Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: "Something Like A Vacuum Consumes Her"

Ronda imagines resting somewhere narrow. Her thighs are white and cold and spread wide. There is something like a vacuum cleaner. There is something like a basin or a pail. There are two stirrups holding her feet. She is scared. She is terribly scared of the sound. The vacuum cleaner is sucking at her insides, droning, tugging something away, sucking at the deepest space between her legs. Something feels like metal. Something pierces her and pinches her off, then wipes her clean. But then again, it leaves behind the pail. The pink water, dripping, bleeding down a drain, a tub, a kitchen sink. Ronda forces herself to look away, to think of something else. But try as she might, what stays behind is a vision, her thighs, spread wide.


Ronda stares through her tears. ‘In a minute,’ she thinks, ‘I am going to have to get up from this chair, I am going to have to leave this office, get in my car and drive home.”

“I think…” Ronda looking up, eyes puddling, eyes pleading. “Look I know I’m not…I am thinking about the…I don’t want to talk about the abortion again today.


“It hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It hasn’t gotten any easier. I thought it would. I thought by now, I mean it’s been seven months. I thought I’d be better by now.”

“But the feelings are still there?”

Ronda nods slowly. “Yes. And more since…”

“Since what?”

“Since he…” She sees the bus. “Since he left, it’s really hit home. I’m alone. Everyone…all of them, they’re all gone. It’s terrifying.” Tears begin again in earnest. But now they fall in sheets, flowing unrestricted down her cheeks.

“Of course it is. Of course it scares you.” Dr. Fearon hands her more tissues. Ronda wipes her eyes, blows her nose. Stares into the filigree. Such a nice word. One of the prettiest she has ever heard.

“Ronda, see if you can tell me exactly what it is that scares you? Why are you so terrified to be alone? Can you talk about that a little more?” The doctor’s voice is low, soft and comforting. Every so often, Dr. Fearon acts like a friend, like somebody who would care about Ronda even if she weren’t paying for these sessions.

Ronda stares. A blank page rises and falls in front of her watery eyes. “After the abortion, it really hit me, I saw that Jack and Ben Jr. were gone, they had grown up. And I feel like I’ve fallen into a black hole. Having kids was so much a part of me and now…” She shrugs, feels so drained.

“Well, Ronda, what you’re saying is true. Your life has changed. Your kids aren’t coming home again. Not in the way they used to be there.”

Ronda’s throat tightens. She blinks.

“But think about it. You will have a new relationship with your children. And so much freedom. Isn’t that what you wanted?

When you first came to see me, didn’t you say you were happy to be free of all that responsibility?”

Ronda nods. Inhales. “Yes, yes. I did say that. But…”

“But what?”

She speaks in a whisper. “I think I wanted to keep part of the old me. Part of me wants my own life, to be free, and part of me wants to be back…not with Ben Sr., but with Jack and…the way it was with the boys.”

“The way it was when you were a younger mother?”

Ronda nods and chews a new fingernail. She stares out the window. “I don’t miss being Ben’s wife at all. But part of me,” she looks up, “part of me realizes that at least I had a life then. I belonged. It mattered that I got up in the morning. And when I got pregnant last summer, I knew I couldn’t do it, not at all, but still, I saw the possibility of a life again. I saw myself belonging again, to Jesús and…to the baby.”

“And that’s why part of you wanted not to have the abortion.”

“Yes.” She whispers, cupping her hand over her chest. Tears start to fall. “Even though I know it was the right thing. Even though I know it would have been a terrible mistake if I had the baby. I mean Jesús kept being wishy washy until finally when I pressed him, he told me, outright, he made it clear that he was dead set against it. Still, my heart wanted that baby so much.”

She makes small circles on her chest.

“Yes, Ronda. Of course you’re sad about the abortion. It was an end. A confirmation that your life as a mother, a caretaker, is over. There aren’t going to be any more babies so now you have to find new ways to live.”

Ronda looks up, feeling feeble, conscious of the black hollow all around her, the black hole she can’t climb out of, the hollow that threatens to swallow her once more. She wants to run away.

“I know I need a different perspective on things. I mean, I know I couldn’t have gone through with that pregnancy, because it would have killed me and wrecked my relationship with Jesús, but still…”


“I think the thing is, the thing that scares me is that I have been punishing myself and I can’t seem to stop.”

“That’s true. You have been really hard on yourself.”

“I want it to end. I mean, I have to be able to forgive myself.”

“Forgive yourself for what?

“For…” what she thinks first, is, ‘for the abortion.’ And then it occurs to her that she has to forgive herself for the affair, for having gotten pregnant at all. But then she thinks about it, and it doesn’t stop there. She is filled with guilt over something much deeper, something she can hardly define.

Something to do with life itself, with the ungraspable passage of time, with the simple act of living. She sits there, staring at the doctor and breathing in the spring air and suddenly she sees it. She realizes the source of her endless responsibility. She feels responsible, somehow, for not being able to keep her children small. For not being able to keep all of her loved ones, especially her parents alive.

She feels responsible for all the ways that time changes things. For the way life keeps happening. For the things she keeps losing. It is scary, terrifying, to think that she can’t do anything to keep life under control. Until this moment, sitting here, facing the doctor, it never occurred to her.

It’s too much. At least today.

“I have to forgive myself for everything,” she sighs. She looks down. She looks into the filigree. Suddenly she wants to cry out,

‘Dr. Fearon, look at the pattern. Notice how the light shifts. How it’s different every moment. And yet, it goes on. Light goes on and on, always changing.’ She lifts her eyes, wants to say that, she wants to say that and finish by saying, please, no more discussion today.

Instead, though, she gets up, takes her jacket.

“I’m so tired, I’ve just got to go home now,” she says abruptly. And she leaves, without even saying good-bye.

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