By Kathryn Bockino
“You’re lucky,” my friend Stacey told me three weeks after. She’s the type of friend who buys you cheap tequila with no salt or lime and then helps you throw up. Even gives you some of her hand sanitizer before you both bend down. “You didn’t have to actually pay for an abortion.”
When I miscarried in the back of a taxi I didn’t feel lucky. My Facebook official boyfriend Ted slept over the night before, rummaging in at three with the spare key my roommates aren’t happy about. He kissed me goodbye as I was leaving for work, but not on the lips. It was one of those forehead kisses that looks cute on a movie poster, but feels cheap in real life. Like the journey down would just take too much time. Require too many neck muscles.
If I was wearing white, I would have realized I was bleeding before I hailed a taxi. But that only happens on TV. A woman is wearing white and has her period and everyone laughs and shrugs and says being a woman is a bitch, right? But I was wearing a Burberry sweater and a brown skirt from Kohls. So the laugh track didn’t play. My hair was up, and it’s only up when I want people to know I’m serious. I had my first solo presentation that day at Smithson & LLP, and wanted them to know that even though I’m 25, I could handle taking on my own accounts. I’m an Accountant. I like capitalizing the “A” so you know it’s a good job. Good pay. I only need three roommates to afford a one bedroom in the East Village.
When I sat down in the back seat of the cab, I saw gum stuck to the floor and his name. Ibrahima. The lamination on his I.D. card already half peeled off. Each harsh stop causing more to fall, like sharp pieces of clear snow. Then, I felt the squish. That soupy, chunky feeling in my underwear. He kept driving, almost hitting that Toyota Camry with the sweaty, prominent Asian man. I’ve been wondering if he remembers that. If he sees so many careless drivers and bikes and dogs that it’s just flipping channels on the TV to him. But I’m sure he remembers the blood.
A few blocks later the cramps became worse. They reminded me of the allergic reaction I experienced five years ago in Spain during senior year. Ted and I only just began to fuck, and Spain has tiny bathrooms. I spent the night vomiting, my face resting against the cold mosaic tiles until indents of the little squares could be seen on my cheek. Ted stayed with me the entire time. He even laughed when I said to him it felt like a little baby bear was clawing from my inside, asking to be let out. I smelled like stale garlic and had a sweat mustache, but he wouldn’t go. He loved me then.
So the little bear, or I guess the little baby, was clawing at my insides, when I felt a burst of blood. Imagine peeing yourself without ever once feeling the urge to pee. And it’s a heavy pee. Partially formed body parts might be in there, pee.
I didn’t say anything. I just looked out of the window as I felt the baby fall. I should stop saying “baby.” I should say cells. It still was so early in the pregnancy – I actually was debating getting an abortion. No, I definitely was going to get an abortion. I even made a note to call Planned Parenthood in my Vera Bradley Snow Lotus model day planner.
If I stopped Ibrahima, if I knocked on that glass window separating us and said, “Hey, do you mind pulling over, I’m having a miscarriage?” what would have occurred? I was already halfway between my place and work.
When I took the pregnancy test weeks before, I didn’t cry. I ate a cold Crunch Wrap Supreme from Taco Bell instead. I thought, I can’t wait to get this out of me. But I didn’t. I kept going to work. Kept faking orgasms. Even did yoga in the park because that’s what smooth faced, calm women do in commercials. And I always thought, wow, those women have their shit together.
But the pain. Ibrahima saw. Our eyes kept visiting one another in the rearview mirror. His eyebrows pressed together, as if they were stitched that way by a person who had never picked up a needle before. I bit my lip and gave him my practiced smile. I squirmed and twisted and tried to see how much was falling out of me. What was falling out of me.
The smell of crinkled leather and the flashing lights of an ambulance almost made me sicker. There was an accident on 54th and 3rd, causing us to come to a stop. I reached for the door, but the pain doubled. So I stayed seated, silent and scared, and kept digging my nails into my palms.
Only my Aunt Cindy from Missouri knew I was pregnant. She smokes pot before breakfast to get her appetite going and believes more in Alex Trebek’s teachings than in God. She texted me a screenshot of a bundle pack of onesies for $6.99, saying Amazon was currently having a great sale.
“Maybe for my next mistake!” I texted back with a laughing cat emoji. But when they arrived days later I kept rubbing my cheek against the fabric. They became my midnight craving, instead of ice cream or cookies or the Kardashians.
She didn’t understand why I hadn’t told Ted. And it wasn’t that I was nervous of what he’d say, or how he’d react. No. I was nervous that if I addressed our little bear, I’d also have to address us. Pretending that morning sickness was another hangover was just easier. For now.
My work was still a few blocks away when I asked Ibrahima to pull over. I used my I’m- an-Assertive-Woman Voice that’s two octaves lower. My outfit was crumbling, my eyeliner tarnished, and my hair was sticking like cheap glue to my forehead. I needed out.
I opened that glass window and tossed crumpled bills at him. I didn’t look back at first. I couldn’t. I was terrified he might have realized. All he had to do was glance at the seat, and he might have noticed the discoloration of the leather. I didn’t want to see that look, that look that conveyed, “That poor woman.”
Or maybe he’d be thinking, “Fuck her.” That girl who sat there the whole time, never saying shit. Whose flight or fight response was turned off, and somehow “become immobile” was the only option. I don’t know which response would have broken me more.
One time I asked Ted to list everything others find annoying about me, but he loved. Like at the end of a RomCom. He pushed back his hair, pushed up his glasses, and said, “Huh.”
“No,” I laughed, twisting the skin on his elbow. Affectionately, of course. “You’re supposed to just know.” I tried recite my list, but I could only think about how he heats up his waffles in the microwave instead of in a toaster. I should have realized then. That was the politest conversation we’d had in months.
I had that feeling of fingers pressed against my skull, so I turned back to see the cab. That feeling of, “someone is watching me.” So I braced myself for his reaction, but he wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking past me, around me, as if it’s so easy to curve one’s sight. As if this weird journey we just went on together meant nothing. I suppose for him, that’s true.
I had to miss my presentation. I couldn’t go into the office looking like that. And I know it’s fucked up that my first thought was about work. Unfair to whatever happened to my body, what left my body. And at the gyno’s and then at home I hoped to cry. I wanted tears to roll and my body to fall and I wanted to mourn a relationship that for some reason I’m still in, and child I never wanted. A problem I just wanted to take care of. But am I allowed to grieve something I penciled into my day planner next to, “buy milk?”
At least, that’s what I told myself. What I tell myself. And then Stacey got me drunk and I spilled all of this out with the tequila. After, I stumbled home and wondered if Ted would sneak in and through the apartment to me. I’d whisper in his ear in a way – when I loved him – that would make him sigh. And I’d tell him…that I keep reaching down to my stomach and pressing four fingers there, before I remember… it’s empty.
KATHRYN BOCKINO is a second year fiction student at New York University’s MFA Program. Her writing has appeared in Gandy Dancer Literary Magazine and Hamptons Real Estate Showcase Magazine.