Saturday, August 7, 2010


July unleashed a furious calidity as I sat on the side of the road in my overheated Toyota, waiting to see if there were two pink lines instead of one. It was the kind of summer that glued clothes to bodies within minutes of the heat’s exposure. I could taste the thickness of the air as I inhaled.

I’d bought the test as an afterthought; stopping at a drugstore to pee, passing by that aisle of taboo feminine products. I’d thought, maybe I should take a pregnancy test. But I always thought that after he and I had been together, because I liked the idea of taking pregnancy tests. I bought the test, forgetting about my need to urinate until the car started to overheat and I had to pull to the side of the road.

Humidity has a way of enhancing feelings to frenzying degrees. My skin was flushed and my clothes were soggy with sweat as I waited for the steam to stop billowing out from beneath the hood. My bladder reminded me of its needs. Down in the ditch where no one could see, I peed on the stick. I threw it on the passenger's seat and sat down behind the wheel.

There were three ice cubes left from the cola I’d bought at a McDonald’s a few miles back and I chewed on them to keep me cool. My irritation boiled beneath my skin but I did my nei kung exercises because Tai Chi is all about inner serenity. The engine cooled in time with my temper. I started the car and reached for my sunglasses. I picked up the pregnancy test instead.

There were already lies between me and him; lies and secrets and things that build indestructible walls between people. The lies and the secrets were all his. I looked at the test. Now I had a secret of my own; a secret that would be mine alone for the short time I might have to endure it.

Maybe I made the appointment because I knew I couldn’t offer a baby any kind of stability. I told myself that, but maybe I made it because some secret part of me hoped that if I erased the evidence, I could go back and find my innocence and naiveté. Maybe I hoped that a barren womb might bring back the irresponsibility of being with him.

In the clinic waiting room, I sat alone with my decision. The receptionist stayed behind the safety of her sliding glass window, answering calls without regard to the swirling tornado of indecision and guilt beyond the glass. The ghosts of choices past hovered in the corners of the room, haunting me.

They say a man should share the burden of a child. I did not want to share it. Inside of me, in the secret depths of my female legacy, webs were being spun; threads of silken flesh cocooning itself around an egg. These renovations were not public property; it was my body that would be scoured and scooped. We’d planted a seed together, but I would be doing the landscaping alone.

There was the question of viability, standard procedure they said. What I thought was a definite decision was a waiting game. I lay flat as a nurse rolled the bulbous transducer probe across the plane of my stomach. They don’t tell you that a heartbeat sounds like a cotton candy machine. They don’t tell you that you’ll conjure up the sickly sweet taste of sugary cotton and want to vomit. They don't tell you that years later, you’ll smell cotton candy and hear that sound, and still the feeling of being violated and gutted will assault you in ways that cripple you.

Rubber-gloved hands were fluttering above my face; gestures of urgency and unexpected portent. Their poker faces were immovable. I felt like a child who couldn’t read, listening to adults spell out their plans.
Because there was fear that something was wrong, even on the table waiting to be pillaged from the inside out. It was ice water through my veins and then one nurse spoke of the wonderment in my belly. And the prayers that were flattened between clenched teeth were set free, answered by a God I didn’t realize I’d been praying to; a God I didn’t know I believed in until that moment.

In the parking lot, in the rusty old hatchback, I curved my fists over the frangible skin of my belly. Drops of sweat dripped down from my brows, mixing with tears. I licked my lips, the salinity settling itself in my memory, tasting like ocean. Beneath my palm, two seeds were nestled in the lacuna of my femininity, growing into complex beings; sprouting wings that fluttered and sighed against my velvet canal.

In the rearview mirror, I watched my lips form a single word: twins.

[This is a revised version of a flash fiction story originally published in's Flash Fiction 40 Anthology, under the title "Frangible Choices"]