S/tick is pleased to present a new story from Aimée Jodoin! Check out Aimée's website and find her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.
Confounded by the implications of the twinge in her womb, the girl is not comforted by the soft curve of the car’s passenger seat hugging her minutely thickening thighs and slouching, curled spine. The sun streaking in through the smudged window squarely positioned above her right shoulder does not warm her, only her moist skin, the recent papercut from her anthropology textbook on her hand stinging from the salt in her sweat. The sun instead plagues her with a melancholy sense of dreamlike disillusionment, brought on in addition to the daffodil-yellow rays by the thrumming ache deep in her abdomen, over which her hands delicately lie, prodding the sensitive, hardening flesh. The boyfriend in the driver’s seat beside her, though miles away, does not possess eyes capable of looking at the girl, though her own gaze falls over the contours of the boyfriend’s face, tracing the line that follows the point of the widow’s peak high on the tanned forehead and swoops down over the tip of the nose toward the pinked lips. They once caressed the pearl of the girl’s nipple but which now are only able to be firmly pursed, offering on occasion a faint twitch that cannot be recognized by the girl who has never had this alien experience with anyone she trusts, or does not trust, let alone the boyfriend.
Her hands trembling over her stomach, unsoothed by the purr of the boyfriend’s car’s engine, capture the girl’s attention, and she watches them, wondering how many fingers the thing they are trying to touch bears. Her fingernails are bright red, a color which evokes to the girl some sense of irony, though she cannot claim to understand about what or where the irony lies. Tracing the streaks of red which did not quite meld into the rest of the liquid to become smooth, the girl recalls the chill of the polish as she slid the brush over her nail and the pleasure that elicited a smile from her as she watched as her hands transform from plain and boyish to attractive and slim. She just wanted to look pretty for the boyfriend, her first, but likely not last. She realizes, mesmerized by her hands, that she is only going through with this procedure, not because of the fierce, feminine independence with which she believed she was endowed, but because she knows that she cannot do it on her own right now and that she does not want to spend forever with the boyfriend.
When the flash of hot color outside the smudged window conjectures to the girl that time will continue to pass, that leaves will continue to transmorph and whither and miraculously reappear, her neck twists to carry her gaze to the placation of the autumn-sharpened hues of the forest sprinkled along the road, and the boyfriend is no longer visible in her periphery. With his face now disappeared, there is only just the girl and the blurred, oranging forest outside, the majesty and awe-inducing color, leaves flickering in the chilled wind, a haven of a facade, masking the decay of the woods. The illusion of the forest blurring past provides for the girl a blissful evocation that she and the boyfriend are inhabiting a time machine, lunging into the unknown under the protection of the boyfriend’s car, while the world outside disintegrates then begins to flourish again as the foundation for new and better species, as she and the boyfriend remain the same in age and looks and circumstance. They hurtle through time, never changing, the thing inside her never growing, so she and the boyfriend will never have to deal with their consequences, one way or another.
She allows herself for only a few seconds the relief of this dream, but the truth of it seeps quickly back into the car; she and the boyfriend are the ones growing older and shooting forward through time. This truth for the girl is so easy to forget, especially in the past few dwindling months, in which she and the boyfriend spent their evenings cozying up on the couch in front of the television after long days earning rent and growing tired. The flashes from the television screen remove from the girl the dread that comes with the memory of the open space that awaits her in the future. She doesn’t know what the boyfriend sees or does not see when they curl together on the floral-stained couch, blinking away the exhaustion that haunts them, and this lack of knowledge paired with his half responses to questions is a constant reminder to the girl that they will soon be parting ways, maybe after he is done with school, maybe after the father of the girl finally passes away, maybe quite soon after the procedure.
