From the outside, I seem fine.
I know my face is beaming as our eyes lock and my arms wrap around you, warm and weightless—an embrace I’ve missed for far too long. In unison, our laughter erupts from the tips of our toes up to our gaping mouths like medicine for the soul. I feel happiness—for you, for me, and this moment we’ve been given. Listening intently, I gasp and giggle between the breaks (I know my cues) of your lengthy monologue about your life’s wonderful turn of events: your new career, the handsome new beau, winning the lottery, and the places you’ve recently visited.
But as you carry on, I begin to realize that you and everyone else haven’t sensed I’m holding something back. Have I simply mastered the art of hiding my truth, my big secret? Because between the jovial sounds I utter aloud, there’s a shrill scream that’s reverberating from my gut. A part of me hopes you can’t make it out—that it’s too faint and far and barely a whisper; while another part of me is desperate for you to know the weight of grief I’ve been carrying for so long.
Just say something.
And I wonder, what would you do if I told you? Surely, the forcefulness of a blow like mine would crumble the ground beneath your feet. What would you think if you knew the shame I feel when I stare at my reflection in the mirror: a damaged woman, scarred and less-than? Would you still stand with me, embracing me in our esteemed “sisterhood”; would you fumble over the right words to say? Would you mistakenly and inadvertently diminish the anger, distress, and sadness that trickles through me?
I anticipate your nervous reply: I’m sure it’ll all work out. Perhaps, you shouldn’t worry so much about it for now.
You’ll look for signs that something is amiss, but you won’t see any bruises or marks on my skin. This is a pain that stems from the inside—where I ache and cry with barren arms; mourn the loss of something— someone—I may never know; no seeds planted in arid lands.
I may never feel the little kicks and tiny toes that stretch against the walls of this hollow core; flesh on flesh, the pulsations of a tiny heartbeat drumming such slight quakes within me; to exhale with each inhale, the faintest breath that breathes new life into me. Wholeness, unconditional, maternal.
A dream dashed. A glimmer of hope that skirts from my grasp, lost within the crevices and fissures of my fractured womanhood. I, a woman, should be able to do this. And as I stand under running water that merges with the tears streaming down my cheeks, I wonder, once again, why me? And I wait for the dismissive reply, why not you—to which I respond with clenched fists and a raging fire that spews from my tongue.
I have so much I need to say, yet nobody seems open to listening, or perhaps they’re just afraid. But if you’d give me just a minute, I would tell you about my sleepless nights when I’m staring at the ceiling consumed with worry, or how my stomach ties in knots when I’m surrounded by women living out my heart’s desire. And if you could only see the ugly shades of green that stain me just below the surface. Or understand the fear in knowing something’s wrong and the burden of having to share my pain with another. Am I at fault? Will I be worth staying with anyway?
For now, I am synthetic. Swallowing my pride and sense of femininity, this tiny pill shoots daggers through a gem-less tomb. I’m fraught by the unknowns that lie ahead with the relentless craving for the love of my unborn flesh and blood and bone.
And then here we are facing each other—you, emanating in the soft glow of the sun. I realize my mind must have trailed off at some point as I suddenly hear you’ve directed the conversation towards me: How are you doing? You’re smiling at me still, eager to know if fate has been just as generous to me as it has been to you. Has it, though?
It hurts to return the smile, but I somehow manage to do so. I’m now certain you can’t see the dark shadows lurking behind it. And for a moment I ponder whether or not I can share my truths with you.
But some things must remain unspoken.
I’ve been just fine, I say.