by Meg Rodriguez
Tomorrow, he said.
With every twist and stretch, and with each new kick behind her ribs, the babe whispered to her—reminders, promises, regrets. Each one felt like a different line from the same song.
With her hand to her belly, she listened. And with each new taste of overdue-baby pains, she looked again to the window — the window that, from where she drifted and dazed in the wooden rocker, displayed to her the bluest kind of sky. The walls of the nursery and the wash of sky smothered her in a warm tidal wave of blue.
From the twenty-third floor, that window had seen untellable things. Her gaze fell from the sky to the earth, where she glimpsed cars and people like ants—taxis and street vendors, city-dwellers and foreigners, angels and ghosts. She saw roofs and bricks and buildings, those fragile structures built by guilty hands. She wondered—if they burned, how long could they stand before they crumbled? But the people like ants trailed in and out of those buildings as if their lives didn’t depend on it.
Forty-one weeks in, there was still a part of her—that small pocket of shame mothers rarely speak of—that wished the belly would leave her, that it would disengage from her own body, float out that window and toward the sky like an engorged balloon. She would wave with a tightened throat and shaking fingers, and she would watch him rise toward the sky, bundled and safe and warm—she’d save him the splinters, save him the storms, save him the sorrow. The babe would find her lover somewhere up there in the sky. They would be together, they would wait for her.
But then there was that other part of her that would have walked into the fire not to lose him this time.
For she knew that when she held the babe—and saw again her husband’s eyes, and the dimples in his nose—it would destroy her, but it would bring her back to life. It would be the balm laced with poison that she had waited months to drink. It would be the most painful kind of oxygen—the kind that satisfied her craving for breath, but the kind that still allowed things to burn. It would be the velvet-soft instincts of motherhood warring with the urge to save the boy the pain of living.
As the gnawing in her womb intensified, she knew tomorrow would be the day her world changed again. The hand cradled across her belly still felt each kick and decoded them like braille. She savored every word, though she wished the words told her something different.
By the time she rose from the rocker—when it was too late for dinner, when the sky had grown dark, when the city glowed with thousands of twinkling lights like tiny flames—she felt an uncomfortable ache of peace. For the longer she looked out upon the city, the more she let herself believe she might still see him crawling out of one of those hundreds of buildings.
And even if she didn’t, she knew that she had always wanted to let herself believe in things she couldn’t see.