Amy sat on the plastic leather chair waiting of them to call her name. She wasn’t thirsty, but mindlessly swallowed from a crinkly plastic water bottle to pass the time. She had been there almost an hour, and wanted to walk out of the door about every five minutes. That made it about twelve times that she got up from he chair, moved to another identical spot, and calmed herself into waiting, just another five minutes. This had been part of her new resolution to move forward and figure out what was next. She gave up on the imaginary man who should smooth her hair, and tell her everything was going to be ok. He just wasn’t part of her reality. Finally, she felt strong enough to take that first step towards happiness. So this is what a modern woman does, right? She figures it out for herself. The fertility clinic was her first step.
The eggshell-colored room disappeared as a monotone blur. And it was cold. Why was everywhere so cold? Shivering under her layered chunky cardigan sweater and favorite red t-shirt. Yet, sweaty. Sticking to the dumb pleather office chairs. Waiting for her name to be spoken. Anticipating the word from the overweight receptionist rocking a pink floral chiffon blouse. She looked like the grandmother of a clown, a sweet grandmother, who simply forwent the white face paint in her mature age. The seasoned mother of all clowns.
But granny harlequin wasn’t enough to comfort her in this foreign environment. Not in this terrifying change-of-life situation. Amy wished she wasn’t sitting here alone. But she had dreamed for too long about her own family, Saturday picnics, preschool drawings on the fridge. Too often dreaming while taking the long route through Target, brushing her fingers over the tiny lacy dresses and baby strollers. Naturally, this did not appear to be her lot, at least not yet. But she had made up her mind. It was going to have to be her choice. To love and be loved. It was going to have to be her will, finally, that will win the day.
Finally, Madame Clown announced her name. “Amy?” Peeling her freezing thighs from the waiting room chair, she obediently shuffled behind the skinny mouse of a nurse to room number four. Directed to another uncomfortable seat to endure. Waiting for the fateful discussion about how to change the world. Her world. For the better. She took another drink.
Procedures and consent forms and projected timelines later, Amy relaxed into the prospect of a future. With a baby, with a family, with someone who would need and care for her. Not really knowing what was coming next. But at least there was a plan. She liked that. She needed that.
Even though she tried to forget what this all entailed. Eggs and unknown sperm, and freezing and dying. Complicated things she usually tried to avoid in real life. Serious things, that she was now invested in conquering.
Because when she sat still. the memories still stung. Men using her, touching her, rubbing their sweaty parts up inside her for their own pleasure, and not her own. All the times when she thought she had found “the one”. While the multitudes of males said the same words over and over, just so that they could get into her pants. She can’t help but shudder, every time.
Mentally transported back to the exam room, she was thirsty. But the bottle was now empty. So Amy swiped, twitching to open her phone screen, unconsciously distracting her parched and nauseous thoughts. That tiny yellow app automatically caught her eye. Out of habit she almost clicked it, but her fingers froze. That’s why she was here in the first place. And she had already decided: done with the men. Done with the heaping pile of lies. Done with jumping into the middle of someone else’s psychological recovery. The unknown roller coasters were too much, and it was destroying her life.
Still, trying to forget. That stupid yellow square. Back when she naively opened the vulnerable pieces of her. Sensual sickness, dizzy vomit residue. Each night pulling back deeper, locking up harder, that was all she could remember, now. Believing desperately about what they said it should have been. Ending up stabbed and bruised and bloodied by what it turned out to be. Mouth dry. Why was it so cold in here?
But today she didn’t want to worry about her unmentionable battles of the past. This was about moving forward, today. She was totally going to make this work. She needed someone. Real. And she needed it to last, more than just a one night stand or a three month addiction. She would make sure it was worth it, that it would mean something. That she wouldn’t have to keep going back to the beginning. All the plans were scheduled, and everything was going just fine.
* * * * * * *
Sixteen years later, this fantasy had slowly simmered for a decade and a half. She had those babies. She gave that dream a try. She gave meaning and purpose a shot. She carried a burden, and tried to shoulder the burden of her now teenage girls.
Now, the twins were old enough that she didn’t have to drive them to swim practice every afternoon. As young adults, they now were completely capable to be the grown ups that they so very badly wanted to be. Actually, they didn’t want her, their mother, to think about them at all. As every teenager believes, they thought knew it all. So they did not need her. At all. So much that they were hostile to the love, the time, the every part of what she tried to give to both of them. Everything that she did was for them. Everything she thought gave up, was for them.
But, somehow, it didn’t end up working. Any of it. These babies were supposed to change her world. But here she was, once again. At the bottom, on the ground, wanting, disappointed, and alone. Throwing up in her own azalea bushes on the back patio. It didn’t work. Everything that she thought would be great. A so-called loving relationships that she thought would finally satisfy her.
