The strange, upheaving, lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the hollows of so many sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck to feel like air beneath the feet; while still she rushed along, as if two antagonistic influences were struggling in her – one to mount direct to heaven, the other to drive yawingly to some horizontal goal. And had you watched Ahab’s face that night, you would have thought that in him also two different things were warring. While his one live leg made lively echoes along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb sounded like a coffin-tap. On life and death this old man walked.

So, yes, I wanted to be alone. And eventually I got my wish. I was alone in a studio apartment that looked across an inaccessible and overgrown pit of a courtyard and looked directly into the windows of one very very loud and perpetually heart broken transexual. We all make stupid mistakes in our youth, and certainly my across-the-courtyard-tranny could blame ignorant youth when s/he would wail into the phone

“I know what it feels like to be a woman!”

Just keep in mind, young tranny,  no one really knows what it feels like to be a woman.  And, the woman across the courtyard can hear you screaming into the phone and may not take it well as she is hemorrhaging blood, anemic, hormonal (not that you are not, my dear, not that you are not), and pissed at all the idiots who have decided to start rumors about her sexual leanings (which really, are neither well defined, nor any of their business) because. . .

if you don’t want to go out with the no neck mechanical engineer in the flannel shirt and work boots who thinks you should put down that Iris Murdoch book and tell him how great his biceps look–yes, if you don’t want to go out with such a speciman as this than obviously you are a lesbian because how on earth can their be any other explanation for why she would turn you down.

I am to be defined by what I am or am not for you.  That’s what it feels like to be a woman.  Or at least, that  is what is was on that day.

What it feels like to be a woman.

Sometimes it feels like your world suddenly contracts; it has pressed you into the density of self in that corner where you sit on the floor holding the little plastic stick with a plus sign on it.  This was not the plan.  Oral contraceptives are 99% percent effective.  Well, lo and behold, there is a difference between 99% and 100%, and there really is a 1%.  Woe to the women who claim it but have not sat in that corner.  I accepted the news of my third child with tears.  Fear, agony, a hairpin curve that left me on the roadside wondering if I would ever walk again.

What it feels like to be a woman.

He walks out to the kitchen and sees me on the floor, knees pulled up, sobbing into my arms.  He comes over and crouches down in front of me.  I drop the stick and it clatters to the floor between my bare feet.  Barefoot in the kitchen.

The last time . . .(when done correctly withdrawal works 96% of the time, when done not quite correctly it works 73% of the time). . .the last time was when we discovered there really is a 4%–or maybe a 27%. . .

or rather I realized it and he just turned on me and threw out the knife:

“How did you let this happen?”

Last time.

To his credit, my husband does tend to learn from his mistakes.  So this time, he is crouching there.  He picks up the stick from between my feet and then he places it aside and envelops me.  He whispers “It’s going to be okay.”  He holds me and there we stay for –what was it–twenty minutes, an hour, forty slow seconds?  I have no idea.  Perhaps this was when I finally lost my grasp on time.  It became the dimension I could no longer process.  That could be the effect I suppose, of being knocked back to square one.

The next morning I am lying across the bed watching my boys out the window as they play in the sandy East Texas soil.  They have gotten dressed without my help.  They have eaten the pancakes I made and cleared their plates and now they have scampered out to run trucks and fill pails in their ongoing drive to reshape the earth.  I think “This is where I was supposed to move on to the next stage.  They don’t need me with that immediacy–that draining toll of Moooooo-ooom–I need you noooooooow!”  My toe has only just begun to touch the floor of that first step away, back to me.  I am selfish, I think.  What sort of mother would feel such ambivalence toward her next born.  What sort of monster.  Then I feel it.

A rush of blood.

What it feels like to be a woman.

Twelve hours ago I did not know I was pregnant, now, just as quickly, in this tide–am I not?

It is Sunday.  There is nothing I can do.  I bleed.  And I mourn.  I mourn that which I did not know I had, that which I questioned wanting.  My husband stays with me, until he senses he needs to leave me alone, but he continues to check back. If he is scared, or if he is relieved, I think he will not even allow himself to know.  He is focused on me.

The next day I call and tell my doctor.

The pregnancy test was positive,

but I’m bleeding.  

I think I miscarried.  

They tell me to come in and they will do a sonogram.

It has been over six weeks since my last period.  The technician is watching the screen as she works.  She does not look at me.  The screen is turned away.  It is silent for incalculable minutes on end. Her eyes search the screen.  Silent.

This is how bad news comes.

And then


as if asking if I want coffee

she speaks:

. . .”Would you like to hear the heartbeat?”