I don’t remember what day it was when my mother called. A week ago, I think. I don’t remember what I was doing at the time. Something in my kitchen, and I was smiling. It didn’t occur to me that it might be inappropriate to be laughing when I answered the phone.
I probably blathered on to her for a full five minutes before she got to the reason for her call.
“Are you sitting down?” she asked.
I had learned in the last week to take it seriously when people suggest you brace yourself for incoming news.
“No,” I told her, “not yet. Give me a second.”
I found one the black chairs at my kitchen table and lowered myself onto it slowly. I set my feet a little farther apart on the floor and pressed my elbows into my knees. I was as solidly anchored to the earth as I could be, just in case. I took a deep breath.
“OK,” I finally said, “I’m ready.”
“You’re going to be an aunt.”
I’m already an aunt, I thought. I have two neices and a nephew. I’m already an aunt, and therefore whatever it is she’s trying to tell me is wrong. I’m already an aunt.
“Britter?” she asked, checking my pulse through the cellular connection between us.
It’s Creed. Maybe it’s Creed. Maybe, dear God, there is some girl I’ve never heard of and, oh God, let it be Creed.
And then reality blasted through my pathetic attempts at walls.
My flesh, my flesh. An aunt by flesh. By blood, an aunt. Not Creed. Jay.
Oh God, Jay.
“Oh my God,” I said.
“I know.” And then again, “I know.”
She proceeded to relay the conversations she’d had with Jay and with Bre, his girlfriend. I can’t remember now what she said, but I vividly remember the anger that washed over every inch of me.
I wanted to throw my phone. Maybe destroying the technology would make the news not true. I put my head in my free hand and clenched my teeth together, desperately trying to stave off the facts and the fear that were hammering away at me.
“It’s going to be a boy,” I said at one point. “You know it is. Son of a bitch, you know it will be a boy.”
“I know,” she said, “I said the same thing.” Of course she did, because she walks in the same fear I do, the fear that exists just beyond the circle where the boys walk without us.
Jared knelt down in front of me and placed his callused hand on my knee. “Remember, every baby -” I threw my palm out to shut him up before he could finish. I knew what he was trying to tell me. I knew he was trying to offer the same line of comfort that had been given to my mother when I was pregnant, 19 and unmarried. “Every baby deserves to have someone excited that it’s coming.” I shook my head.
This is different. This isn’t how this is supposed to happen. I should be thrilled. An aunt. By blood, an aunt. I should be thrilled.
“How do you feel?” I asked my mom, looking for guidance on what direction my heart should go.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I never thought he’d have the chance to -”
“Stop,” I begged. “Stop. Stop. Stop.”
I couldn’t bear the thought of how that sentence would end, because with it came dark truths that I still am barely able to sit with for more than a fleeting second or two.
Jay is going to be a father. Or rather… I don’t even know the proper way to describe what’s happening. Father? Parent? Dad? How can any of those words be accurate? How can you be a father to a child you never get to hold?
And what of that child?
I feel like I’ve already lost another member of my family before they even take their first breath. I’m terrified his or her fate is already sealed. I close my eyes and see this brand new life being born into that side, into the dark that my mother and I have never been able to fight off.
I’m so angry. I’m angry at the power of their father and every member of that godforsaken family. No matter what we do, we can never seem to eradicate them from our lives, from Jay and Creed’s lives. They’re like some poisonous, mystical slime that oozes in through the cracks and curls around the necks of the people I hold dear, blinding them and beckoning them. It calls to them, luring them into a cave of untold evils. She and I, though immune to the pull ourselves, seem to disappear from their site and hearing the moment the ooze touches them.
And I feel like they’ve already claimed another generation from us.
I thought writing about it would help, but it doesn’t. It’s no more safe to verbalize in type than it is to open my mouth.
I’m haunted. Tomorrow it will have been two weeks since this nightmare began, and the deadness in my chest has not lifted. I open up in spurts, and then it gets to be too much again and I disappear into a book or a nap or simple silence.
People have told me over and over again in the last 30 years that I am strong, but I can tell you, there is no strength here. There is denial and avoidance and sorrow and fear and anger, but no strength. The time alone has not helped. The four hours of joy and laughter were a welcome distraction, but it didn’t touch the monsters that stand just beyond my mind’s reach, threatening to shred the last illusions of my sanity.
None of this is getting better, or easier, or more bearable. None of this is going away.
And now, I’m going to be an aunt.