Got it, I said. Fig crazy, Fig strangles the life out of me. Fig…
The drive from the Keys back to Miami is taken across narrow patches of land that stretch out over deep blue water. I refuse to think … all the way home. I just can’t do it. I focus on the cars we pass. I look in their windows and judge their passengers: sunburned families coming from vacation, blue collared workers with bored expressions, a woman crying as she sings along with the radio. I look away when I see that one. I don’t need to be reminded about tears.When I get home, Sam has just put the baby down for the night. He studies my face and opens his mouth, the questions ready to pour out.
Don’t f**king say anything, I snap. His mouth is still hanging open when I storm up the stairs and slam my door. I hear his Jeep pull out of the driveway a few minutes later, and I peek through the drapes to make sure he’s gone. I pace around my room, flicking my fingernails, and trying to decide what to do about this mess Olivia created. Then almost abruptly, I jerk toward the hall and slip inside of the baby’s room. Tiptoeing to her crib, I peer over the edge like I expect to find a snake instead of a sleeping infant.She is on her back, her head to the side. She's managed to wriggle a hand free of Sam’s swaddling and she has it fisted and partially in her mouth. Every few seconds, she starts sucking on it so fiercely I think she is going to wake herself up. I back up a few steps in case she sees me. I don’t even know if she can see me yet. Mothers usually keep charts of these things — first smile, first burp, first whatever. I tilt my head and look at her again. She’s grown, gotten a little less — yuck. I’m surprised that I can actually see myself in her face, the curve of her nose and the sharp chin. Babies usually just look like blobs until they’re four, but this one has a little character to her face. I suppose that if any baby were to be cuter than the rest, it would be mine. I linger for another moment before stepping out. I close the door and then I open it, remembering that I am on my own tonight. No Caleb. No Sam. Not even my self-absorbed, alcoholic mother. I have watched Sam and Caleb enough with the baby to know the basics. You feed it, it craps the food out, you wipe away the crap, you put it in the crib … you drink.Oh God. I slide down the wall until my butt hits the tile, and drop my head between my knees. I can’t help feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t ask for this life — to be loved second best and to be forced to have a baby. I wanted … I wanted what Olivia had and threw away — someone who adores me even though my insides curl and lash like a poisonous snake. No! I think. I am not the poisonous snake. Olivia is. Everything that I’ve had to do is her fault. I am innocent. I fall asleep that way, sniffling and wiping my nose on my pant leg, assuring myself of my innocence and listening to my daughter breathe. Maybe she’d be better off without me. Maybe I’d be better off without her.
I wake up to a siren. Fire! I jump up, my muscles unraveling in protest. I am disoriented and not sure where I am. It is dark, still night. I place a hand against the wall and sniff for smoke. Not a siren … a baby. I am not really relieved; I might have preferred the fire. I head to the kitchen, knocking things over in my haste to find a bottle and a pack of breast milk. I swear out loud. Sam must have moved things around, because I can’t find anything. Then I see the note taped to the fridge.Damn. I look at the breast pump, which is sitting on the counter. It will take at least fifteen minutes to pump the amount she needs, and she is screaming so loud I’m afraid someone will hear and come to investigate. I see Child Protective Services showing up on my block, and I cringe. I can’t afford any more run-ins with the law.
Taking the stairs two at a time, I pause at the nursery door, taking a deep breath before pushing it open. I flick on the light and flinch. The sudden change seems to make her angrier too, so I flick it off and put on the small lamp in the corner. I remember picking the lamp out at The Pottery Barn. A brown bear … for my son. I head to the crib for my daughter. She is soaking wet. Her diaper has leaked through her clothes and onto her sheet. I set her on the changing table and pull off her onesie. Once it’s off and I’ve re-diapered her she seems to calm down, but she’s still wailing.
Shush, I say. You sound like a cat. I move to the five thousand dollar rocking chair my mother bought me and sit in it for the first time.Just a strange day, I said. Ever feel like you belong and don’t belong at the same time?
Absolutely. She nodded. Like every day since I was born. She laughed.We’re just two misfits, aren’t we, Fig? I could tell she liked that. She’d probably go home and repeat it to herself. Buy me a Christmas present and engrave the word on it.
Yup, she dragged out the middle of the word, looking resigned. Are you going to eat that? She pointed not to the pastry, but to a straw wrapper. Not many people knew about my Pica. I ate things: threads from sofa cushions, the little plastic things that attached price tags to clothes, Band-Aids, the soft plastic rings around the lids on two-gallon milk jugs. My personal favorite: toothpicks. I could eat a box of those fuckers for dessert.I picked up the straw wrapper, balling it up. For her amusement, I popped it into my mouth and chewed. She shook her head, smiling.