The radio alarm did not so much wake us up as signal that it was okay to speak out loud again. I reached for the snooze button to make it stop, but hit the CD play button instead. “Harmony” by Clinic began with it’s rhythmic blips and bleeps:
"…fill yourself with dreams, fill yourself with dreams, fill yourself with dreams…"
This song would never sound the same to me again. (Perhaps I will never listen to it again.) I did not want to look at Terra’s belly next to me in the bed, but I did. I glanced, and then stared. The bulge of Roxy was leaning to one side, sagging like a half-empty bag of sand. I froze inside my own blind terror. All of my muscles felt knotted and sore. Terra’s eyes were open but she didn't speak. I sat up, touched her shoulder and walked from the room and out the back door. I lit a cigarette and huddled, trembling like a cornered gazelle, separated from it's heard. I was in primitive state, waiting to be eaten by the shadows. The cicadas continued to sing as I carelessly tossed my cigarette into the back yard. So what if there's a fire? So. Fucking. What.
Inside, Terra and Je walked in and out of rooms like ghosts. Terra placed toothbrushes into a black suitcase. I stood in the middle of the living room and turned the TV on and off. I sat down on the couch. Oh yeah, I had to put on my blue jeans so I walked into the bathroom, found them crumpled on the floor and put them on. Didn't bother to change my shirt. Terra walked by and I grabbed her hand and pulled her into me. We hugged, stumbling. My head shook as if I had a sudden, progressive form of Parkinson's. It wobbled on top of my neck as if it was a bell that had been rung.
“You can put those in the car,” Terra whispered, motioning to two suitcases sitting on the floor.
I followed her directions (thankful to have them) and then returned to the living room, sat down on the couch and turned the TV on and off.
“I’m ready to go,” Terra said, blankly. “Are you ready Je?”
“Yeah, I’m ready,” Je answered.
I stood up and we walked to the car.
“We need to drop off these movies,” Terra said, staring out the window.
(Looking back, I think these details got her through those first few days... pack the suitcase, return the movies, feed the dog, remember the toothbrush...)
“Okay,” I said.
We drove silently from our home in Harrodsburg to Bloomington where we would return movies to Blockbuster, and then traveled directly to the Bloomington Hospital O.B. unit so that Terra could deliver our dead child while I watched.
Here's how we did that:
1) We stopped at the red lights
2) We continued cautiously through the green lights (while still looking both ways)
3) We used our turn signals
4) We ensured that we remained relatively close to the speed limit
5) We read the street signs, and we...
I began to bawl as I navigated.
“I knew I should have driven,” said Je, softly.
“Do you want to pull over and let Je drive?” Terra asked. She put her hand on the back of my neck from her place in the back seat.
“No, I’ll be okay,” I muttered, sobbing.
I parked in the Hospital parking garage.
“I’ll come back later for the luggage,” I said. Panic was hitting me like a spray of M-16 bullets. Who would we see in the O.B. unit? Would people congratulate us when we walked in? How would we announce to them what we were here to do? Who was going to do the talking? (Probably me due to my peasant-like inability to inconvenience people with awkward silences). Would they already know when we told them our names? Do all the nurses and doctors and receptionists and janitors have a quick pow-wow every morning to talk about which patients they shouldn't congratulate? I put my arm around Terra and we walked steadily through the bright hallway, past the information desk to the O.B. elevators. I pushed the button next to the “up” arrow and we waited. The elevator doors swung open, and a new mother was pushed out in a wheelchair. Our hearts hit the floor, and they echoed. The elevator was cold and I steadied myself against the railing.
The doors opened on the 2nd floor and I heard the cry of a newborn baby.
We walked deliberately past the check-in desk. You are supposed to stop there, but I just snarled at the elderly woman there. (That is the thing about this peasant thing... when you feel like you are inconveniencing someone, it makes you viciously angry at them for putting you in the position of feeling bad because that really isn't fair, is it- how DARE she think her protocol bullshit warranted us stopping and signing in with her!!). The woman barely shrugged. We continued down the hallway where we passed the special care nursery. I glanced in and saw the little feet and hands going up and down inside the oxygen compartments. In an instant, I was carried back to our son Mason’s first week of life.