writing exercise #60: shape, space, chaos, void

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Her womb expanded bit by bit. At four months, she could no longer wear pants. By six months even the overalls didn’t fit. She finally caved and bought maternity clothes. Her body had become a shape to be filled. I guess it always was, she thought. Biologically speaking.

She ordered a crib from Ikea, assembled it. Bottom, headboard, footboard, sides. Imagined the baby snuggled up in the space she’d created. Decided co-sleeping would be better, took the crib apart, sent it back. Ordered it again just in case.

Work happened and she remembered none of it except when a customer left her an extra tip, a crisp hundred dollar bill, with a little note on the check saying, “Congrats!” She was eight months pregnant at the time and constantly bumping her belly into tables while slinging coffee.

Her water broke while she was hollering at the cook for making eggs over easy when the customer had asked for over medium. She didn’t care that much about the eggs, it was an easy enough fix, but the contractions had made her cranky. The cook’s eyes had been sleepy as she’d scolded him, but when water gushed from between her legs onto the kitchen floor, they went wide. He stared. The busboy stopped hustling dirty plates and stared. She looked down at the floor, felt the wet between her legs, and stared.

Everyone looked up. The busboy’s eyes were even wider than the cook’s. Can you take me to the hospital? she asked. Can you finish the orders and call Maria to come in and finish the night? she asked the cook. Yes and yes and yes and hurry, they said.

And so she squeezed into the front seat of the busboy’s beater. She would have liked to sit in the back, stretch out, but random band equipment was strewn across the seats and so she pulled the buckle over her quaking belly and tried to not cry out as contractions rippled through her.

Are you okay? Please don’t have the baby yet! the busboy chanted at her as he dodged around slow cars, ran red lights. She wanted to tell him to be more careful, but breathing through the pain took all her energy. A wail leaked from her lips and she saw him press down on the gas pedal in response. She closed her eyes and rode it out.

We’re here, we’re here, the busboy said. He jumped out of the car and ran inside the ER. She opened the door and teetered toward the entrance. A nurse burst forth, wheelchair in hand, busboy at her side, gesturing toward the teetering pregnant woman in labor that was her.

She fell into the chair, allowed herself to be rolled in, answered the questions asked by a person with a clipboard, clenched her fist as the contractions quickened.

The labor was uneventful. The usual pain, blood, tears, shit, relief, disbelief. She was, abruptly, empty. Where there had been something, there was nothing. And then they handed the baby over and her heart, where she had not even known a void existed, was suddenly filled.

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