The first piece of fiction I had published was "The Single Woman's Guide to Having a Miscarriage," a short story written in the second person, Lorrie Moore-style. I've since learned how over-used this style is, but hey, I was an undergraduate fiction writer becoming a poet, so it worked for me. I guess it tends to work for me when I'm writing about the subject of miscarriage, because I wrote something this year, this time about true events from my life. It also relates to my last post about connecting to the senses. This is "How to Make a Memory."
Create the memory on a holiday. Later, it will be easier to remember the day. Later, you’ll be able to feel like you’re alone, and crazy, as the people around you celebrate on the day when you can’t get yourself out of bed.
Try finding a holiday that states the date in the title, so there’s never any doubt about the exact day it happened. Find one that saturates advertisements, so it won’t ever slip your mind in the days before. Find a day when you’re expected to gather with family and friends. Find one marked by explosive sounds that vibrate your bones even if you manage to turn music up loud enough to silence them. Find a day like the 4th of July.
If you reach out to anyone for support, let it be the man who’s been mistreating you, the father of your child. Let him hear your desperation when you say, “I just don’t want to go through this alone.” Stand still as he yells at you, even as he gets riled up, the way he does before he hits you. Hold your breath and watch the backs of his feet as he walks away. Feel the room shudder when he slams the door. For a while, this part will be impossible to understand. For a while, you’ll be able to count this among the reasons you feel unable to trust. You’ll be able to look to it as evidence that nobody will think you’re worth their time.
Call a hospital emergency room, to see if they’ll take you in. Explain the situation: you knew this was happening. You found out the day before that the heart in your belly stopped beating. But it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. There was supposed to be a procedure, the next day, when the doctor was back from the holiday.
Hear the man on the phone tell you this is not an emergency. Hear the clearing of the throat, the sound of a man who wants to help but cannot. Hear his discomfort as he makes the gentle suggestion that you call a friend. Do all of this after your child’s father has kept you isolated for so long, you’re not sure if you have any friends left to call. Consider the possibility that you deserve to go through this alone.
While all of this is happening, your body gradually banishing what has become nothing more than body tissue drowning in blood, listen to a sound repeat in the background. Let it startle you each time, even though you’re expecting it. Let it shake the windows and race across the floor and pounce on your skin like a late-night intruder. Let this sound come from something like fireworks. That way, flashes of cold white light can flood the room after you’ve turned off the lights. That way, at least once a year, your body can take you back when the sound finds you again.
Pray without hope for an answer. Know there’s nothing that can be done.
Have moments when you think this is a nightmare. The yelling, the fireworks, the unspeakable pain – for a few seconds, it will all seem too melodramatic to be real. Realize the pain means it must be real. Later, the real nightmares will be the kind that haunt you in the daytime. There will be no pain, but bodies will burst in the air.
Find it too difficult to talk about this night for a while, so that it remains inside of you, pushed down your throat each time you swallow. Let it move inside of you until it becomes a part of your muscle memory, your body new with the knowledge of a night like this.
Then you’ll always remember. Even after years have passed, you’ll remember it all.