Her phone rests atop the bluff. Her left hand conceals the item she found in the attic three days ago. Her naked foot toes the edge. Her regrets are legion.
She’s in the same pencil skirt that she wore to her appointment that Friday. There are no pasta sauce smudges or ketchup stains near the buttons on her blouse because she hasn’t eaten.
Her pulse slows.
Life’s a round-trip ticket, she tells herself. This is just her return flight.
Gulls wail behind her. They soar overhead and hover there, casting shadows on her matted hair. Their wings cut through the noon sun. She imagines the seabirds are watching her. She imagines they are telling her to wait.
“Leave me the hell alone,” she shouts at the web-footed creatures. She rips at her hair. She yanks out a patch near her right ear. She doesn’t feel it but knows it should hurt. “Have you ever carried a life inside of you? Have you ever had milk in your breasts? You bastards are free!”
The birds fly away, leaving her to envy their self-rule. They can travel to Accra or Athens, or abandon husbands with blame-filled mouths, she thinks. Moreover, they hold no memory of their losses.
Yes, she’d dialed Dr. Greenfield. And as he’d always suggested, she’d focused on the things she was thankful for. She’d even made a list of the things she was hopeful for. Had planned to tell him that someday she wanted to wear a size six. Someday she wanted to complete her dissertation, “Unwritten heroes of the Mau Mau Uprising.” But then she realized that none of that mattered because someday she wanted to nurse Benjamin, and how could she now?
By the time the line had switched to the doc’s voicemail, she’d been ready to tell him that she now wants nothing. Because “someday” is controlled by a wretched bitch named Grief. “Someday” is buried in a wooden box no larger than a milk crate. “Someday” is her husband’s eyes avoiding hers. “Someday” is spending the length of her morning shower wondering if she’d caused this. Maybe she had too many glasses of wine that first month. Maybe it was her daily cup of coffee. Maybe she should have listened to Mother and stopped the yoga class. Come to think of it, “someday” could kiss her entire black ass.
The seagulls are back, their heads bobbing, their wings jerking. They swirl above her. They call out to her. She can hear them shouting, “Please. Wait!”
She’ll wait all right. She’ll wait exactly four hundred eighty seconds for the doc’s call, each minute representing the span of Benjamin’s tiny life.
She grips the unworn bonnet in her left hand. She’d washed the hat early in her labor, when she was still getting around. She can smell the baby powder that remains hidden between the threads. She caresses the blue and white fabric, and notices the cracked skin of her palm. It’s as if she’s seeing her hand for the first time. Her nails are overgrown. Ribbons of dirt are buried underneath. Are these her hands? They look like the hands of a dead woman.
She snaps her eyes shut. Her right foot glides into the void. Rocks tumble ahead, preparing a place for her.
She leans in and is snatched by the air. The gulls scream.
Above her, now, the phone rings.