The scene outside the window suddenly becomes clear, a brick thrift shop and a pizza dive emerging in the square out which she stares, and the lurch of the boyfriend’s rickety car flings her head toward the dash. Out the windshield, the girl sees from the spot the boyfriend maneuvered the car between fading yellow lines the building to which the boyfriend has agreed to take the girl. They both press the buttons at their hips, the clicks releasing the reluctant constraints that slide over their bodies to unleash them from the seats of the car. Exiting the car warily, the girl makes herself pretend that she and the boyfriend are only going to a store. This is the only way she knows that will allow her to bring herself to enter the building. The plopping of the flat soles of the boyfriend’s shoes against the pavement and the chirping of a bird reinforcing its nest for the last night before its migratory flight slow the steps of the girl, so when she finally reaches the door, she has come to a complete halt. Holding the door open for the girl, the boyfriend moves aside for her to enter, while his eyes search for some crack in the sidewalk or some pink gum stuck in the flowerbed—whose thorny bushes are withering in the dirt next to the door—that lies next to the building. As she edges through the door, the girl almost forgets the color of the boyfriend’s eyes.
At the front desk across from the entry to the room, the secretary taps the pen in her hand against the edge of the desk. The earrings perched on either side of her small head glisten in the fluorescence of the lights above her, and the glasses she wears are thin and sleek. Recalling that her mother had worn glasses like these once, the girl wonders if the propensity for diminishing vision lurks in her genes.
After the girl provides the secretary with her name, she turns to find the boyfriend has already found a seat across the room, in one of the maroon plastic-upholstered chairs near a flowering plant on a wooden side table, which also displays magazines with titles the girl dreads to see. The boyfriend does not look at the girl as her feet shuffle her over to him, and a spark of anger pinches in the chest of the girl. One quick glance from the boyfriend would bring her a pinch of comfort, or at least some recognition that he is ensconced in pain and fear just as much as she.
No sooner does the girl place herself in the seat beside the boyfriend does the feared wait abruptly end. The room behind the wall must be already prepared, as if the doctors are constantly dealing with a stream of girls like her, who come, who lay, who cry, who leave, ever providing the next girl with the opportunity to get the procedure over with as soon as they arrive.
The name of the girl sprawled out into the air, leaving the nurse’s mouth like an ambivalent cacophony oblivious to the ears of other girls in the room whom the girl does not wish to know her name, breaks the silence of the tense room. The boyfriend stands first, turning, when his aloneness is noticed, toward the sitting girl, who remains for a moment on the stiff seat. Before the boyfriend lifts his hand to usher the girl to her feet, the legs of the nurse bend and begin to beeline toward the pair. Those legs, clad in pink cotton scrubs, move in the nuanced way the girl understands she will never witness from the thing that depends so much on her now and will for the rest of its miniscule life. The girl’s own legs push, and her body raises to meet the gaze of the nurse and to extend her hand. The nurse accepts it, though the girl can tell from the wrinkled brow of the nurse that not many girls have the wherewithal to use their manners when in this building.
Through the door and into a hallway the nurse leads the girl and the boyfriend, who is following them but lagging behind. The girl only now realizes the extent to which the boyfriend does not want to be here. The bright room into which the trio enters is filled with metallic tools in misshaped holders, all which surround a bench-like table, not unlike to that of a dentist chair. The nurse offers some comforting commands then exits the room, closing the door to allow the girl and the boyfriend a few moments of confrontational conversation, but the lack of a nurse is only met with silence. The boyfriend, who can barrel on for an hour about the video game he managed to beat or the football match which won him and his friends one hundred dollars, has never been this quiet.
A few minutes pass, and the door to the room opens to reveal the glowing face of a tall woman in a white jacket. A name tag is pinned to the pen-housing pocket of the jacket, but the girl refuses to allow her eyes to fall upon it.
There are questions asked of the girl, so many questions, but the one inquiry of which she is not asked is the answer to which the girl most yearns to announce: why.
The woman with the white jacket then asks if she is sure, and the girl makes a nod that does not mean yes but I think so. The bare stripe of flesh that peeks from between the top of her jeans and the hem of her t-shirt reaches the cool plastic of the bench, and her vertebrae unfurl as they slowly lower her bony back onto the crinkling, safe tissue, her zipping brain conjuring up that moment that incited the harrowing realization in her three days ago when she was sitting on that isolating porcelain seat, awaiting the drops of blood that would never come.
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