Andrea Lynn Koohi
The ultrasound technician points wearily to a pulsing spot on the grainy screen.
“So, there’s the baby and there’s the heartbeat.”
I can sense she’s probably said this 20 times today, and she has no idea I’ve made it this far three times before, only to find stillness. Floating remains in a thumb-sized pond.
“Up you get!” she calls. “Take a seat in the waiting room and your doctor will see you soon.”
I wipe the cold gel off my belly with a tissue, secure my skinny jeans with a trick I learned two pregnancies ago – loop an elastic band through the buttonhole and around the button. I’m waiting to feel – happiness? relief? – as I make my way down the barren hallway. But sharp-edged memories tear at the moment, confuse and fragment it into bits I can’t trust.
When I reach the waiting room no seats are available, bellies of various sizes filling each chair. I stand off to the side and observe these women. Is it even possible that I’m one of them now?
My eyes land on a blonde woman talking loudly on her phone, her tight green dress insisting she’s pregnant, declaring she’s certain. Incomprehensibly certain.
“I can’t believe it either!” she says to her phone. “I was sure it was going to be another girl!” She lowers the phone to check the screen, then puts it back to her ear.
“Mom, I have to go. I promised Maggie I’d tell her right away.”
It occurs to me now to call my husband, but I quickly decide to wait. What if I misunderstood the technician? What if she was wrong about what she saw? I’ll get the full report from the doctor soon.
There’s time to kill and I must pee, so I head down the hall toward the washroom. I navigate life-bearing bodies on my way, some walking spritely, others dragging their feet.
I enter the washroom and take the first stall, and that’s when I hear a woman crying. I slow my movements as I hang up my purse, undo my pants, try not to be heard as I strain to hear.
She could be crying about anything, I tell myself. But as the pressure in my bladder begins to ease, her crying intensifies, and I simply know. I know because her sobs are like the memory of mine, because I’ve held my own head in a hospital washroom before. Felt the shock give way to grief, the wrench of losing nothing and everything at once.
When it’s time to leave the stall, I find I can’t. I want to knock on the metal partition, ask her if she’s ok. But I can’t bring my mouth to say the words, to invade her loneliness, to tell her of mine. All I can do is raise my hand, rest it on the wall, will her to feel it through the cold and the hallow between us.
I hear the door to the washroom open and recognize the voice of the green dress lady.
“I know, it feels so weird,” I hear her say. “Like, I like can’t believe there’s a penis in my uterus!” She laughs and I can see her through a crack in the stall, leaning over the sink to check her makeup.
Between these two women I feel suddenly frantic, compelled to insulate one from the other. I flush the toilet, then flush it again, muffling joy, shielding sorrow.
When I exit the stall, the green dress lady turns. Phone still to her ear, she flashes me a smile, so natural and warm, so easy to return. A smile that assumes we share something special.
She leaves the washroom and it’s quiet again, just me in the mirror and the woman in the stall, who’s quiet now. I can see her feet beneath the door, black high heels under stiff dress pants. I take my time washing my hands, thinking maybe she’ll come out and I’ll say something then. But she doesn’t emerge, and I figure she’s waiting for me to leave. Waiting to check her own face in the mirror, make sure it’s a face for the world to see.
For the first time this pregnancy, my hand finds my belly and I let it rest. Rest on what’s lost and what might be. Rest again on nothing the world can see.
Andrea Lynn Koohi is a writer from Toronto, Canada, with work appearing or forthcoming in The Maine Review, Streetlight Magazine, mac(ro)mic, Emerge Literary Journal and others. Find her on Twitter @AndreaKoohi.