The Stardust Review
By: Amyen Fielding
I have not left the apartment in thirteen days. Within these walls there is 700 square feet of refuge. No catcalls, uncapped needles, or men defecating on sidewalks. No screeching car breaks, or incessant honking of impatient jack-wagons trying to prove their importance, no throngs of people shoving past you, or worse, the ones who insist on making eye contact. Being alone is safe, quiet, good.
“Josefina Maria get your ass out of bed!”
Sara. I never should have given that girl a key. “Christ on crutches it smells like something died in here.” She carefully moves through the discarded dishes and piles of soiled clothes and flings herself down next to me. She is all sparkle, sequins and body-glitter. Her appearance is so strikingly disproportionate to her surroundings that I hear that children’s song, which one of these things is not like the other.
“Get up, we’re going out.”
“Go away,” I tell her pulling the blankets over my head by way of protest.
“Come on,” she yanks them off, “get in the shower you smell like a yeti.”
When I don’t reply she changes tactics “Jojo you can’t stay here forever. It’s been three months since Jackson...”
I try to tune her out but it is the sound of his name that forces me to lug my body out of bed and into the shower. I would rather go along with whatever she has planned than talk about him, to have to relive it all with her coos of sympathy and talk show host wisdom. She dresses me like a sleepy child, slipping a dress over my raised arms, pushing my feet into 4-inch heels. They feel foreign and ridiculous. She applies my makeup. I don’t bother looking into the mirror. She has me drink two glasses of wine to make me compliant. It burns my empty stomach but the lightness in my head feels nice. Perhaps a night out won’t be so bad.
Sara flings open the glass door and we are greeted with a gorgeous gust of cold air. The bar is glorious with its pulsing music, red leather couches, and taut bodies. We order a round of something tonics, and I let the music move through my hips and shoulders, while trying not to spill my drink. A little sloshes out. I shuck off my strappy heels and kick them towards our barstools. The wooden floor cools my feet. Sara matches my rhythm and glides her hands up over her tiny waist, her breasts, and through her long, dark hair. She knows guys are staring at her—guys have always stared at Sara. I close my eyes and try to move the way she does. I pretend everyone is watching me. I’m amazing for all of five seconds, but it seems my amazing moves may have emptied my glass.
“Oh, Belvedere, so fanc-ey.” Sara yells, clanging our glasses together. “I remember when you used to drink Smirnoff straight from the bottle and recite dirty limericks to Sas.”
Sasquatch, my former St. Bernard, drooled incessantly but had very discerning taste.
“Yup, I’m all kinds of class. If only our old friends could see me now,” I laugh. The bartender places another round in front of us.
“Fun!” I call out to no one in particular. My body is happy and tingly. “Why would we ever stop doing this?”
“You hooked up with Sweater-Vest and stopped hanging out with me.” It’s true I didn’t see her as much after Jackson and I moved in together but the words still sting.
“Sorry, I just liked the other ones better,” she shrugs.
They certainly had the whole personality thing down. Adam the trust-funder, with a weakness for Breitlings and brunettes, quoted Nietzsche unironically. Bobby the surfer spoke four and a half languages, mapped constellations on my naked body, and said I had the soul of an old woman. Carlos, whose last name I kept forgetting and body I kept recalling. Dirty Thirty I found at 19, was impressed by my knowledge of wine, my ability to recognize a Turkish flag, offered little in conversation but owned a booze-stocked houseboat on Lake Havasu. Devon wrote poetry and wanted to share a “spiritual experience” with me, which consisted of a mug of peyote and his relentless vomiting. Ted, the yoga guru with a mean streak, occasionally yelled mommy when he came. Eduardo taught me to throw back shots of whisky, forgive my father, and never leave my credit cards unattended. Frederick, whom I refused to call Freddy due to my evolution of standards, was obsessed with death, Russian lit, and obscure art. Mia tipped the Kinsey Scale, my first real heartbreak who decided she wanted to ‘fall asleep on a man's chest every night’. She ended up with a leather butch into pony play. Jackson made me laugh, pretended to adore my dysfunctional family, admired my self-righteous tendencies, and loved me as much as I loved him. He was the quintessential man. A unicorn amongst jackasses.
“Hey!” Sara yells into my ear, “That guy over there looks exactly like Marcus! Remember him?” I do, and the guy looks nothing like him. I’m pretty sure this one’s Cuban.
“I call dibs,” she hollers over her shoulder.
Great, she gets a pseudo-Marcus and I’m alone with a bunch of strangers. I forgot Sara used to ditch me all the time. So much for girl code.
I actually liked Marcus. Sara convinced me he was a good person, but it was her body, her decision, and she didn’t have to tell him anything. I went with her to the clinic and stayed with her during the procedure. She squeezed my hand, and made a joke about the poster above our heads. I think the seascape was supposed to have a calming effect, but it seemed pretty condescending to me. The doctor said Sara might be “uncomfortable” afterwards. I drove her back to our dorm. I got her into bed, made her favorite Good Earth tea, and gave her one of my root canal Vicodins. I watched her fall asleep and thanked God it wasn’t me.
