They surround me now.
Hiding in parking lots and television sets, proudly displayed on billboards and protruding stomachs next to me in pharmacy lines. They patiently wait, these triggers, ready to remind me at traffic lights and staff meetings, during routine conversations and while playing freeze tag. Lest I forget, I am different now, brought to my knees by E Trade commercials and UPS packages. My world is a giant eggshell. One enormous minefield, every step a test.
Do you know that I still receive the text messages for "BuyBuyBaby" coupons? In a sick way, they provide some comic relief at various points in my day. My phone will chime and I will say the name aloud, chuckling to myself.
Is this really happening? This is who I am now?
I'm the lady who laughs aloud at the morbidity of innocuous puns. The lady who finds humor in giant neon reminders of her lost baby.
Your brother and I were at the park last week, and it was gorgeous out. There were several children on the playground, including Max, a very cute and very curious tow-headed one year old with rosy cheeks.
We followed Max and his father all over the park, your brother leaping to help him wobble across the footbridge, asking to hold his hand. Max's father was all smiles, thankful for the help. And then he said it.
"You must be a big brother."
I froze. The sun was shining so brightly. I didn't want to clarify, to rain all over his innocent observation slash question, but I didn't want to ignore you either, to breeze over your existence in a sentence or two. That hurts just as bad.
Before I could manage a response your brother offered one for me.
"I AM a big brother," he happily declared.
I swallowed hard. Max's father gave his apologies as Frank explained that you were not at the park because 'Baby Josie was sick.' I didn't elaborate, and the subject quickly shifted to "Do squirrels eat sausage?"
I walked away deflated. I had selfishly dodged this bullet, and now there were two more people on the planet who would never know your story. I imagined Max's father at the dinner table later that night. Over the meatloaf he would tell his wife about the charming little boy they had met at the park, his baby sister at home with the flu.
I wish it were simple. The truth is, I will never be able to convey the depths of my sadness, the impact you have had on all of us. Not in fifteen minutes on a park bench or a lifetime anywhere else. I loathe being the one who puts the looks on their faces, the one who makes them hug their children tighter.
I can't control these thoughts of you, this grief that is ever present. I ride each wave as it comes, kicking and fighting my way to the top, gripping anything I can feel and holding on for dear life until it relents, folding away under rows of itself, crashing and reeling with a promise to return.
Recently your father and I attended a wedding. Another beautiful day. After dinner I was standing outside talking with a man I had just met. We were discussing the Good Samaritan Law, among other things, when he asked about my tattoo.
I thought it over for a second, picturing myself changing before him. I would no longer be the pleasant girl outside at the wedding. I would watch myself evolve in his eyes as I had in countless others, into the the woman who lost her baby. I could feel the cloud form above me as I straddled the wave, prepared to fall.
I calmly explained how my tattoo was for you, the daughter who left me two months ago abruptly and without warning, before she was even born. The sadness seeping through my pores as I let it out, this awful thing growing in your place. I felt it rise, this monster that had been circling my veins in a silent threat, letting it breathe so that I could do the same. I felt the release as I spoke your name, felt the metal break the skin.
There was a gasp and then an apology. I watched him politely rush away, cursing myself.
"Seriously, Nora? You are at a wedding for crying out loud. Give the guy a break."
Imagine my surprise as I saw him walking back. This stranger, this father of four I had just met, tears in his eyes. He wasn't scared of you. He had only walked away to place his drink down, so that he could hug me.
With both arms.