The sun touches everything this morning, filtering though the polyester curtains made to look like lace, hitting the porcelain curve of the toilet, bending light into the water clotted with blood that has slipped from my body like an inevitable hiccup.
I stir the color with my fingertips. Battlefield red turning a soft pink.
“Come now, Maisie.”
I am too consumed memorializing Rose, certain she would have had my auburn hair and Ben’s soft lips. They’re all Roses now. Rose 1 was years ago. This is Rose 5.
I lean into the arms around me, breathing in the scent of sun, lavender, and childhood.
“Ben called me,” my mother says. “Told me you’ve been in here for hours.”
After Rose 2, Ben always calls her. I don’t blame him. It’s my body that has rejected us, and the weight of that burden is one I cannot seem to share.
Her eyes are dark wishing wells. Her skin, settling into post middle age, now mapped with painful detours, is familiar in its history. She has been here before, on the same baby blue tile, stroking my hair, preaching the hollow words of God’s will. Thankfully she isn’t doing that yet. I don’t believe in God—not for a while now. Today she is humming. It takes me a minute to recognize the Judy Collins song. Then when I do, I return to the silence buzzing in my ear, a calm pulse inside me, rivers of blood feeding me oxygen.
She reaches for the handle to flush and I stop her, inhaling the sweet iron. I don’t know how my life became so myopic. I try to remember when I wanted other things, when life’s trajectory wasn’t linear: school, career, marriage, children. I was a list maker, checking off the first three with little effort, and now, the latter is unraveling them all. Ben has run out of words. My office, out of patience. My mind whittled down to one goal, so sharp it feels like the days are lined with broken glass. Today I am memorializing even longer, and something is different, though I can’t imagine what when this has become routine.
My mother shushes my thoughts, and I wonder if I have spoken them out loud when she tells me it’s not the end. Not the end. Not the end. It echoes as if I’ve fallen down a cliff. But my mother only wishes to soothe. When this doesn’t work, she’ll take a firm approach—insist I soldier on. I picture her behind me lifting me under my arms as we trudge through foreign land together with gunfire at our backs. “Get up! Keep moving!” Until the steps become my own.
She doesn’t say a word, and I know time is passing. Sunlight moves from the toilet to my knees. My skin is pale and in need of a shave. It shifts slowly to my mother’s thicker body. She is wearing leggings and a large floral top. I am leaning into her. She’s holding me like she’s trying to mend me, to keep my insides from spilling out. She is leaning against the wall with the window above us. So much time is passing that the bathroom becomes our universe. My mother is the sun. I am orbiting her, and my unborn babies are the moons orbiting us both. Nothing else seems to exist until I hear Ben asking us if we’re all right on the other side of the locked door.
“In time,” my mother responds, and it feels so true that I lean over and flush the toilet. It swirls, then swallows, and I’m back in her arms, listening to the water snake through the pipes in the walls. I feel so small in her arms, like I’m crawling back into the womb. There are no words to stop me, and the silence is cradling us both. She goes back to humming, and I go back to sleep in her arms just to pass the time, so I can begin again.