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By Gillian Bowles
*Editor's Note: This essay is from our "Rebirth" series. Learn more about the series and submit your own by reading the content at this link.
Pressure in my abdomen folds me up and I cinch in half, a whining hinge. If I unfurl I’ll crack in the middle, the heat corroding my midsection and thinning me out. A weak spot. My feet are kicking the wall with light pitter patters, trying to cope. Letting them know. Hey, I’m out.
I remember the first time, blood and anguish in the Sunday night movie marathon. I went into the bathroom and poured out all the swear words I had ever heard. Savoring them like candy, the type that strips your tongue. Ouch, oh my God, ow. Fuck. Forever?
My niece in the video call, shy to be starring in the story my sister tells me.
‘And I said, wouldn’t it be nice if Auntie Gillian had a baby? And do you know what she said?’
We are laughing, but my nerves jangle out a warning.
‘I said no! No! ‘
Small face stern as she interjects. I remind myself to hug her tighter next time, teensy ally.
‘I said if you have a baby, I won’t get to talk to you anymore, because you will only want to talk to it! Plus, it will stink.’
I look into her eyes and share the gravity.
‘It will stink, you’re right. I don’t think I will have one. Thank you for your thoughts on it.’
Later, regaling my boyfriend.
‘She says no baby, it’s a good call. My periods are terrible, they’re enough. I would like to be brave, but yea. No.’
I already have to be brave, there’s no choice. He with the luxury, oh, he hates the sight of blood. Squeamish, you know? No, I don’t. When I am feeling most morose I smear it on the shower walls, I photograph. I want it to look like violence, sinister, something more interesting. But it’s just a normal bathroom tableau. Blood diluting in warm water and a distended belly that I poke and push at. It is hot and so sore, and worse, mundane. Raw deal yea?
‘You know, we’re all just discharge?’
‘If you say anything like that again, I’m going to be sick.’
He does look green around the gills. I flinch. I thought it was pretty funny. And like, profound. But yea. I get it.
Remembering my Mom, whispering to Dad in the hallway on a recent visit.
‘I think she is tremendous. I hope she has a baby soon.’
After overhearing, I strapped on snow shoes and crept away into the whiteness. Laid on my back and let the snow pin me down with a million tiny touches, there there. Dull cramps mocking my unhappiness. It wounded me somehow, what about my best interests? Plus, the grief. I will disappoint my mother.
A bowling ball hanging heavy inside me, straining against the delicate flesh, painfully pulling. Please don’t tear! An egg carton, damp and coming apart at it’s fibers, yawning open and dangerous. I don’t really identify that way, you know? I’ve got the parts, but yea.
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