I am a writer. I forget that sometimes. And sometimes, I disregard it. During those times, I am empty. Something is missing. My life is lacking.
And then I remember. And it's like I am breathing for the first time. Or like I am breathing after almost drowning. It hurts but it feels good.
I'm in the process of remembering now. I'm in the process of breathing after almost drowning.
The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. I tried to move forward but instead stumbled over the destroyed speed bumps and exposed potholes. Bumped and bruised, I picked myself up and tried to move forward again, but the road took a sharp turn to the left. I found myself upside down and inside out.
It hadn’t always been this way. At one time, the road was straight and well paved. The streetlights turned on at 7pm every night and directed me on my adventures.
I was content.
And now…Now I felt the world beckoning to me and asking me to leave behind all that I knew. One sign said to turn right, and the next told me happiness was a mere ten miles away. The more attention I paid the signs, the more my thoughts wandered further from my life and closer to the life of a waitress slinging cups of coffee in New York City.
I couldn’t just leave. Ankles swollen. Back aching. Feet kicking my stomach. It held me in place, reminding me that the beckoning world would remain in front of me.
This was what I wanted. I dreamt of screaming babies and giggling toddlers. I longed for feet slamming against the wood floors and endless fights.
And it wasn’t just me. It was him, too. Me and him. A we that had once been everything to me.
It happened. After months of pushing him into the right position and holding my legs over my head. After countless tears shed. After bleeding and hurting and wondering.
When I told him, he kissed me like it was the first time, and he spun me around. My hair flew out behind me, and then we climbed into the car. Windows rolled down and sunshine pouring in. His hand held mine, and he shouted the news for all to hear when we reached the red light in town.
He laughed at the congratulations, at the chorus of honking horns, and then drove us out of town and into the desert. He laid a blanket on the hood of the car and traced letters and numbers and pictures on my stomach.
But now. Now he was stuck. Stopped at the red light in town and looking to the right and then to the left. His fingers gripped the steering wheel, and he refused to press on the gas when the light turned from red to green and then to yellow and then red.
Cars honked behind us. The rolled up windows muffled the sound.
“What do we do?” My voice cracked at the first ‘do.’ I stuffed the tears deep down and swallowed the urge to take the steering wheel from him.
He blinked three times. The light turned green, but he paid no attention.
If only I were driving. But with just four weeks to go, he didn’t want to risk it, so he drove. To the grocery store and Laundromat. And to the doctor.
I sat. Feet pressed to the floorboard. My right foot reaching for an imaginary pedal.
“What do we do?” The light switched to yellow. Four seconds crept by, and the light was again red. “What do we do?”
“I don’t know.” He gritted his teeth. His hands tightened on the steering wheel, his knuckles going from peach to white. The red crept up his neck and then to his cheeks.
Why had I wanted this? What made this road so appealing to begin with? When all those I knew traveled to unknown cities, why did I chose to stay?
Was it worth it? Any of it? One baby doing well and the other fading away. There were no road signs directing me to the decision. It was just him in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger seat.
He finally blinked. After minutes of wide open eyes and a clenched jaw, he blinked. And then he pressed his foot to the pedal. The car jerked forward.
He went straight. Straight past the general store and the grocery store and the library.
My body moved with every bump. I felt each groove in the road. My stomach lurched when we hit a pothole that hadn’t existed a week ago.
He didn’t slow for the stop signs. The streetlights flickered on, and he turned left and then right. Minutes later, we were back at the stoplight as it turned red.
His hands shook. And then his shoulders. I covered his left hand with mine and then pushed the gear shifter into park. He blinked and then looked at me the way the deer he hit last winter looked at him.
“Let me drive.”
“No.” His voice was firm, and he shook his head.
I squeezed his hand. Two feet kicked my stomach, and I longed to feel the pain of four. “Yes.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and then unbuckled his. He climbed out of the car. We passed without touching and without words.
The light was green as I climbed into the driver’s seat. My stomach pressed the steering wheel, and I moved the seat back. My toes barely grazed the pedals. I shifted from park and into drive, and then I drove away from the town and away from the questions.
I knew I could drive thousands of miles and land in New York City. We would check into a hotel, and I would travel to the room with him. My lips would press to his forehead, and he would collapse onto the bed. With his eyes shut and dreams occupying his mind, I would disappear into the millions of people.
But I wouldn’t drive to New York City. I would follow the road to the next town. I would stop at the hospital and let myself out at the emergency entrance. He would park the car, and I would make the decision alone.
Change would bulldoze the road we traveled.