her to the screen.
“She’s not cooperating,” the sonographer laughed.
“Stubborn like her mom,” he squeezed her hand.
“She’s got her arms crossed over her chest, she really doesn’t want us to take a picture of that tiny heart.” The sonographer crossed her arms across her own chest, making a pouting face.
She turned from Bobby Flay to stare at the tiny profile of her girl on the screen. She wasn’t a pray-er and she felt like a hypocrite doing it now. Please Please Please, she sent silently into the air around her, hoping it made it to the right ears.
“How’s it look?” her husband asked Lynn, syrupy fear dripping in his voice.
“I’m sorry,” the sonographer said, suddenly solemn, “but I’m not allowed to tell you anything.”
She looked from the ultrasound screen to her husband. He smiled weakly at her. Behind him, on the T.V. screen, Bobby Flay was crowned the winner. The David had been defeated. There was never really a chance for the underdog.
She propped herself up in bed, keeping a close eye on the prenatal gummies on her dresser. They were peeking out from behind a bouquet of flowers from her pregnant sister-in-law:
We’re so sorry for your loss.
They were grouped in a messy collection of other painful reminders: B12 complex for the fatigue and cocoa butter for the impending stretch marks.
She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and holding her head in her hands, keeping a close eye on the vitamins. One of her brown dogs lifted his head and scooted his fat body closer to hers, wagging his tail lazily.
She reached out to scratch his head, letting the tears come easily. There was no heavy sobbing in this round of crying, just the slow drain of the exhausted mourner who has no more energy but more grief then they know what to do with.
She kept a steady eye on the vitamins and tried to listen to her breathing and her single heartbeat. She was alone in her body now. She took a deep breath and swung her legs out from under the covers.
She scooted her butt to the end of the bed and stretched her toes on the hardwood floor. She only had one sock on.
In two big steps she was at the dresser. She placed a hand on either side of the tall wooden frame, facing off with the vitamins.
Fuck it, she said out loud. She grabbed the bottle, pressed down on the top and twisted it open, shaking 2, then three, then four gummy blobs into the palm of her hand.
She tossed her head back and smashed them into her mouth. She pressed the gummies between her tongue and the top of her mouth and sucked out the candy sweetness. She took slow bites and let her saliva turn the gummies to mush in her mouth.
When she swallowed, she did not touch her stomach like she had in the past. She turned from her dresser, took the two big steps back to her bed, pulled back the flannel and down and nestled herself into a tight ball and cried herself back to sleep.