It was the winter. It wasn’t so cliched. It wasn’t so harsh. The snow was similar to a powder, freshly finding their homes on our foreheads. And it felt cool and it felt soft and we welcomed it with a general acceptance.
Your lips were never favored by the winter, never got out quite alive. Moisture was reduced, and dry, cracked skin replaced your otherwise pink, fluffy pigment. When I kissed you, the warm, wet sensation of your mouth was lost to a roughness that I enjoyed. I could always tell the seasons, when they were forming and when they were leaving, by the touch of our faces coming together.
One day, you said to me, “Do you want to get engaged?”’
I said, “That is a weird way to ask me.”
You said, “Will you marry me?”
I said, “Yes.”
I did not weep of joy for I was prepared for the prospect and had tired of waiting for it. I only felt relief. When the relief subsided and I became accustomed to the idea of my future, an excitement found it’s way into my spine and up to my mind, which was when I convinced myself that this was the happier ever after. I really found you brilliant.
We married four months later, in the wake of Spring, in a small off-path corner in the gardens at the local museum. I wore a white, almost see-through, sheer, short dress that I had picked up from the corner Goodwill. It was a surprisingly fitting dress – a find, some would say. I felt very beautiful.
It was us, the priest, and your friend from those childhood days you never enjoy talking about. I invited no one. The colors of the flowers along the dirt-path to our ceremony location were so flamboyant, they burned my pupils. Where had the white blanket gone?
When we were pronounced husband and wife, you kissed me and I felt the moisture on your lips rising back, healing from Winter, renewing themselves as we were renewing ourselves. I would never go through a season as a single entity again.
We retreated to the neighboring town, thirty-two miles away, for our honeymoon, for a three night, four day period. The downtown only stretched four blocks, with their main attraction being the African jewelry museum. It didn’t excite me.
We did find refuge in the only coffee shop in town. The barista was an older woman who gave up on her grey hairs and let them grow as they pleased. She said, “I moved here from New York City,” emphasizing the New York City as if it was a dream that she was attempting to achieve. “The skyscrapers tired me and I got too bitter because banks and offices kept replacing my favorite food spots.”
“Why did you choose here?” I asked.
“It’s quiet. The coffee beans are now my friends.”
She made us our coffee each morning, so in a way, I liked to think that we were also her friends.
I grew tired of the town by the second day. The clothing shops were depressingly ancient, the food overpriced and salty. I didn’t want to bloat for our later time. So, I shifted my attention from the sidewalks, and concentrated on the warmth of your palm when I went to hold your hand.
We skipped a restaurant dinner for a deli sandwich and a bottle of wine that we took back to our room. You uncorked the wine and I watched your arm muscles flex as you pulled. It excited me.
We ate, we laughed, we sipped, and then gulped, and then paid the bellman to go to the liquor store across the street and buy us another bottle. We were well on our way to basking in an intoxication that would lead us to the sheets.
The bellman came and delivered, you uncorked again, I got excited again, and we had another glass. We waited long enough and you began to touch me, kissing my face wherever you could. And the sensations got the best of us and we were suddenly moving our bodies around the other. Making love when married has different implications. It as if we own the other’s body legally, even though we do not own them at all. We got excited by the new ownership, and you saw my breasts differently. You touched them with an aggression as if you had never touched them before. All was well in the bedroom.
When it was time to leave our honeymoon of a deserted town, we were happy. With an urge to stay, yet with an excitement to enter our daily lives together, we left hand in hand, whistling to the tune of our newly combined skins.
Spring left, and we entered a hot Summer that left our skin sticky and beaded with perspiration. I thought you looked handsome with the blanketed sweat. I thought I looked distressed, even dirty. Yet, you wanted me all the same. I returned to waiting tables, you to being a car mechanic, coming home describing the oil and soot that always made a home on your knuckles. We were happy, and felt quite settled.
The Summer was a difficult one, the heat defining the period. We put down for a small air conditioner to make our lives easier which we knew would gather dust as Fall emerged. It was better to be spoiled during a period than continue on through with a struggle. I got a raise and bought a new pair of shoes. You said they made my legs look statuesque.
We went to bed quite consistently, mixing between the routine and the spontaneous. I was, on average, extremely fulfilled. You always knew how to take care of me. When mid-August came, my period skipped. A slight shock, yet what else were we really trying to accomplish? I walked down to the town pharmacy, bought the generic test, took it on the spot, and as I watched the stick soak in my urine, I saw the plus sign appear amidst the sub-par monitor. I stared at it for a few moments, still sitting on the toilet, before I tossed it in the trash. I smiled at the white, dirty tiled wall in front of me, at the far from white floors hanging on to a few toilet paper squares. And then, I ran home to tell you.
As I walked in the door, blanketed by a slight sweat, and a slight glow, you were sitting on the couch reading some second-hand book you found at the dollar sale about astrology.
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
You looked up, your book now resting on your lap.
“Really?” you said. “You’re sure?”
“I just took a test.”
And your pupils beamed first, and your mouth slowly followed, until your eyes began to dampen. You stood up to come hold me, and we embraced, and laughed, and embraced, and cried. It was the age of our pregnancy, and while our expectations weren’t feasible or even reality-based, there was a unification between us that involved another being, another potential being. Our being.
Wonderful things came from the pregnancy. Fall emerged, soaking the air with a chillness that hadn’t been felt for months. I suddenly was reintroduced to the goose bump, and my arms urges to reach for a sweater filled me with contentment. Finally, the sweat-filled, drudging summer was over. I could breathe in an air that didn’t dry the walls of my throat.
