For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn. – Ernest Hemingway.
I close the box and retie its pretty red ribbon. The box sits quietly on the table, the triumph being slowly sucked out of it, like it had never been there at all. I lean back and place my hands upon my belly. I still feel as if there is something there, moving around inside of me. I still cannot believe that there is not. Everything had felt so real – the agitation had been real, the way I had felt; surely some of it must have been a little real, even in an obscure kind of way. The doctor explained to me what had happened, how my belly had bloated up then collapsed back down, like air being let out of a balloon. Air. Nothing more. Simply air. What am I supposed to do with air? I picture the look on his face when I told him. He was so shocked he started laughing, and he has yet to stop. I pretend not to notice. We can always try again. This time I’m sure it will work, it has to. I tell this to him too but he hears only himself.
I want to take out the shoes and draw them to my face, feel their solid existence against my skin. Maybe we should keep them, in case things work out better next time. No, he won’t like it. He’s tossed them aside already; they’re no use to him in this stiff condition. Never used means not yet used up, doesn’t it? But I don’t think he believes this. No, we had better rid ourselves of them and start again. I can straighten myself out and he can… well he can keep himself coming home every night. That’s supposed to be enough, I think, if I cannot even manage such a thing as keeping the shoes.
All I ever wanted was a family. A family to prove we’re not living as a pair of jests, but something so much more authentic than that. I know they all snigger into their hands behind my back, as they pass off baby after baby to their nannies. He shrugs it off like it doesn’t matter, but it does! It does to me. And it should to him. Our garden’s growing full of little buried holes. The doctors don’t have an answer for that. I cannot wrap my head around it, nor spend my time thinking about it. It’s a terrible dream. I thought this time we had gotten it right. Instead all we got was air. Cold, harsh, dried up air. I’m beginning to think he had a right to laugh. Hysterical – lord knows it is hysterical, absurd even. But still I wish he wouldn’t laugh quite as loud. It makes us strangers. And all strangers could ever whisk up after everything is air. Hysterical.
I pick up the paper and start writing out the ad for those perfect little shoes, holding the pen firmly in my hand. We can always get another pair.