When I showed Jackson the pink stick with its snide smiley face I was terrified. The thought of not drinking, never sleeping, becoming obese, and being responsible for someone other than myself was less than appealing. I figured he’d feel the same. Yet he let out a joyous whoop, lifted me off my feet, and waltzed me around our apartment. He told me I was going to be an amazing mom. I laughed, thinking of my own mother. Still, I thought about tucking my little girl in, and all the books I would read to her. I was always a sucker for Goodnight Moon, but the Giving Tree made me sad, always giving its limbs away.
Each Sunday Jackson and I would cozy up under our mountain of comforters, prop my laptop on a pillow and get our weekly update from TheBump.
He’s 4 inches long, the size of a navel orange and whoa, he could be getting hiccups?
She’s the size of navel orange and she’s moving her legs and arms around like crazy.
The thought of her tiny hands waving around made me unreasonably emotional. Then again everything made me emotional, dryer sheet commercials, tabloid breakups, running out of cereal. Jackson was remarkably sweet about it, which was smart, considering I might have smothered him in his sleep if he wasn’t.
Why do they call it morning sickness when it happens all the frick’n time?
He rubbed my feet with peppermint lotion, tracked down ginger lollypops, and strange wristbands which claimed to ease seasickness. When I felt nauseated, he’d try to distract me by coming up with ridiculous baby names. Dyslexia. Benadryl. Dexedrine. He claimed they’d been in his family for years. I’d shoot down each one and he’d shake his head gravely. Grandma Ovarian is going to be so upset.
I was relieved when I started showing. I told my coworkers, since it was noticeable anyway, plus I’d vomited into my wastebasket several times, and I didn’t want them to think I was a carrier monkey. Everyone was nicer to me once they knew. So when I told Rita that Wednesday morning that my lower back was hurting, she suggested I go home. Instead I hid out in the bathroom stall and called Jackson.
Babe, I’m sure it’s nothing. Cramping is normal in this trimester, remember? There was a catch in his voice, one that implied he was the rational one, and as usual, I was the one who needed to be calmed. He was the one who finished the baby book.
I sat on the toilet and rooted through my purse for more Tylenol. As I twisted the cap of the bottle, an excruciating pain ripped through me. I pealed down my slacks and underwear. They were covered in blood. I tore off a wad of tissue paper and shoved it inside of me. It was saturated within seconds. I couldn’t make it stop.
The pink cotton gown was the wrong size and rode up my thighs. The room was freezing, and the crinkly paper on the exam table stuck to my back. I was told to move down until my legs unfolded into a reluctant V. Some woman, who wasn’t even my OB, pushed the wand inside me. Just relax, she advised. I stared at the monitor but I didn’t know what to look for. I searched her face. She stared at the screen, her eyes narrowing, vertical lines forming between her brows. She shook her head and pulled out the wand. She told me she couldn’t find the heartbeat. She was sorry. These things happen. The good news was I could get pregnant. She cleaned her tray and snapped off her gloves.
I bled for weeks. It was a daily physical reminder of what I lost. I saw pieces of her inside all that scarlet. I thought of every cup of coffee, hot bath, and bite of sushi I had before I knew I was pregnant. I thought of each time I whined about feeling bloated or nauseated and I hated myself. Eating seemed self-indulgent. Jackson tried bribing me with my favorite comfort foods. The shelves of our refrigerator were lined with unopened takeout containers of potato leek soup, chicken alfredo, Pad Thai. They reminded me of tiny white tombstones.
Jackson went to work, played basketball on Thursday nights, and bounded around our apartment like a giant golden retriever. I resented his ability to make jokes, for his concerns of bills, and deadlines. Our conversations became a series of one-sided pleas. Please don’t cry, please get off the floor. I need to be able to leave today and know you’re going to be okay. Please, honey, just try.
I couldn't stand him touching me, especially while I was trying to sleep. I would turn my back to him and he would drop his enormous arm around my waist. It felt like all of my air was being stolen. I would wait for him to fall asleep and inch myself away. I’d take the extra comforter from the closet and lie on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. I curled my body around the heating vent, my forehead and knees pressed to the wall. I forced my hands over my mouth until my sobs gave way to breath.
The room is hazy, and reeks of drugstore cologne. There’s a man at the end of the bar. He's handsome, sipping his imported beer. He catches me looking and raises his glass and an eyebrow. I look away and think of what it might feel like to have someone touch me again. A shiver runs through me. The bartender belts out last call and the bar begins to shift and lose its shape. I’m surrounded by sticky bodies, clamoring for one last drink. I look around for Sara, but she’s left me here to get jostled alone. My stool wobbles as I grip the bar with my right hand and reach for my drink with the other, and my glass flies across the bar-top, exploding into fragments.
“Nobody use the ice!” the bar-back yells.
I duck my head.
“Idiot,” a red dress says.
My head snaps up. I'm sorry, I want to say, but nothing comes out.
“Hey, drink up, bitch!” Sara shoves a glass into my hand. It smells like tequila.
“Here’s to being sexy, single and living like P.I.M.Ps!” I wince as she smashes her glass into mine. “We’re so lucky we didn’t get married and have litters of children. We’d be at home right now wearing oversized T-shirts covered in baby vomit, folding laundry in front of the T.V. while our husbands snored away. We’d have to wake up at six in the morning, our screaming spawn demanding their sippy cups and lost shoes. Our lives would be completely taken over by SpongeBob and breast pumps! Can you imagine?”
“Yes,” I whisper as the bar swirls around us, “we’re very lucky.”