When I first noticed my belly protruding a bit, it was a weird revelation. I stood in front of the mirror, with my shirt lifted half way up, and I examined it. Tilting my head to the right, then shifting my body to the side, then placing my palms on my stomach. I rubbed my stomach, thinking I could awake whatever was inside of me. It was too small to feel my strokes.
“Hey you,” I whispered. “You’re gonna be beautiful,” I whispered.
While my womb became more and more occupied, you naturally picked up more shifts at work to prepare for my maternity leave. Your body began to ache from the extra work. The evening shift was much more strenuous on you than the morning. Or perhaps, twelve-hour shifts have that bone-breaking potential. Despite your exertion, you never complained. Coming home, you would ask me how I was feeling, prepare me tea, kiss my stomach, kiss my lips, kiss my forehead, and then, you would lay me down. You always loved to lay me down. And, as always, I was satisfied.
In the Fall of my pregnancy, many things shifted. Mostly, in my, what some would call, clarity. The vomiting came. It wasn’t too dramatic or obtrusive. I kept waiting tables, cutting back one shift, giving me three days off a week to relax, clean up the house, get ready for the baby. You didn’t want me stressed, or physically run down. You wanted the baby to be relaxed, nurtured in my womb. You wanted us both to be the type of happy that only comes from a sacrifice.
My vision used to be shaded into the shape of you. Or of you and me. It was narrow and determined, never loosing sight of the unit we became. I wanted us to be forever, always paying close attention to your mood shifts, your needs, trying to provide you with a quality of life. Before I became pregnant, I remember a night when you came home flustered and concerned.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“What did they do?”
“I was working on this couple’s car. Probably in their late forties. She was lovely, he was handsome, they looked established. A nice car too – that new Mercedes. White and flashy. Anyways, they started fighting and I couldn’t listen to it anymore.”
“What were they fighting about?”
“Something stupid. She wanted to pay the maid more, he wanted to cut back. She threatened to leave him and it was all pathetic.” You began pacing. “I was sitting there working on their car hearing them scream and cause some sort of hysterical scene and the man looked at me just before he left, his wife in the front seat, and said, ‘You got a girl?’ and I said ‘Yes, sir. Just married.’ And he said ‘Congratulations. Good fucking luck.’ Just like that. Like a fucking dick.”
“No, really. Like a fucking dick. As if he could even compare himself and his pathetic wife to you and me. As if he fucking thinks we are doomed. As if he even knows.”
You tossed and turned that night, thinking of the possible reality that one day we could be that couple – sick of the other, not on the same page, wanting different things, living different things.
You said, “Why do people assume marriages are doomed?”
I said, “Because those people aren’t us.”
And I kissed you good night, wrapping my arm around you and we both believed, we really believed, we were the lasting exception.
I began to grow. Or, I should say, the baby began to grow. All of a sudden, I looked down at my feet and found my belly hitting my eyesight. When I felt my stomach, it was a hard surface covered by a small layer of jelly skin. Strange paradox, I thought.
You found me so beautiful. As I grew, you looked at me with a more intense sense of admiration and excitement. Your vision pierced my skin, allowing me to always know when your eyes were on me. Your touch always hit me in the right spot – on my side, on my hip, on my inner thigh, on my cheek – it was always purely electrifying.
We transitioned Fall into Winter quite quickly. The temperature dropped suddenly, one night. We stepped outside before going to bed and felt the chill hit our bare palms. I kissed you. I felt the moisture escaping. Your lips were soon to be cracked and rough. We stood there in silence, a slight smile spreading on our faces. You suddenly ran inside, and I followed out of curiosity to find you heading towards the record player. You placed a Billy Holiday vinyl on and extended your hand out to me. I blushed and went to you. You put one hand on my back, and held the other in mid-air. Pushing me towards you, my protruding stomach hitting yours, the side of my forehead hit your cheek. We swayed gently, you softly singing along. We both knew the winter blanket was coming and this was how we celebrated the cold transition.
The doctor said it was a girl. You clapped your hands aggressively a few times and spun around yelling, “A girl!” and “All right!” You even punched the air with excitement.
A little girl, I thought. We decided to name her Frankie.
We went to bed that night overly joyed. We planned her wardrobe. We planned her after-school activities. We planned to save up to send her to college. We planned it all. You lowered your face to my stomach and said, “Hey Frankie, you’re going to be the happiest of babies, the happiest of girls. You’ve got a wonderful mama. Just wait. Life is going to be great.”
I looked towards the window. It was snowing a short snow. Small snowflakes came twirling down, landing on our front porch. I don’t think you noticed, and I did not point it out. It felt like my little secret.
I awoke the next morning slowly, feeling quite groggy, quite drained. My eyes fluttered a few times before I had the energy to keep them open. I looked over at you and you were still a stone in sleep. The ceiling had a dark overtone to it, the light hadn’t completely exposed it’s features and my eyes took a moment to accustom to the beginnings of this morning. I didn’t want to move my legs, or my arms, or my torso so I laid there on my back for a few moments, waiting for the tired rocks in my body to come alive. And when my bones began to feel heavier, I managed to lift my head up and suddenly became aware of the wet feeling in between my thighs. My palm raced down there and I felt an amount of liquid and when my eyes followed, I threw the sheet off of me.
You turned a bit, slightly mumbling, “Good morning.”
I sat frozen in a bed of blood.
You said again, “Baby…gooood morning,” in the midst of a yawn.
And I managed to speak, even though I never understood how the words formed and were released from my mouth, never understood how I jumped to such a heavy, real conclusion that would leave us with nothing, how the world can make decisions for you without even a panel for discussion, how the body takes over the elements that you were sure were your own and how suddenly, you realize, you never really own anything at all.
How did the white blanket bring us such endings?
“Frankie is gone.”