A tune for a swollen womb

She sleeps soundly when she is at his place. The first few times, he doesn’t mind she sleeps in late and misses breakfast and morning coffee, but after a while this becomes irritating. He decides to buy a cockerel from a neighbour, hoping the bird will wake his girlfriend with its loud singing. But the crowing doesn’t help and that bothers the man, so he takes care of it. One evening, he and his girlfriend eat a delicious rooster stew, with pointy red peppers, aubergine, courgette, and potatoes. They sprinkle plenty of salt and pepper on the dish and enjoy a few glasses of red wine after. They hold hands and whisper ‘I love you’, and move into the bedroom, where their bones contort, crackle, dislocate. A week after winter comes, she moves in.

*

‘Morning,’ she says one day, and he’s pleased she’s found the strength to get up early. ‘I’ll go and freshen up.’ She combs her hair looking at herself in the large bathroom mirror and keeps combing until she disentangles all the knots and worries in her head. She decides it’s time for a haircut, and after she is done cutting, she takes a long time analysing the strands surrounding her feet.

This hair came from me. It’s mine, she thinks. Is this the best I can do? My cells have been producing life and now there’s this dead tissue on the floor and nobody will cry for it. Is this all? She places her hands on her belly, yearning to feel movement. It is impossible. Her womb is empty and dry, a candied fruit that can feed no children, only the hopes of a desperate man who is waiting. I want the courage to tell him. She stares at her reflection and the large, blue veins around her eyes remind her of caterpillars. The day feels exhausting already, so she takes a nap on the velvet couch in the living room.

She dreams of her body pumping with life. She is laid down by the old ladies of her hometown and allows them to take care of everything. She sweats and shakes with pain and excitement, ready to meet the small person who has been living safe and quiet inside her. Her legs are open, and she grinds her teeth into calcium powder. Every bone and muscle in her body pushes him out, and out he is. The ladies clean the blood, the shit, and the placenta, and move the tired mother onto a comfortable bed.

When she wakes up, she finds herself covered with a fleece throw. There is no small person in the room, no exceptional act produced by her body, no ache between her legs. The urge is serious. She screams louder than in her dream.

*

He is much older than she is, but she never reminds him of that. It’s my fault, she thinks, he left his ex-wife pregnant. It’s my fault.

In their kitchen, it still smells of his old cat’s piss. What a tragic thing it was to put her down, poor Lucy! He makes his girlfriend a cup of Earl Grey tea and ask her to sit down with him. They sit on the sturdy chairs between the dark wood cabinets filled with stacks of plates and bowls, jars of mashed vegetables and jams, sweets, condiments that have been in there for over ten years, a few bottles of extra-virgin oil, cans of mushrooms and beans, bags of nuts, seeds, salt, sugar, and a box of eggs (the eggs are rotten, but you can’t tell until you break them and the smell hits you).

            ‘Is there anything we should talk about?’ he asks. He smiles.

            ‘Yes, but I don’t have the strength to say it,’ she says.

            ‘It’s okay. You can tell me anything.

She tells him everything she’s been worried about, and he bends in front of her, to kiss her knees and hold her hands. She falls into his arms, sobbing and then laughing, and crying hysterically. He understands and kisses her wet lips. She opens her mouth, and her silver tongue swirls into his. They kiss until spring arrives.

*

Spring comes and washes away the mould on the outside of their house. It’s still cold, but they wrap themselves in each other’s limbs and then in a pile of thick quilts. The trees grow dense, and the cicadas announce a yellow moon.

‘Have you ever seen a yellow moon before?’ she asks. He hasn’t, so they walk outside, into nature, to watch the sky expanding. Violent thunder paints the moon in purple and gold. The leaves break tenderly from their stems, heavy with rain. In front of their eyes, there is a spectacle of light and colour, then the rain turns torrential and they go back inside.

‘I think this is it,’ he says, and brings her three white candles.

She lights them and sings:

Dear Moon, I call upon your power,

amniotic fluid around the sweet meat of

my warm and swollen womb, with life

right here with the others

to hurt for the first time.

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