For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Courtney challenged me with "He has brought me this far, he won't leave me hanging" and I challenged Kevin Wilkes with "I know they say let it be, but it just don't work out that way."
He said he would be here.
He wasn't the only one. My father is in Schenectady, so I don't blame him for not being here. My mother said she'd be here, and I think she will be. She told me she would come right over. I'm sure there's traffic or something.
The room was high enough to be over the highway. The curtains had separated a bit, giving me a thin view of the bright highway. Cars were no longer flashing by, instead crawling slowly now as rush hour asserted itself.
Above my head, a pretty blonde in a smart looking suit was gesturing silently at maps with flashing red marks where the traffic was slow. I could turn up the sound, but I'd have to move to do that, so I quickly discarded that notion.
I looked around the room, with all the strange looking tubes and wires. Numbers flashed, raising slightly, then dipping again. I thought about asking what they meant. They would tell me, but I realized it would just be something else to worry about. I'd probably be better off not knowing.
He had been there from the start. (The mild pun made me smile slightly- the statement was literally true. He was there at the moment it happened, but neither of us knew that then.) I told him, and he was nothing but gracious about it. I had heard and read horror stories about denials and even violence, but he was calm. Slightly dazed, he sat and talked with me as long as I wanted, letting me cry. We talked, and talked, and talked- I told him what I wanted, and he agreed without hesitation. I would never stop appreciating that, how easily he allowed my wishes to reign supreme.
We knew we weren't in love. Certainly fond of one another, (fond enough to have done what was necessary, certainly) we quickly agreed that it would be best to remain friendly without forcing a romantic entanglement neither of us wanted. He called, and he texted, and he bought me lunch now and then. He listened when I talked, and drove me around sometimes when it was too uncomfortable and awkward to drive myself. He was supportive in every way I could have asked for. He had been a perfect, understanding, lovely friend all the way through it, and I knew he wasn't going to leave me now. He said he would be here when it was time, and I'm sure he will.
I looked around the room again. There were a few chairs, covered in a thick, plastic looking cushions. I imagined they probably got splashed with all sorts of fluids, so they probably wanted them easy to clean. Nothing absorbent. But the chairs made me a little sad, emphasizing, in my mind, that people were supposed to be here with me.
I wasn't really alone. Every once in a while, someone would hurry in dressed in blue or orange or bright, cheerful pink. They'd ask me how I was, if I needed a drink or a pillow. Some of them would write something down, or make an entry on a laptop they were carrying. I didn't ask for much, partially because there wasn't too much they could do, and partially because I knew they had other people just like me they were watching over.
It was hard, doing this like this. I knew people cared for me, and I knew they would be here soon enough to hold my hand and do what they could to help me through this. But they weren't here now, and a tiny, childish part of me demanded they get here now, and I was frustrated and almost teary because they weren't.
And it hurt.
I knew it was going to hurt. All the books said that, other women told you with knowing smiles that, and simple common sense told you that. And it did- a constant, sharp ache with intervals of unbelievable, searing agony that made me clench my teeth and breathe hard and shallow breaths. This pain was different in its intensity and scope from any pain I had ever known. It blazed, and roared, and felt like it would never end, until it finally did, fading into merely agonizing.
When you had regular pain from exertion or other miseries, it was more contained. You knew what hurt, you knew what you could do, if anything, to relieve it, and you knew, intellectually, that there was an endpoint. This pain was different. It was deeper, and wider, and seemed to involve every nerve cell, every fiber of your being. You would do anything to stop it, make any promise. But it stopped when it was good and ready.
I felt it starting. There were tremors, little movements, twinges and spasms on top of the constant aching pain that was constantly underneath. After that warning, I didn't have a chance to move, or cry out, or do anything before it started. It was a grabbing, squeezing band of pain that started up high with a depth and intensity that made me suck in a breath. It squeezed, and the hurt blossomed and spread and made me arch my back slightly, peering up at the harsh florescent lighting above the bed. I prayed, something I hadn't done since I was 7. Of course, it didn't stop.
It was an ocean of pain, and I felt like I was struggling for air, drowning in the sensation. There wasn't any end to it. I knew it had to eventually stop, but while you're in it, it feels like hurting is all you will ever know. Nothing is comfortable, no position relieves it. It gets to a point where I can barely remember what good is. It seems like I was born in pain, and I honestly wished, for a moment, I would die if that meant it would stop.
I registered someone coming in the room, and saw a lime green top under a kind, pleasant smile. "Contraction, honey?"
I couldn't speak.
"I know it's bad, sweetheart."
Her cool hand found mine, which was slick with sweat. I writhed, hearing nonsense sounds coming out of my own mouth.
"Just breathe. It will be over soon enough."
It felt like it was going to last forever, until suddenly it wasn't. The bands were releasing, the waves of agony receding slowly. I opened my eyes wide, the woman in green, her hair pulled back away from her face, holding my hand.
"The first time is hard. It gets easier."
Finally able to speak, I muttered, " You did this more than once? "
She chuckled. "Yes, dear. Four times."
My mother came around the corner, already talking a mile a minute. "Traffic was a nightmare, but I'm here now, and I...oh!" She saw the woman in green, my hand still in hers. "I'm Evalyn's mother," she said, straightening up.
"Well, we just had a bad one, but things are progressing. I'll go get Dr. Paultz," she said, moving towards the door.
"Jimmy said he'll be along," my mother told me.
I knew that. I knew that this could be endured, that my mother had done it, that woman in green had, my friend Kerry had. Lots of people had, billions of them. It didn't make it hurt less, but it reminded me, again, that I would survive it.
"I know," I said.