Now to be honest, tonight, it may have been the vodka. That sent Amy spiraling. She didn’t want to keep ending up here, in the dirt, at the conclusion her life-wondering reflection. But there was a sickening void. A lapse. A mistake. So many mistakes. That no matter how hard she tried, it wouldn’t turn out right. She wanted love. But her dreams kept dying. All of them. Whether it was her too naive love affairs. Whether it was her too painful one night stands. Whether it was her too many in-vitro casualties. Whether it was the too clear destruction of the mother vs. teenage-daughter relationship. All of her fabled choices spinning around, stumbling into each other, sliding together, bile-choking, death.
It didn’t work. As much a she tried to make it work. As much as the beginnings felt so right. The high. The fix. Charting a path to the righteous outcome. Keeping her vow to raise her daughters better than herself. Discovering the right way to live, so that her constant suffering would have some sort of meaning. The atoning thrill for her unreflective past. But really, it didn’t work.
Tribulation. Suffering. Mocking. Teenagers. And for what? A pilgrimage back to the throne of the nicely landscaped mud and muck deity. Who never spoke. Who never gave her anything. Who only received. To dust it all returned. The perpetual vomit that was Amy’s life.
The stars looked far away at 8pm. The sky wasn’t yet dark enough for her to feel the gaze of their all knowing wrath. Their eyes became more intense, she knew, as the night would go on. Such a universe that seemed to sit still, as she writhed, parched, on the ground. Most nights she had tried to be numb by now. 9pm. She knew, from experience, that it was too early to seek relief from a drunken slumber. But it was only 8pm. And unfortunately, she felt everything.
Ugh. Burp. Be grateful. They say. That’s all it comes down to? A new perspective? Maybe. She did end up with two beautiful daughters. She poured out her heart and soul into them. Sacrificed herself, a single mother, for everything that they were. And all she wanted was a little appreciation. The natural response that a family should provide. From those who were supposed to love her back. But yesterday, her older by 4 minutes daughter, Sophie, left the house. Dreading it for a while, not really believing she would go through with it, Amy knew what had happened. She ran off with her boyfriend. And she was making the same mistakes that Amy had already made.
Looking for love, searching for salvation. It was an endless quest. Yet, Amy saw it coming for her own daughters, and just couldn’t find a way to stop it. No matter how much they talked, or fought, or reasoned, or cried. But everything she did, up to this point, Amy thought she was reconstructing the foundation. She thought she was setting the standard for a better way. So a young and un-informed quest for a man, for a mis-placed expectation in one’s heart, for a taste of relief, she had hoped this wouldn’t have to run in the family anymore.
Her childhood home was not nearly as good. Amy’s abusive father, scared mother, produced an angry child. Amy remembered her 10th birthday, on nights like this, staring at the stars, waiting for her father to surprise her. “Happy Birthday, Amy,” with a hug and a kiss. She would dream this fantasy sometimes. But he didn’t come home, that night, or three nights after. She never knew where he actually ended up. But he never said those words. And her mother didn’t yell, hold him to account, or say anything about it, really. She remembered that night, as her little 10-year old self drifted off to sleep, slumped on the concrete porch outside her front door. There she vowed not to be so stupid as to wait for such love to fill her heart. Not anymore.
Amy knew she didn’t make the best decisions growing up, trying to maneuver survival alongside others. The men. The misunderstandings. The money. Survival. That is how she justified the journey. Tricked into believing there was a perfect soulmate union. Only to discover that men wanted sex. It worked in her favor, for awhile. Until the ecstatic high of sweat and bodies and dark pleasures, deadened. Hardening into a monotonous job, exposing the drug, the dopamine, the dosage that just couldn’t excite her anymore. Amy finally woke up to realize, this couldn’t be love.
But then another answer. Children. She thought. Creating a community defined by care and compassion. She rationalized. Not dependent on a man, necessarily. Not dependent on sex, necessarily, in our wonderful modern age. This could be the key. To the pure love, the physical connection, the sustenance that Amy deeply desired. So she tried that path. Sixteen years ago.
Yet this is where it always ended up. On the cold concrete. Dry-mouthed and thirsty. This evening, again, leaning on a rotting wooden planter, she fixated on the cracks. Scraping her fingernail along the broken rifts. Sun aged redwood, split open and filled with the scum of time. So many years. Sweeping, pressing the muck out of the cracks. Until the dirty slits became the unavoidable attraction. Fractures dominating the purposeful pattern of wooden beams. Realigning the container meant for life and growth. It used to look so pretty. But now, Amy really hated this backyard. It could have been so beautiful, but is now overrun with wilted weeds. There had to be a better place to call home. There should be a more hopeful garden, out there, somewhere.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:13-15)