Steph, dear friend that she is, dared me to write about a “moment.”
It had to be personal, it had to have meaning.
So, here, you get to learn what one event has shaped me more than any other.
Thanks, Steph, for giving me the gumption to write about it.
Thanks, friends and family, for giving me the strength to live through it.
So here it is, beginning to end.
I smelled him before I felt him.
His aftershave mingled with the clean smell of soap.
He wrapped his arms around me from behind.
The sound of his voice in my ear made me tingle.
Through the butterflies in my stomach and the choke in my throat, I managed to get out, “Hey there, yourself.”
Without hesitation I practically screamed, “Yes.”
I felt his hand sweep my hair aside a second before his lips touched the nape of my neck.
There were so many things I wanted to say.
“Is this really happening?”
His nose burrowed in my hair a little deeper, “Is what happening?”
“Is this what this feels like? Am I really in love with you?”
I felt his chest shake with laughter as he pulled me tighter into him.
“Do you have to analyze everything? Can’t it just be?”
I tried not to hurt when he said it.
“When it’s this unreal, I have to question it.”
A bit of water dripped onto my shoulder.
“Did you even bother to towel off?”
“I didn’t want to be gone from you that long.”
He brushed his cheek against mine.
“I wish you hadn’t shaved.”
“I didn’t want to scratch you.”
“I like it. Feeling your stubble scrape against my cheek.”
“You’re not like other girls.”
“Comparing me to anyone in particular?”
“Stop questioning. Just accept it for what it is. I love you.”
“Don’t go to work. We’ll both stay home.”
He looked at the bed and I could almost feel his glance as it swept me from head to foot.
“You didn’t get enough last night?”
“I waited 5 months for that, and after last night, I’m not sure I can ever get enough.”
He laughed and then pushed me unto the bed.
“I’m not staying. I just want to kiss you a little before I leave you.”
He fell next to me and our legs tangled together.
I pulled him into me and closed my eyes.
Seconds elapsed without a kiss.
“What are you waiting for?”
“I want you to look at me.”
I opened my eyes.
“Watch me as I kiss you.”
I looked into his eyes as his lips met mine.
He stayed for three days.
(18 months later)
He led me to the gazebo.
I felt like a prize fool.
Everyone on the grounds could see me crying.
“Why can’t we just talk about this in the apartment?”
“Do you want Amber to know what is happening?”
“Then we are sitting out here.”
We reached our destination and I sat down.
I expected him to sit next to me, hold me, tell me everything was going to be okay.
He sat across from me.
Staring at me without seeing me.
The distance between our bodies echoed in his eyes.
“Did you do this on purpose?”
“Yes. I need to know. Did you do this to speed things up?”
“You’re really a piece of work! Of course I didn’t do this on purpose! Do you think this is a great time for me either? I’m in my senior year, I have a thesis to finish, applications to grad school, we’re in different cities. NO! I didn’t do this on purpose.”
“I had to ask.”
I could feel my heart tearing a little.
“You trust me so little? Then why did you ask me to marry you?”
“I trust you. I want to be with you. But this changes things. A lot.”
“Do you think I did this alone?”
“Shut up. I have to think.”
A million retorts rushed down my head to my lips, but none crossed them.
“What does the doctor say?”
“I want to know what you want. Not what the doctor wants. Doctors always want something different. I’m asking you. What do you want?”
“I’m not answering that until I know all the details.”
“Do you want this baby? Do you want our child?”
“God, yes, you know I want children. I want them with you. But now? After everything we’ve found out. With you still in school?”
“Then let’s do it.”
My heart was in my hand and I was timidly holding it out to him. Please, don’t hurt me. Please, let this be the future. Let this be real. Don’t let everything else control our lives. Make this decision with me.
“I can’t. You can’t.”
“You’re a selfish bitch, you know that? You’re right I won’t! You’re 21! You just found out you have a tumor! You could die if you carry this child to term! But all you can think about is what you want, you want a baby, you want a family, you want happily ever after. What about what I want? I want to see you finish school, I want to see you raise our children, I want to grow old with you. Will those things happen if you ignore the tumor to save this baby??? We can always have children, but if we do it now, I can’t be sure I’ll always have you.”
The tears I had succeeded in blinking back came rushing forward again.
“Why does it have to be either/or? Why can’t it be both?”
“Can it? Did the doctor tell you that we could have both? If we ignore the tumor and focus on the baby, will you still be around?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“Then we’re not doing it. Call the doctor tomorrow. Schedule the abortion. If it’s the baby or you, I pick you.”
“It might be NOTHING. I’ve been healthy for over two years! This mass or tumor or whatever they found could be scar tissue, it could be ruptured cysts, it could be nothing. You’re willing to give up our child for a chance?”
“With your medical history, with everything you’ve been through, with the medications you’re on . . . do you think it’s nothing? What about the medicines? Have they harmed the baby already? You’re 7 weeks pregnant, you think they haven’t had an effect? Just do it. Just call the doctor. Just have it arranged. I’m not letting you take the chance.”
The crying became uncontrollable.
He pulled me across the space between us into his lap.
His arms wrapped around me.
“I love you. I love you. Don’t make me lose you.”
“But you’ll accept the loss of our child.”
“To know that I’ll have you? Yes.”
The next day, I made the appointment.
Monday morning came and he never showed up.
I called Emily and “Ruby” to take me.
They held my hands through the procedure. They yelled at the protestors waving cameras in my face. They half carried me, half led me to the car.
Jeff called and apologized while I was waiting on my exiting counseling session.
“Big meeting at work, I couldn’t get out. Baby, I’m so sorry. I’ll be there tonight.”
He arrived at 8 P.M.
No explanations or excuses for where he had been since he got off work.
No more apologies for being absent for the death of our child.
He didn’t speak at all.
He just held me.
And that’s when I noticed.
He smelled of something.
Sweet and musky.
A perfume that wasn’t mine.
Mingled with something else.
I recognized that smell.
I watched him sleep that night.
His chest rising and falling with each breath.
He slept soundly.
What we did, what I did, what he did - didn’t trouble him at all.
That’s when they left.
My feelings of love, of safety, of security, of trust.
They were all gone.
I felt apathy move to fill the emptiness.
And it took up residence.