Out the small square window, Baltimore glittered, a patchwork of lights trembling beside the velvet black of the harbor. Somewhere below the shimmering mantle was my tiny, impermanent home. My tiny life.
The plane thudded on the tarmac. I hurried past security and headed toward the escalators. At baggage claim, the carousels stood desolate. Worry fluttered against my ribs; I dreaded the city at night, especially my neighborhood. I tried to focus on positive thoughts - a warm sudsy bath, curling under my down duvet with my new Margaret Atwood and a bar of Scharffen Berger’s dark. Then sweet, uninterrupted sleep until tomorrow’s alarm woke me, always too early.
The escalator discharged a stream of passengers. A loud rumble erupted at the opposite end. I moved with the crowd towards the carousel, hoping my suitcase was whirling around merrily there instead. Someone grabbed me around my waist. I jabbed back with my elbow.
“Hey!” The hands twirled me around.
“Kevin! Jesus, you scared--”
“Glad to see my self-defense lessons worked. I missed you.” He rubbed his side where I’d poked him. “I think.”
His prickly chin pressed against my neck, smelling faintly medicinal. He pressed me close and I felt him, hard and angular. My knees jellied.
“You never pick me up at the airport,” I said.
“Babycakes, I’m here to rescue you from evil, expensive cabbies and dark, dangerous streets.” He dropped to one knee. “Your royal coach awaits. To the palace! There, I shall fete you with Red Velvet cake, a foot massage… and other, special caresses of an intimate nature and, therefore, unmentionable in proper Southern society.” He winked and extended his arm. My hand disappeared in his. He lifted it to his lips and kissed the diamond perched on my left ring finger. “Shall we?”
I looked down at his earnest slate eyes, wanting to make up for our last less-than-agreeable phone call. I thought of my solitary night, my bath, book and chocolate. My vast calm bed. Then I thought of my father, alone in his derangement, and remembered my longings.
The mattress jiggled when Kevin rolled off me. Stretched naked across white sheets, he looked like a sculpted bronze, a work of art produced from the intertwining of Irish and Dominican DNA. He turned on his side and faced me, a lopsided smile creasing his face. His fingers trailed down my inner forearm before circling my wrist.
“Ready for bed?”
He didn’t wait for my answer and clicked off the bedside light. Yellow urban haze filtered through the microblinds, casting the room in ashen dark. The wail of a fire truck exiting the station below overrode the clack and rattle of the light rail. The siren turned to an echo, along with the rest of the city noises, until only Kevin’s even breaths filled the dark.
When I awoke, the blanket had slipped off. My inner thighs were tacky from spilled semen. Trying not to let my teeth chatter, I reached for my nightgown and panties on the floor by the bed and crept into the bathroom. I squatted over the toilet, then peered into the bowl, just to make sure; ever since the miscarriage, I always looked before flushing.
I reached into the linen closet for my silk travel bag. The birth control pill snapped easily from the foil pack. I held the peach-colored disc, marveling at the compulsive pull of my body’s rhythms and desires, unseen and unrecordable, but mysteriously known. I paused – was I sure? – then dropped the pill into the toilet. It landed atop the small bed of tissue paper and dissolved.
I snuck under the covers and wondered why I was even trying to create another being - life’s loss was so much heavier than its possibility.
Excerpted from PURE, a novel semi half-way done. To read more about PHOEBE, the moral compass of my tale, click HERE.
Last week to read my essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest. Essays are open to popular voting through Sunday. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. Please take some time to read these often passionate pieces about the writing life.