A Misuse of Punctuation

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It’s another hot night, and I lay on the couch praying that my children will soon fall asleep. The windows are open and in blows a breeze, a welcome respite from the air that has baked inside of our house all day.

The wind carries in the neighborhood noise. Babies’ tired cries float out from their nurseries, cars stall, hammers pound. I can smell hamburgers on the grill, and hear the radio play as someone fiddles around in their garage.

We flow in and out of each other’s houses, leaving the briefest impressions and slipping away silently. This is summer, and in summer, you are never alone.

***

I open the box and follow the directions. Three minutes later, I see the lines. Two lines. And on the next test, and the one I take later that afternoon, and the one that I do a week later just for the hell of it. Two lines. One for each healthy baby I have carried. One for each week I would remain pregnant.

***

The night before it all happens, we sit on our deck eating pasta with peas. We had planted the small round seeds in the dirt months earlier and waited patiently to see if they would become anything. The early heat of summer had begun to wear on the delicate plants and they started to wilt, and so we had picked enough for one meal before they turned completely brown. We eat our pasta primavera that night, chasing the small green peas around the plates with our forks, my husband and I stealing glances with secret smiles while the boys wave at our neighbors moving in next door.

***

The ER is cold. I walk in, fighting back tears as I wonder if there is any reason for me to be there at all. I know what is happening, what is going to happen. I picture the bill going up higher every time I hear a tech open a new packet of sanitized medical supplies, and hear my husband’s voice telling me not to worry about the cost. His voice is in my head, that is, as he is home with the children, texting me for updates.

A nurse walks in, rubbing her hands with hand sanitizer. “So,” she asks energetically, “Any chance you might be pregnant?”

I think of how warm it was the day we were at the playground, waiting for my husband to meet me on his lunch break. “I know you’re busy,” I had texted him. “But can’t you just sneak away for twenty minutes? We’re at the playground across the street from you.” Finally he acquiesced, agreeing  to meet us. I stood there in the heat, waiting, pushing sunglasses back on to my children’s sweaty faces and looking for his car to pull into the parking lot.

“I have a present for you,” I said, grinning, as soon as he walked up. “I think I know what it is,” he replied with a smile.

***

“I’ll be right back,” I tell my husband, “just have to run to the bathroom.” The boys keep playing in the creek, splashing, not registering that I had left.

There it is. Red. An ending before a beginning. A misuse of punctuation.

I hurry back to the spot where we had been playing and whisper to my husband. We keep our faces straight as we tell the children playtime is over, it is time to pack up and go home.

My oldest starts wailing instantly. “But you said we could stay here and play! You said we could play!” he cries as we walk back to the car. “I know, honey, I’m so sorry,” I say over and over again.

Promises easily made are easily broken.

***

Two weeks is not long enough to think of a name, to know if it is a boy or a girl, but it is long enough. It is long enough to have nicknames, and plenty of time to picture a baby born in late winter, snuggling with us as the snow melted and giggling on blankets in the early summer sun. It is long enough to love.

The shortness of the pregnancy is its blessing and curse. I did not have to lose a baby whose heart I had gotten to hear beat, whose feet I had been able to feel kick. The only thing I ever knew about it was that it was there.

***

I am sick in bed, morning sickness overwhelming me. My husband is in the bathroom washing the children up before bedtime, and my oldest peppers him with questions.

“What is the hardest thing in the whole wild world?” he asks.

“To love someone,” I think to myself.

“Diamond,” my husband answers.

***

I know that it is still summer, and outside my bedroom I can hear the world. The crows and magpies fight in their mock street gang style and my neighbors fire up the grill and drink beers on their porch. The sound of my children’s laughter floats out of the house. They walk quietly around me, offering hugs and telling me they hope my tummy feels better soon, smiling back at their dad, proud of their own good behavior.

In a few months, when this summer fades, we will shut our windows and retreat into our cabins once again. But now we are here together, almost touching. I close my eyes and listen to the hot wind bringing in the noises of the world. It is not the connection I want, only the one I have.

***

I was pregnant, and now I’m not.

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