They stared at each other, her on edge of the bed with eyes swollen red, him standing at the door, eyes hidden behind black shades. Cigarette smoke drifts up in fantastic shapes from around her fingers, the ash trailing long, the ashtray on the bed, full of butts, most had her lipstick at the end of them. On her other hand was a stick of plastic with two dots on it. The dots said she was pregnant, and they said it simply, just like the previous one had. The previous one was in the dust bin, with the same number of dots on it.
She asks him what he wanted to do about it. He says, get rid of it. It’s the rational thing to do. They were young, he says, she was young, they were just starting out, barely. It was the right thing to do, he says. She cringes at that. Her eyes are brown behind the film of tears, she blinks, they trickle down. She stares into his tinted sunglasses. I don’t know what I want, she tells him. He tells her it’s biology. Mothers are designed to feel protective of their offspring, even at the cost of self sacrifice, especially at the price of self sacrifice. It feels natural, like it’s the right thing to do. But it isn’t, he tells her.
He goes and sits next to her on the bed, she edges away momentarily, realizes she’s done it and moves back. He doesn’t seem to notice behind the glasses. She stares at him as he lights his own cigarette. They sit like that as the smoke rises around them in the tiny bedroom. Outside the only window of the room, the evening birds chirp and chatter, a distant child’s scream is heard, her voice giddy, and beyond that one could hear traffic. How real the world is, she thinks. She lies down on the bed, her head away from him and towards the window, and listens for more.
He turns his head to look at her, how tired she looks he thinks. But she also looked at peace, the strain around her eyes and the stress on her face disappeared. She had the look of one who was recalling memories of a distant past. He reaches out to touch her leg, she senses it and pulls it away and her face goes back to show the pain. She closes her eyes and her breathing eventually becomes a consistent rise and fall. He puts out his cigarette, goes to the window, opens it and lights one more. Golden light filters in, the kind that only shows up in summers. He suddenly thinks of the last summer of high school, some five years ago. How did things change so much in such short time he wonders. He watches the golden light slowly become orange and then red and then fade into a melancholy grey. She sleeps on behind him.
She wakes up to a dark room and the pain comes back with her, clutching at her chest like vines. The window is lit with yellow street light that does not penetrate it, the man is no where to be seen. She sits up and stares at the window before putting her feet on the cold floor and walking to it. Outside there is nothing but the street light spewing yellow, and the darkness surrounding it. A tear trickles out of her eye, down her pale cheeks, her jaw, before falling down on the window sill, reflecting back the faint light.
They sit next to each other on the bus, her head resting against the window, eyes staring out into the fields that are zipping by without actually looking at them, him next to her, eyes shaded, jaw clenched and shoulders that won’t relax. She looks at his reflection in the glass window, the man she loved. Loves? He’d asked her if she wanted anything before boarding the bus, water? Food? Candy? She said no. He got a bottle of water and bar of chocolate and slipped them into his bag. She felt repulsion and overwhelming love at the same time. She wanted to turn, grab his arm and put it around her neck and rest on his shoulders. He’d turn his head and smell her hair. They’d entwine their fingers and he would start tracing the tiny scar on her index finger, over and over again, the scar from her childhood when she accidentally shut the door over her hand. She tried to hold the tears back, she was tired of them.
He felt her eyes staring at him from the reflection on the window. He always knew when she was looking at him, he fancied he even knew when she was thinking about him. He was all to aware of the gap between them, of her leaning away from him, trying to get away. He wanted to touch her, but he knew she wouldn’t let him, he wanted to touch her anyway. Grab her and not let her go, even if she’s kicking and screaming, hold her head against his chest as she cries. He wanted to make love to her, make love to her and keep the pain away. He wanted to heal her.
He caught a whiff of her hair and breathed in deeply and held it.
It was a 3 hour ride to the city, to the clinic, neither of them spoke a single word to each other the entire way.
The city roared with sounds, smells and sights. They made their way to the clinic, dodging traffic and walkers alike. When they had to cross a busy road he’d switch sides and put himself towards the on coming traffic, then he’d switch sides again on the divider, always keeping her on the far end of the approaching traffic. She wanted to hold him then, hold him and tell him she loved him like she used to before this whole thing. She’d hold him and tackle him down on the bed, hold his head and feel his breath on her breasts as he fell asleep. Then she thought about the little piece of life in her belly, his and her life, combined and made into one and headed to the slaughter house and the hatred came back. Hatred that threatened to consume everything in it’s path. She imagined him going under the wheels of an oncoming truck. Blood, brains and bone on the black tar road under the burning heat of the march sun.
She realizes with horror what she just witnessed in her head and starts shaking. Fear replaces hatred replaces self loathing. She’s shaking now, he sees and puts his hand around her, she jerks away, he turns and resumes walking, eyes shaded, and shoulders straight.
He waits for her in the lounge of the clinic as she walks in with an attendant. Behind his sunglasses he studies those around him. Young men, old men young women, old women, all the same, here to resolve a declared problem, declared by whom? doesn’t matter, he thinks. The walls are covered with posters and images of contraceptives and condoms, and information on how to use them. Some were about family planning, most seemed to prefer prevention rather than responsibility. He closes his eyes.
She wakes him up with a nudge. The first thing he sees are her bloodshot eyes, she’d cried a lot. Then he registered the blank look on her face, the painkiller, he presumed. They made their way back through the congested roads and the traffic to the bus depot, and from there the receding city, the growing fields and occasionally the ocean on their left. He’d asked her if she was hurting, she’d said no. he asked her if she wanted to eat something, she’d said no. She stared straight ahead or out of the window, but never at him.
The bus pulled in to their stop and they get out and start walking to her apartment in silence. When they reach it she turns to him and looks into his tinted sunglasses and tells him she doesn’t want to see him anymore. She tells him not to call her or even talk to her if they should run into each other. She does this simply, with no hatred or sadness or any other emotion. She also says bye. He nods his head once, the sunglasses slip a little and he pushes them back. Then she turns and walks away, leaving him alone on the street. He watches her shut the door behind her before turning and walking away.
He reaches his own apartment and walks up the stairs, his back straight, shoulders stiff, head held up high. He walks up the 5 stories to his flat, and takes his shoes off before stepping inside and closing the door behind him.
Inside he’s sitting on a chair, his sunglasses resting on the floor, his hands over his eyes and head, shoulders slumped and shaking gently, the yellow evening light from a window falling over his head, like some ironical halo.