I’m not eating again. Not because I don’t want to, but because it’s making me sick again. And my limbs feel like sand again, feel like hanging on the ends of puppet strings except no one is pulling them. That’s the problem: he’s not pulling them. So I wake up, swollen eyes and head aching and the sun isn’t out. It’s warm for December but I’m freezing.
It’s like this: The less you eat the less you sleep the easier you bruise the easier you freeze.
I wake up crying again because last night he told me that he loves me but he needs time. Because he wants a future that he can’t see right now. And I think of fog, think of rain, think of ice, think of how slippery it will be if the warm air keeps up. I walk into work and everyone says: You look awful. It’s been forty-eight hours but I keep having to sneak into the storage room to cry. This isn’t like me, I hear myself say to a co-worker and she just replies: I’m sure he’ll come back, I’m sure you’ll come back from this.
So I call him, tell him I have to see him. He says that isn’t a good idea. Except that later I ride in a cab past him, he’s outside of the neighborhood bar. And he’s smoking, he’s talking, he’s moving his hands erratically. I tell the driver let me out here, but what I really mean is get me out of here, and I fall down on the sidewalk, screaming, hoping he can hear me, come to his senses. But he doesn’t and he won’t, so I’m still not eating. Three bites of a soft pretzel yesterday but I haven’t been eating. Couldn’t make myself swallow it. Spit it back up into my shaking hands in the break room at work. Covered in saliva, barely chewed. The back of my throat tastes like burning, and nothing wants to stay down, anyway.
Still, some of me thinks: disappearance.
Thinks: invisibility. Thinks: if he won’t love me I will be so quiet, he won’t hear me at all, no one will see me.
And I stare out of my living room window, wondering if he’ll walk past on his walk to work, wondering if it will ever get cold enough to snow.
December disappears and suddenly, January. It’s the second week of temperatures so cold snow can’t even form. I can see my breath in my bedroom. There are tiny circle dots of frost on the inside of my windows. Two days ago he came over and said the break was now permanent, said: I don’t love you now, I’m not sure I ever loved you then. The fact that we are neighbors—something that seemed so convenient and so much like oh if I believed in fate—now feels as sharp as the cold air across my face. One day ago he walked past me as I was taking out the trash and I felt the rage boil over uncontrollably, I yelled go fuck yourself to his back. He never turned around. He just kept walking.
It all feels the worst in the morning. After the nights of two Xanax, three glasses of wine, and all of it on an empty stomach. I sit with my back against the cold bathtub, shivering, taking in deep breaths, dry heaving. There’s not even bile, but the muscle movement of coughing makes me feel better. My roommate asks, after the fifth day of this, in her broken English: Is it all okay? I don’t know what to say.
I put on two pairs of pants, a big pair of boots, walk up the street to buy some lentil soup. I see him walking toward me but he turns, takes a different way back to his house. I probably look terrible, anyway.
My roommate says: It’s cold out, and I nod. I bought some soup, I reply. Stir the spoon through it. Eat four bites, slow, slurping, feel the way it goes down my throat. Rip off a piece of bread. Chew five times and spit it out: a tiny ball of soup-soaked bread, half-eaten, undigested. Put it in the fridge. Throw it away in six days.
No one wants to be around you, my friend is yelling, as we’re standing outside of his apartment. It’s not important that it’s also my ex’s apartment, that the friend is also his best friend. And I’m crying. And I don’t want him to see that I’m crying, but I’m crying. I’m crying too much these days. I’m sorry, I say, but it’s sloppy, slobbery, meaningless, because I’m sobbing.
You’re letting this define you, he says.
I’m trying, you say. I really, really am trying.
You’re indulging, he says back, almost spitting. Looking at me like I’m repulsive, letting me know that I am disgusting.
But still, in spite of myself, I am starting not to miss him. At least, not in a way that feels so tangible. Not in any way that I can hold on to.
feel a burning in the back of your throat,
feel it travel
toward the center of your chest.
take a sip of beer.
feel dizzy, nauseous.
feel bloated, gigantic, feel like someone
could probably pop you.
but then sometimes you are a deflated balloon.
lately. a pile of rocks.
and this sickness is getting worse.
put your beer down on the bar,
give a quiet goodbye,
go home, throw up five times.
I will know before it is confirmed. I will predict the bruising and the scar. Before I slip on ice in the middle of the street, even though almost-March should be too late for all of this snow, for so much ice, I will wonder if spring will ever come, and I will know, I will know. I will know before I get home and lift up the leg of my gray sweatpants, before I wipe away the gravel, before I wince at how it stings. When I apply pressure, before I close my eyes: the first time I’ve seen blood in months and I will know, I will know before it is confirmed.
