Part II: The Laws of Fall: Amanda

In Short Stories by Meg Sternbee0 Comments

Nothing happens for a day. I spend the morning and afternoon pacing. My sandaled feet patrol the maroon and blue carpet until bored by the monotony—glossy double doors of surgery, empty nursery, nurses station bordered by a circular counter and the room for family members to sleep or watch television while their loved one labors. I avoid this hallway, opting instead for the one that leads to a window overlooking a parking lot. But I become annoyed with its view: cars bunched together like partially used erasers, the sky grey and pitiless. I’m starving because the nurse won’t let me eat. My nurse says I’ll have the baby by 10pm that night. The nurses know everything. The nurses knew nothing.

Fire-breathing nurse, the one who replaces the first nurse, has long manicured nails and wears too many rings. She sticks a finger deep within me, first to check my dilation and then an hour later to put the wire electrode on my son’s scalp. When I beg her to stop, she accuses me of putting myself before the baby.

D is my favorite. She shaves my pubic hair for the prospective C-section, talking about Murphy’s Law and being prepared. She prays with me. I’d been numb from the waste down for almost 24 hours so when she asks if it was alright to beseech her god on my behalf I take her outstretched hand and close my eyes, while my left leg prickles under the weight of anesthesia.

Southern nurse tells me I have a beautiful baby—she should know–Southern nurse has seen a lot of babies. She helps me walk to the toilet, assists me with the oversized pad soaking up my uterus and eases me back into bed dulling out the pills in twos. She is a warm wind.

I want to go home, but as soon as we are packed in the car and DJ pulls away from the hospital I panic. My senses are way too acute—the pains of the world scream from all directions and press on my chest–the tweaker who lurches on the sidewalk, a dark skinned toddler drug by the arm of an elderly white male, the thumping Four Runner blasting through yellow lights.  I fear around every turn a collision with death awaits.

The singing is horrible, but for some reason Hank loves it—the shaving sound that comes from his throat, much like a saw on wood, accompanies my own high-pitched resonance. I sing “Oh Beautiful” because I know all the words and Hank seems to appreciate the song’s intensity. I sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” cause I like its message. I belt out “Have you ever seen a bear combing his hair, down by the bay?” I make up lyrics to well known melodies and forget about everything but the vibration in my throat.

Night terrifies me. I hold on to each day like it might be the last one with my son. I am certain the night will steal Hank from me forever, that I will wake to feel his cold hard form pressed into the infernal pillow or mattress. If I manage to get him to sleep in his crib, I get out of bed to push my face close to his tiny chest until I detect breathing.

I tell the doctor everything. She listens with repose while I narrate my imaginary scenario of dropping Hank; watching his head split like a watermelon. I disclose the urges that dart into my mind like intruders—fat little men in black masks and white striped shirts. She does not have much to say and for once I wish for a nurse.

Some days I don’t think about it at all. Other days there are a lot of triggers. Like cutting tags off a new sleeper while Hank kicks and gurgles on the bed, a slick shudder creases my thoughts like a snake through thick grass and I see how easy it would be to clip off his fingers. They are made of nothing. Tiny tentacles, translucent like the plastic ties that hold the tags and get lost on the floor like toenails. Or I will put him in his high chair while I cook dinner and pulling a knife from the wood block I think how easy the blade would slip into his chest. An impression, quick as a knife, drains all the blood from my body.

I’m afraid of heights. That’s how I describe the urge to jump from balconies or off cliffs. I even thought about it while I let a ski lift take me to the top of a mountain. Maybe this is why a stranger in my head goads me to drop Hank over the balcony at the mall.

DJ doesn’t know about any of this. He knows I don’t like to ride escalators and I won’t rock climb or spend too much time enjoying scenic overlooks, but he doesn’t know about the other fears—

There’s nothing like sitting naked on an exam table with only a paper smock covering your privates wile a doctor sticks an unidentified instrument up your you know where to pop what she has dubbed a cyst. The thing is a real pecker. It keeps filling back up again. While the doctor rummages around a counter full of thin silver probes Seal sings about being kissed by a rose. Afterwards, the doctor pats me on the arm, says this should do it. Says its hormones causing the thing but not to worry. Should be done with those soon.

When I get home DJ is rocking Hank. “I can’t put him down,” he says. Walk a day in my shoes, I want to tell him, but that isn’t the kind of thing we say to one another. I tell DJ it’s gone and he gives me a wry look. “Don’t get excited,” I mean to tease, but instead the words come out dry and sardonic. The thought of screwing gives me the sensation of crumbling. I tell him the doctor has advice I take a bath and drink a beer before intercourse. “Really, she said that?” It’s hormones, I try to explain, the kind that close a woman up, make her bone dry.

This is how it starts: I’m watching Hank teeter on the edge of the couch. I see how easy it would be for him to fall over the arm, break his neck or crack his skull on the ceramic plant pot. Then I realize how easy it would be to cause the accident myself. If I just grab his leg now—

This is how it starts: I am at my mother’s house. I am holding Hank. I stand at the top of the stairs where the balcony railing winds up and gives a false sense of protection. I move a step closer, I look down, my son could not live falling that far. I do not want my son to die, but he could die so easily. I could kill him that is how easy he could die.

This is how it ends: a thought clips through my head like a pre-recorded message telling me how easy it would be to let go. Instead I squeeze him as tight as I can to my chest and run down the steps calling to my mother, “Are you ready to go?”

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