“No,” I say. The cramping might be from the baby. Or maybe not. A hot stream fires into the toilet. Why have they done this to me? Why won’t this woman—this nurse—or whoever she is step back from the curtain? Finally, legs shaking, I emerge.
White room. A bed. The TV murmurring.
I am alone.
I want my mother. I want Sarah. I want my boyfriend. I want him to bring me a bouquet of long-stemmed roses so red that they are almost black. Like my father brought my mother when I was born. She pressed them in my baby book. Which I won’t have.
Don’t need a baby book.
Don’t bring roses.
Still morning. Still alone. Nurses come in and lift the sheet. Spread my legs. Talk to each other but not to me—as if I am only my lower half. No eyes. No mouth. No heart. Their hands are inside me. Probing. I am mortified. Sick with pain.
TV prattles. Clock ticks. Contractions compress my body like a vise turning tighter. Tighter. Still morning.
Sarah appears in my doorway. Someone is watching the kids. “I can’t do this,” I tell her. Teeter toward the toilet. Vomit.
“We all feel that way,” she says, and gives me a roll of Lifesavers from her purse. “They can’t give you anything to eat or drink, but these will help you.” Milk white vase of artificial violets on my nightstand. Then gone.
Time tips into afternoon. More nurses. More hurt. Speaking in centimeters. Then words. “Doctor O. has a dinner party to go to at 7:30,” one says to the other. Injection. Something long and plastic torn from a cellophane wrapper. Pushed inside me. A rush of wetness between my legs--warm and urgent. Floodwaters spilling over a riverbank. River of pain.
Delivery room. Masked men. Masked women. An animal howling. “No sounds,” the older man says. “I don’t want to hear any sounds from you.” Light whiter than white. I am blind. Arms strapped. Body splitting in two. Body splitting into a miracle.
Baby out. Baby crying. Baby whisked away. Baby. “A boy,” the younger man says. “Your first?”
“She’s an unwed mother,” the older man says. Silence.
Stitches. Down there. I am ruined. Disfigured, I think. Maimed. Burning freezing shaking. My hair a lump of knots so thick I must turn my head to get comfortable.
Wheeled out the door. Hallway has a shiny floor. Eyes closing.