Did you shake, did you stutter, could you cry at all?
Think of your mother, how she must have looked upon learning of your arrival.
I call Planned Parenthood twenty minutes after, still clutching the test in my sweaty palm. I hide it in the corner of my bedroom, feel like I need to keep it for some reason, that purple positive glaring at me from across the room. I call Planned Parenthood, but it’s been too long, and I can’t tell them the exact date of my last period, and I whisper that maybe it was three months ago, try to tell them that I haven’t been sleeping or eating, and they say they can’t see me. It’s been too long and they can’t see me.
The private doctor’s office can fit me in two weeks from tomorrow. The receptionist tells me they will call me the day before. “I just,” I stop, unsure of what to say. “Am I allowed to just pretend it’s not happening while I wait?”
I go out to lunch with a friend three hours later and there are babies everywhere. I sip my Vietnamese iced coffee, wonder about caffeine intake. I don’t call him.
Three days later and I’m on a plane, however many miles high we are when we fly. I hold my stomach, think about how it all looks the same as it did when I flew ten years earlier on my way to Disney World after I graduated high school. I hold my stomach, wonder about movement. Wonder if it can tell however high we all actually are. But I’m trying not to think of it as it, as anything. And on this plane, flying to a conference cross-country, I hold my stomach, try to eat something, anything. Even if it’s just a cracker, there are two weeks of this and I’m trying to be normal.
But it’s getting bad and I’ve been wanting to talk to it. No, don’t think like that.
Still: I do feel heavier, unsure if it is actual or just the weight of knowing.
Scene: Layover, sitting in the Chicago Airport. It won’t stop snowing, it should be spring, it should be thawing. There’s so much ice, it just won’t start thawing. And I can’t stop thinking about its features. I keep dreaming about fingernails, about fruit of different sizes.
The size of a peach, that’s what the Internet tells me. The size of a peach. So I go to a grocery store, pick one up, hold it in the palm of my hand. It’s smaller than I thought it would be. Wasn’t I expecting something with more presence, substance? I feel the bruises, the indentations, press my nails into it and make more marks of my own. I put the fuzz up against my face. I wonder about movement.
I walk over to the meat department, pick up a package of raw, red meat. Feel it squish against my fingers, feel my body crave the blood in my mouth. Wonder how the juices would feel dripping down my chin. I haven’t eaten meat in three years, but here I am, deliberating under the bright, white lights of the grocery store. And so I think about iron and irony, think about the life inside of me versus the death in front of me.
Later on, I learn how it has already formed vocal chords. I try not to think about screaming, try not to think how I always want to be screaming.
The person I once loved isn’t the person I once loved anymore. Now, he’s living above a dive bar, popping pills, working night shifts, back with his ex-girlfriend. He emails me three full days after he finds out what happened, what’s happening, one week after I first tried to tell him. He brings over a check that covers half of it. Maybe less than that. I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t have to take it, and I don’t want to feel grateful so I don’t feel grateful. He doesn’t hug me. We exchange forced pleasantries: He says something about making a life for himself in this town. I tell him how I’m counting the days down until I can get out. He shifts his eyes, not looking directly at me, babbling off a string of excuses about why he can’t give me any more money. He leaves my apartment quickly, never even takes his coat off. He smells like cigarettes, like he always does. The scent lingers long after he’s gone and it makes my stomach turn.
I think about the people we were when we loved each other. How it felt like there was no rain at all that fall, only sun. And I know it’s not true, I know that everything appears bright with light when you’re looking back. I know it rained. I know there has to have been rain.
I remember how it didn’t seem like our bodies should go together—his so small and wiry, covered in dark hair and acne scars, and mine so much softer, so pale. I wonder how they looked from outside of our bubble.
Here’s something I keep coming back to: Despite the direct physical implications of everything happening, I feel very outside of my body. The thought of him touching me now makes acid rush up to the top of my throat.
Think: The evolution that may be behind protecting myself and what is growing inside of me.
Think: If I saw him under different circumstances, would it feel like it does now?
Think: Am I supposed to feel more than this?
When he comes to my apartment, my clothes are scattered in the living room and since I don’t want him in my bedroom, we sit around them. “I’m packing,” I tell him. “I need to get out of here for awhile.”
He nods, says: “I get that.”
I can’t eat beforehand, not as if I want to. I can’t even drink any orange juice. When my friend and I pull up to the doctor’s office, we’re the first ones there. Slowly, it seems, the other cars arrive. I fill out paperwork. I say three times: Yes, this is my first pregnancy. One room over, as they’re taking my blood, I hear a woman explain to the nurse how she already has three children with her husband and they can’t have any more right now. She’s come alone today. There are pregnant women in the waiting room, and I’m wondering if they can tell just by looking at me.
