Babyfeet

Carrie Ryan

Carrie Ryan

I kept telling myself I was only gaining weight—that midnight munching while cramming for finals was the reason I surpassed the Freshman Fifteen. It wasn’t until the last test that truth pummeled me in the stomach. My pen sliced through the paper in the last sentence of my essay and punctured through the silence of the lecture hall. A kick in the gut. It continued, incessant, knocking under my skin; a visitor with an urgent message. I handed in the essay with a dangling end and tight­lipped smile, praying this was merely a symptom of test anxiety. Right foot, left foot was my mantra as I coached myself back to my dorm room. I climbed over the suitcases and collapsed onto my naked mattress. Spread­eagled, I counted the specks on the ceiling tiles. My heart slowed but the knocking didn’t stop.

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I went to see a priest because it seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like all I needed was Divine Providence to direct me to the right decision. We sat side by side in a candlelit room, separated by a velvet curtain. He sighed and clicked his tongue because Sex is for the married mature, not the foolish. These men see the baby, but don’t see the backstory. They see the heartbeat, but don’t see the heartbreak. These men believe all babies come from love, but sometimes it’s just a combination of sperm and egg. Have you considered adoption? Dead air hung off the question. Adoption is just postponing witnessing the tangible evidence of a memory longing to be forgotten. The child would have my curiosity and seek to meet its birth parents. The child would have his nose and ask, Who am I and where did I come from? My vocal chords would harden and I would stare at my feet. Or maybe we could do couples counseling? As if we’re star­crossed lovers who have lost their way in love, and just need the road to be repaved. I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but I left with penance and the church’s business card he slid under the curtain.

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Let us build a house where love can dwell, where the cracks in the foundation are masked by a fresh coat of paint. Where we can live behind closed doors, stash broken dishes in the garbage, and blame the bruises on the dog. Where we’ll go to church on Sundays to prove to the priest we are a wholesome family. And when company comes to dinner, let us close all the closets, open the front door, and invite them in. Let us bring a lull to fear and danger. All are welcome in this place.

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When two bodies come together as one, they must mold themselves seamlessly; self-sacrificing benevolence. But I told you no, and you told me to roll over. I pushed you away and you pinned me, one cheek to the pillow, your hand on the other. This is where I should’ve kicked you in the balls but I sank into the mattress, dead-weight submission. You pulsed in and out, in and out, and I was sucked under a riptide.

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I sat on the edge of his bed and pretended it was consensual, pretended it was a roleplay  but, deep down, something didn’t add up. Weeks later, I sat in the bathroom stall and thought about this as I looked at a plus sign etched on a screen.

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He used to wrap me up in his arms like an electric blanket. But outside the dining hall we stood like statues, limbs hardened, eyes dull and distant. My hands in my pockets, his arms crossed, we anticipated truth to spill out of our mouths as the roads around us froze over. He’s nothing more than a tin can full of oil, fueling flames that burn bridges. I don’t love you anymore, he said, shrugging his shoulders and staring after the group of girls passing by.

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I waited outside the clinic with my engine still on; hands clenched in fists around the steering wheel. Rain dropped like bombs, scratching cracks into the glass. The pros and cons list was half and half, but the longer I waited, the more apparent it became that this was much more than gaining weight. Anxiety crept through my veins and fed his nerves. He pushed and kicked, trying to find that one place where he knew I was starting to unravel. His baby feet no longer seemed small and delicate. I unclenched my fists, unbuckled my seatbelt, and pulled the key out of the ignition.

1 Comment

  1. Beautifully written and really makes you think about and feel for the women who go through this and have to make these decisions. I remember reading this during the submission period and I’m glad that it was accepted! Great job!

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