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Doris Partner, 28 Sep '15

When he got home he was blind and deaf. Passed the sobbing girl on the couch with a stumble and fumbled his way to the kitchen water filter. Filled it up a few time and poured a few glasses down this throat. As her sobs got louder, he switched to a different glass, taking gulps of the water. After a couple of minutes he turned around and walked back over to the couch. She was, by now, heaving over her big pregnant belly, near scream like guttural cries coming out of her, in disbelief, her hand on her heart.

He cocked his head to the side, looked at her folded up on the couch, and laughed. His body slanted in a strange curved shape and swayed in the light coming in from the streetlamp, like a big banana in red pants. He laughed. “Were you here this whole time?!” He laughed again.

Through tears: “huh?”

“Were you… were you here this whole time?” he slurred. When he finally understood that the answer was yes, he made a sound between “ha” and “hm.” Looked her in her swollen, wet eyes, snickered, and walked downstairs.

She heard the erratic beeps of the broken ceiling fan in the bedroom as he turned it on.

“I can’t believe you just did that,” she texted. “We are done,” she texted. An act of desperation in the lonely indignity, or maybe a childish attempt to stop him from going to sleep as he seemed on his way to do. She had been alone for so many hours and was desperate for relief.

The act did keep him up, but maybe not in the way she wanted. It always amazed her how he could function- walk, understand words- while that drunk. But he seemed to read and understand the texts, ambled back up the stairs and slowly lurched over to her, fully Mr. Hyde now, waving his arms around his head wildly.

He yelled at her as she cried, ending with “you chose to be with me.” She answered calmly, “yes, and now I am choosing not to.” She didn’t mean it, but the clean and measured response came out like words in a story. She was also feeling precarious and protective by this time, his muscular body towering over her small arms and big belly, and she just wanted it to end. It crossed her mind when she started hyperventilating after he went downstairs that this all seemed like a bad idea for the baby, who at seven months since conception could already hear everything. She was pretty sure could go into preterm labor if agitated enough. So she stayed calm and responded with steely simplicity.

He said ok and walked back downstairs.

And that was it. She texted that she hadn’t meant what she had said but felt scared. He responded that he felt scared. And that anyway, she had nothing to be scared of because he had locked the door to the bedroom. He seemed to have forgotten how locks and directions and safety worked, though he caught the thread.

They swapped sleeping positions. He, on the couch, passed out immediately and threw off the blanket she placed on his naked body. She stayed up for hours, listing to the same song over and over, thinking that she would be up all night, would never fall asleep. But finally, late into the night, she did. She woke early, birds crowing and light streaming in from the garden. Put a dress and sandals on, took keys and walked outside.

It was surreal and beautiful out. Her eyes were still blurry from all of the crying, and she hadn’t put her glasses on. She sat a moment on the stoop and saw the neighborhood black cat, the one without the collar. Walked over to her and stood motionless for a few seconds, staring. The cat seemed more distant than usual but followed her lead and together they started walking down the block towards the neighboring elementary school. She sat numb for a long time staring at what could be a photograph, city building and sky. Came home and found him still asleep. Another interminable period of waiting. He would be out for hours, for sure, and still drunk when he woke up. Alone and waiting, she willed the baby to stay inside. The baby kicked and jutted around her now flat belly button, a sign of the hallmark resilience that had started with her miracle conception. She sat in bed watching the movements, comforted by the company and remembering that these days, she was never alone. Together they sat, as she stared into the garden.