About an hour later his room grew quiet and I knew he would be looking for me. He stood in the doorway of the room. He did not like this room, my room. I could tell a fight would begin if I did not leave it and attend to whatever his need was, but I wanted to fight so I rocked more. He looked very handsome in the low light. His bone structure had become more defined from the recent weight loss and the light grazed his new cheekbones and architectural jawline. He began his speech, apologizing at first and then demanding I move out of the chair. By the time he used my full name, he was exhausted and could do no more than pantomime indescribable directions to me. I win. It was nice winning.
I stared at him for a bit and then got up to follow him to the kitchen. As I stood I watched the room spin before I realized I was falling. To my surprise he caught me. He held me for a long time in his arms saying nothing. I did not dare moved. He had not touched me in months. As he held me, I could not tell who was frailer. I could feel my ribs pressed up against his, his shoulder no more than a hard shelf I leaned on.We were the ideal. Big house, nice cars, successful good-looking couple, and we remain the ideal with all of those material things in place but filled with unhappiness. I finally gained the courage to look at him directly. His grasp tightened around me and I felt him lift me from the ground. Amazed he had the strength to carry me, I watched as he passed the open dark rooms and carried me to my bath. As he sat me on the counter I peered into the mirrored walls. I had not used this bathroom for quite some time because of them and because of the tub. He turned on the faucet and began to fill the tub while he unbuttoned my nightgown. As he took my clothes off I remembered decorating this room, pondering hours over the perfect fixtures and the perfect tub. Perfection has a price and I spared nothing to get it to look this way. I could picture it on the cover of a magazine, all but us. We did not belong in the picture. Naked, he picked me up once again and swung me into our vintage tub, the clawed feet looking ominous in the soft lighting. I slid into the warm water.
My eyes closed. I was frightened of being in the water, frightened of the way it made me feel, the way it made me remember. He grabbed the loofah and began to rub it down my back, across my shoulders. He massaged them for a bit, his grasp continuing to tighten. The massage was painful. His bony fingers dug into my thin malnourished skin. I dare not asked him to stop though, I was too tired now to fight. I winced once, right before he pushed my shoulders into the water. He held me below the surface and I sucked in the water quickly, gasping a bit at the shock but well aware that it was coming. I relax and stopped struggling, holding on to what little bit of air was in my lungs. Eventually my body would actually fight to keep me alive, fight against the drowning. But for now I let it happen.
I stared at him from below, the water swirling his face. This is what I must've looked like to it, to our baby, as I held it below the water. I'm not even sure it could see much, its eyes so young. I remember when the nurse put it in my arms at the hospital. I was sure it was a mistake. Its arms were so tiny, eyes just slits, head disproportionate to the body and hair covering its whole body. I told them to take it away and bring me my baby, the real baby. The confusion spread through the room. I begged them again bring me my baby. I did not give birth to a horrible little deformed monster and the joke they were playing was a mean one. As the nurses stared back at me in disgust I realized this creature was my child. I argued with them, explaining that I had a sonogram, I had the blood work done, I was checked for problems. It couldn't be. I refused to hold it, to go near it. For three days they tried to get me to feed it, I refused.
We left the hospital, taking the beast home with us. I forbid my friends to come by or visit. They could not see the thing I had named the gremlin, for that is what it looked like. We hired a nanny for I would not touch it. On the tenth day I sent the nanny to the store to do some shopping. I assured her I could handle it. It screamed and screamed. It refused to take a bottle from me. I was still lactating so I attempted to feed it. As it sat there it sucked away at my breast and I cried. This was not a normal child. It would never grow-up successful or be charming. It would never bring home trophies or become famous. The baby soiled itself so I gave it a bath. As it sat in the water, it began to cry. I stared at it for a long time. It did not fit in my life. My life was perfect.
I held it down, under the water. It did not take long. Its little lungs could not hold much water. It was only natural I do this, its the mother's responsibility to make sure only the strongest children survive. As it floated to the surface, lifeless, I could only breathe a sigh of relief before the nanny walked in the door. She attempted to save it to no avail. She hit me, slapped me in the face, while crying and hugging the baby, my baby. I sat on the bathroom floor, tracing the lines of the carved tub feet with my finger. The surface was so smooth and polished. Eventually, my husband came home and the police were called in. He stared at me with such hatred. Everyone did. The cops that took me away, my parents, the judge at the court hearing, they all judged me. I was not charged for the crime. I got off with a plea of temporary insanity brought on by postpartum depression. It wasn't wholly true. I knew what I was doing. I would never let that thing live in my perfect life.
My husband let go of my shoulders and I jumped to the side of the tub gasping for air. He grabbed me and hugged me. Im sorry he just kept saying, Im so sorry and how sorry he was, repeating it with increasing intensity without raising his voice. Something in his voice was thanking me though. Thanking me for ridding us of a problem that would have ruined our perfect life. I held him tight. Im sorry, I told him. Sorry that I love him so much that I had to be the strong one. He pulled me from the tub and cradled his head in my drenched lap. He cried and I pet his soggy hair, pushing away his tears. I love you so much, I told him. At that he picked up his head and stared at me telling me he loved me too.
With a jerk he stood up racing down the hallway to my room. He flicked on the lights. The nursery was in clear view now. My rocking chair in the middle of the room. I could see all the hand-painted pastel animal shapes on the wall, the elephant with the one eye that was just a little crooked. He was crazed, he opened the window and began shoving stuffed animals out of it. I could see them fall into the pool below. He picked up larger objects, the basinet, and smashed it through the window, the glass shattering as it found its way to freedom. I began to help, throwing the packages of diapers, wipes, blankets and onezies into the pool. We picked up the car seat, still in its box and shoved it out the window along with the dresser and armoire full of little mini hangers. The room was nearly empty until we saw the high chair. The last great piece in the room. We grabbed it together and tossed it to its watery grave. We watched it as it sank to the bottom of the pool, drowning with the last memories of it all. We made love that night, confirming that there would be a tomorrow for us. A cleaner, perfect, shared tomorrow.