by Hannah Grieco
Amy cuts through the park near their apartment, even though it’s dark and Mark says it’s dangerous at night. She follows the path past the deserted playground.
She looks up and the trees blend into the clouds.
“No moon out tonight,” she says, her voice clear and young. A kid’s singsong. Decades peel away and she remembers in reverse.
She starts to jog, then run. She closes her eyes and moves forward smoothly, avoiding trees, sailing over obstacles. She is a Jedi, not a wife. Not a mother. Explosions of clarity light the backs of her eyelids and what a rush: imprints of her kicking the trashcan over, skipping the planetarium, racing down 3rd Avenue to Bowery to St. James to the bridge. Launching effortlessly into the sky.
She breathes deeply and lengthens her stride. She nears the edge of the park and curves to the left. One more time around. Faster. She is not done and there are words inside her that push, push against her lips.
“Wie schnell kann es fliegen?” she whispers. “So fast.”
She runs back past the swings and stops suddenly where her child once swung.
“Servecu l’aterreesage?” No, he did not. A knife in her chest.
She turns to the drinking fountain and presses the button. The water’s turned off for the winter. Like that time her husband stood right here and asked what the hell she was thinking, forgetting their son’s water bottle? It was so cold that day that hot puffs of air blasted her as he shouted, “You never learn!”
The other mothers looked away.
She is thirty-seven after all.
She pats her back pocket, outlines the edges of the debit card with her fingers.
“What do you want?” she asks, and who knows how old her voice is anymore?
There’s an ATM by the station. Three hundred dollars can get you almost anywhere.
And she takes off like a rocket.
“You lied,” Mark says. He’s right, she lied. Told him it was probably the meds or her weird cycle. He found out by reading through the papers from the hospital. A Depo shot two months ago. They’d been trying now for seven months.
“Why would you do this?”
He’s crushed, hunched over on their bed. She watches as he sobs.
“I’m worried about the Lithium,” she lies some more. “I’ve read about heart defects and goiters.”
“We discussed all that,” Mark insists, but he’s settling already. This is science, not betrayal.
Their baby is born less than a year later and looks just like his dad from the moment he crowns. He has deep black hair and their midwife, yells, “Yes, mami! A little Chicano baby!” She hands over the silent bundled boy, whispering praise in Spanish as she stitches Amy up.
The next day, Amy gets dressed, her deflating stomach hanging over her pre-pregnancy waistband as her husband debates the advantages and drawbacks of breastfeeding.
“What’s the risk of post-partum psychosis with an abrupt med stop?” Mark asks the midwife. “You say these things are safe, but how do we know for sure?”
The midwife offers her laptop, links to research studies that Mark waves away. She looks over at Amy for support.
Amy bends down and kisses the top of her son’s head.
That year the baby never smiles, never meets their gaze.
“He’s not okay, Amy,” Mark says over and over as the little boy digs his forehead into her armpit, burrowing, soothing himself with the pressure of her upper arm pushing down on the top of his head.
“You’re okay,” she tells her searching child, pressing the way he likes. He doesn’t talk, doesn’t even say “mama,” but she whispers to him and he listens, watching her lips.
The next year he is still silent. He starts pointing, finally, but never at toys he likes or the cat. He points to the window, toddles over and points up at the sky.
“What do you want?” she asks him. He points at the moon and she points too, and he smiles.
The day her parents tell her she is adopted, Amy watches Star Wars eleven times. She ignores Mark Hamill, posing under the double suns, and focuses on the charred bodies, on the walls of the trash compactor closing in, on the needles heading toward Leia as she pulls against her straps. Amy watches, barely blinking, through the day and night until the final time the credits roll as the sun rises.
Her parents are worried. Amy hears them tiptoeing around the house, talking behind their bedroom door. That week they get her a membership to the Air and Space Museum. The card has her name on it and offers a 10 percent discount at the gift shop. She takes the Metro alone and spends the day with rockets and satellites, eating astronaut ice cream and listening to families talk in languages she understands somehow.
Wie schnell kann es fliegen? How fast did he fly?
“So fast,” she says as she walks by.
Servecu l’aterreesage? Did he survive the landing?
“No.” She shakes her head. “He did not.”
Eight years later she meets a different Mark at the opening of the Hayden Planetarium, just a few days after her boyfriend breaks up with her on Valentine’s Day. The stars align and so she fishes the Lithium bottle out of her dorm room trash can. She starts going to classes again. She decides to major in earth science, like him.
“Sedimentary. Metamorphic. Igneous,” she whispers one night when she can’t sleep, testing the foreign vocabulary with her lips and tongue. “No rock cycle on the moon.”
“You’re okay,” Mark whispers back, surprising her. She didn’t know he was awake. He holds her close and she pretends it’s soothing, even though her legs jerk away, bicycling out from under the sheet.
“What do you want?” she asks, but he’s already asleep.
Hannah Grieco is a writer in Arlington, VA. She can be found online at www.hgrieco.com and on Twitter at @writesloud.