by sophie

there was a time my life seemed to split into two pieces. before flowers, and then, after. it was not so unlike a different moment, years and years ago, before the time I knew I was pregnant, then after. both times, my body changed entirely, what i knew of my body, what i knew it could do, and then, what it did. it was not unlike another moment, when I learned how to flip underwater at the end of the pool after a long lap across. there was before I knew how to take a certain kind of breath, then after. the flowers changed from pale pink to deep pink, to purple, then dark purple, then the color of a bruise, which is many things, and means many different colors, depending on how the bruise came to be. the first two bouquets were the same. if you ever decide to send me flowers again, I said to the one who sent them, I think I’d like a different kind of flower. I said this expecting nothing. And when another bouquet came, it was different, two thin bouquets in the box, a flurry of small red blooms. And not roses, but a flower I didn’t know the name of, and didn’t want to know. Say it with flowers, goes the saying, and the flowers said much. And the sender and I had descended into what we had begun to call a nurturing silence, these periods of time when for awhile, the bright thread of our voices didn’t pass through the wires, through the miraculous phone and the miraculous time zones, when instead, we agreed to put it down, to let the thread spin through the days, to see it everywhere, to see it, and not touch it, not name it aloud. my body knew it was pregnant long before I did. It did everything it was supposed to do, and we thought it was an ulcer, stress, tension that came from me trying to do well in my last year of high school, trying to fill in all the bubbles on tests, to just for once, get something right. I tried, for weeks, to learn that flip at the end of the pool, came up choking and sputtering each time. I tread water and watched swimmers in other lanes, ducking my head beneath the surface when they came to the lane’s end, tried to teach my body to do what theirs did. For years, seeing children made me cry, at the least expected moments. The face of a child on a bus, turning to lock eyes with me. Get it out, I said, when I found out that I was pregnant, and my mother let me return to school, to finish up the end of the day, and for a couple weeks, I had to live with it, the incomprehensible thing I carried. I never bothered before to learn the names of flowers, and I don’t know if I will now, to learn what each flower signifies, what to send to wakes, what to send to say I’m sorry. The blooms did just what they were supposed to, do just what they must: they bloom. I wake up knowing they are there. I wake up knowing that if I choose, I may go over the hill to the pool, and that my body knows now exactly how to turn underwater, how to breathe just before the turn. There is something I’d like to say about trust, about trying. About the scary new life you can get when you let go of one thing, when you choose to kill one thing. I want to say, of the abortion, that I don’t think of it as something I killed, but I do. I chose to kill one kind of life so that i could have another. There was a secret life I had for years, and I kept it until it no longer worked. At the very end of the life, I was sent flowers. And when I chose to end that life, a different kind of flower came. There is so much to be grateful for. Every night now, I make a list of what I am grateful for, and every morning, make a list of what I am turning over to the universe, all those things I have no control over. I never named the gone child, but I have a few ideas for names now. A few ideas for the kind of life I’d like to have. In the new life, I believe there will be flowers. I believe I’ll know exactly how to turn, and breathe.