Fiction by Megan Louise Rowe
I wake with my period, first since the miscarriage. I wake to the sound of my daughter Lucy talking to herself with her Barbies, saying troubling little things.
Today is. . . Sunday. My robe is in a pile next to the bed, where I left it last night. I sneak my leg over and lift the cuff with the tip of my foot. It is fleece and perfect and I have to put it on in order to get up, and I need to get up to walk Dudley. It feels heavy as the day. I pad my way to the kitchen but Dudley’s leash isn’t on the hook by the door. Derek must have beat me to it.
Under these layers I know I’m bleeding, but I don’t do anything about it. I pour plain Cheerios into the same three blue bowls I poured plain Cheerios into yesterday. I pour the milk, adjusting amounts as a way of showing I care. Lucy comes in and thanks me. I haven’t done anything she couldn’t do herself.
She asks if I want to go to church.
I spell OOOOOO on my spoon. My options are limited. I eat my word.
“Mom?” She says.
That was just now. Just now is Sunday morning. Derek comes in the side door, unclips Dudley’s leash and hangs it on the hook, gives him a Milkbone from the bowl on the counter, sits down to the cereal. Acts like it’s a meal to sit down to because he’s terrified of me in my grief. His body shifts as he considers pecking me on the cheek but I am radiating don’t you dare.
Lucy asks if we’re going to church.
I tell her I am going on a walk. Dudley’s ears perk up, but I don’t get out of my chair. She scoops Dudley’s food because that’s something she has to do if she wants to get her allowance every week. She fills his water too, half of it spills on the floor and I say nothing.
Maybe I could take up knitting, fill the room with balls of yarn, knit 1 purl 2, fill the room with purpose. Knit 1 purl 2. Wrap a scarf around Lucy so that if someone unwound it she would spin out like she was swing dancing. Knit her mittens, knit her a hat, knit her a sweater.
I have abandoned yarn in the basement but I don’t get out of my chair.
“Are we going to church?” She says. I have to stop myself from screaming at her You hate church, we make you go. We just want you to fit in at your bullshit school so you can get into a bullshit college. She’s nine, I remind myself.
It is true that the school wants us in the pews Sunday morning. They’ve been sending passive aggressive casseroles: dried up egg noodles, tuna, and muck-textured dairy. Derek says they are trying to be nice because of what happened. I say if they are trying to remind me of a miscarriage they are doing a good job.
“I’m not going today,” I say. “You two can.”
“We can sneak out after communion,” Derek says.
I know he says this to make me feel better but it just makes everything worse. Transubstantiation has always freaked me out.
Derek wasn’t raised anything so he doesn’t understand. I was raised Catholic so I believe none of it and all of it at the same time. Like Schrödinger’s cat, until the priest lifts that lid, I picture both the plain wafers and a crouched miniature Jesus trying to pry the lid, his stigmata leaving vibrant streaks the width of sewing thread, a vestige of the terrors of my superstitious childhood. Or maybe it would be baby Jesus, a Christ amuse-bouche.
I laugh loudly at my own thoughts, but then it’s crying. Derek reaches over.
“We don’t have to go,” he says.
He looks at our daughter who is looking at her cereal. He thinks I don’t get it even though pragmatically, I get it. I’m ruining the good I have for something that. . .
I would love to say—bells ringing—there is a change, that I find a way to snap myself out of it, but it’s not a snap. It’s a matter of pulling myself to the surface and I’m too far down. So tired that even if I pushed off the ground my propulsion couldn’t break me through. There are myriad versions of me that would tell me to snap out of it, that would be incredulous over how I’m acting. I hope there’s a future version of me that’s thinking thank god we made it to the other side on that one. That’s thinking so glad they didn’t give up on me.
© Megan Louise Rowe
[This piece was selected by Sara Crowley. Read Megan’s interview]