The medical staff tells me about preventing potential infection, they tell me about the drugs they are putting in my body. They tell me in great detail about the procedure, and they keep calling it that: a procedure. But the nurse makes me feel comfortable, and I spend most of the time waiting for the medicine to kick in. I lay with a heating pad in a white room, shades drawn. The radio is on, it’s playing “Only the Good Die Young” and I’m thinking about dramatic irony. I am wondering if I should feel guilt, but once it’s started, it is over so quickly. Three vacuum successions and it’s over so quickly. I cry four tears out of relief, catch a glimpse of the bright red blood on light blue medical blankets as I’m putting on my pants.
Dazed, dosed, dozing.
It’s over so quickly.
The nurse hands me animal crackers and a juice box.
It’s over so quickly.
I send him a text message the next morning: It’s over. I’m fine. Don’t respond to this. Don’t ever contact me.
The doctor tells me:
because your body has to readjust
you will feel like this for a few months
because your body has to readjust.
unstable, out of control.
I hear myself saying: fuck these hormones.
keep thinking about how my body
is not really my body. Not now,
not these days.
When was the last time my body felt like my own?
There are things they don’t tell me—the tenderness of almost everything will continue. I keep wanting to cry at almost everything. Two men touch me in the two weeks that follow and I won’t want them to touch me or maybe I will. But I feel so lonely that it’s become hard to decide if this specific loneliness can be solved by another person in my bed, by me in someone else’s bed. I can’t decide if his lips are something I want, and these are the things the doctors don’t tell me. The tenderness, the uncertainty of everything will continue.
I go back now and I re-remember things, readjust, write a series of apologies.
I’m sorry i got stoned in that brooklyn loft
i was feeling sick from whiskey or at least
i thought it was from whiskey
i don’t know why i didn’t know then.
I’m sorry i haven’t been feeding you
but both of us won’t come out of this
both of us can’t come out of this.
i’m sorry i don’t feel more sorry.
Sometimes, most times, I feel like I am not grieving properly, and sometimes I feel like I am doing it too loudly. My therapist tells me that I am okay, that it will be okay, that there is no right way to go about any of this, but I can’t quite place why I am feeling so sad. It’s not like there is a loss of anything. And most times it feels like no one wants to be around me. I feel like nothing is ever going to be the same. This isn’t regular grief, this isn’t remorse, but it’s still some sort of loss.
One week after, the friend who warned of wallowing says: This has been a dark semester for me, and all I want to say is: I’m sorry my abortion has been so hard on you.
I don’t say anything. We keep walking. It’s starting to feel like spring outside finally, but rebirth seems like a funny thing to think about and there aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, anyway. He stops talking to me soon—most of my friends do.
The doctor tells me: You are young and healthy. You will be fine by Monday. But on Monday when I am alone for the first time, I look up pictures of sonograms and ultrasounds and I sob quietly. You are young and healthy. You will be fine by Monday. I (re)remember that during the times I was able to sleep after he left me, all I had were pregnancy dreams. I wrote it off as a metaphor, and perhaps it was. What would I have done if I had known the truth then, anyway? So early on, before all those fingernails, those vocal chords, all those tangible fruits of different sizes? Not thirteen or so weeks along like I grew to become, my body getting used to it without me knowing. The length of time when some women decide to start sharing. In the news, a politician refers to pregnant women as vessels, and I want to laugh at the absurdity of it. Think: Okay, sure, I’m a vessel. I’m a ship. We’re in an ocean, there’s a leak, I’m sinking slowly.
I don’t want this to mean too much: The morning after, I go to the farmer’s market. I grab at plums, compare their size to that of citrus fruits. I press against the hard skin of a grapefruit against the soft skin of my stomach—waiting, wanting to feel something. An ache, an absence. But there’s nothing. I don’t want this to mean too much: It’s March and the market is still being held indoors. It is still too cold outside for flowers to grow anywhere else, but here they are for sale. All these bright blues, purples, pinks. All this grass-green everywhere. And I’m thinking: At least there is spring here. At least life is somewhere.
In my dreams for months after, I am bewildered, but bright. Dizzy and spinning, empty and light. I am walking by new bodies of water, the weather is finally breaking. It’s spring. Everywhere must get sunny sometimes.
Kayleigh Wanzer is an English teacher in Boston. You could have seen her work before in some other places, probably. She received her Masters in Creative Writing at Binghamton University where she worked as Managing and Creative Nonfiction Editor at Harpur Palate. Follow her blog at shutupkayleigh.wordpress.com or find her her Twitter @heyirony.