By Lisa Wiley
I was still bleeding. A couple of ladybug dots seeped through my cutoff jeans. The moment the matronly nurse had disconnected my arm from the IV, I knew I couldn’t go home to the space I shared with my husband and the empty crib he set up way too early. Alex wouldn’t miss drill to come pick me up. All he said was, We’re young. We’ll try again soon. And even though the child was his, I craved someone else for the only solace I might find.
I peeled out of the hospital parking lot and got as far as Gilroy, where I ran out of gas, and maybe that’s why I spent the night in a garlic field. I could smell the fields before I could see them. My best friend, Sam, had told me how the powerful scent could travel for miles. The Santa Cruz Mountains blossomed to my right, the ocean to my far left. I knew the tank didn’t have enough to reach Sam’s porch steps in San Jose, but I refused to slow my pace and refuel. The sweet strawberry fields I passed after Camp Pendleton were now a blurred memory. Why didn’t I run out of gas sooner?
Glancing in the rearview mirror, I noticed my hair needed washing, but I tucked it behind my ear and hit the gas. Married to a marine at twenty-three, I thought that’s all I ever wanted, but we never experienced newlywed bliss with deployment looming. Alex didn’t talk much to me at all. There wasn’t a funny bone in his body. He didn’t tease; he didn’t play. I was still wearing the white plastic hospital bracelet on my left wrist; I bit my lip and pressed the gas pedal harder.
At the next stop sign, I tried to digest the depth of color painted on the metal. The red was a sign. A sign to consider something else for my life. We didn’t share children yet, no custody to settle, and we could have a clean break other couples only dreamt about. I could be surrounded by mountains, fields, something more fertile.
But this nagging red was now a siren. The red, the red, the red. I miscarried. Miss carry. I carried wrong. Couldn’t carry. Couldn’t hold on. Before a baby bump was showing.
Bump, bump, bump. And then I ran out of gas.
I abandoned my useless car that stalled beside the fields and sprawled out, examining the sky. No pillow, no plan. Except for this void inside of me. This empty space I wasn’t sure I wanted my husband to fill again. This hollow space like the empty gas tank.
If I continued toward San Jose and arrived at Sam’s threshold, I knew he would put me up for the night. He would fumble trying to soothe me. He’d probably offer a beer and a hot shower and a plaid flannel blanket on his couch. He might let me lean on his shoulder until I fell asleep; he would put his arm around me, envelop me as I wallowed.
But the next morning, he would send me on my way back to my husband. I could imagine him shutting my car door after I climbed in. A good man, he would remind me of my vows to Alex and how much he loves me. He would let me go. And that release would be even worse than how empty I felt, alone, bleeding in the garlic field.
I would not push farther North. I would not set foot on his porch. The empty sky told me I could not risk that kind of rejection.