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We lost the baby. The last time I lost one, I wrote a check, changed my phone number, and moved to Boston for school. Misplaced might be a better word. Willfully misplaced. Sort of like ‘losing your phone’ so you don’t have to be bothered with it. I watched Erin’s stillness, her breathing at 12 cycles per minute, the same rhythm ocean surf waves against the shore. Three sleepless nights, and finally a veneer of peace. I wanted to contact the baby soul depository and barter a trade. I was usually good at that sort of thing.

I walked to the nurse’s station and borrowed the area directory. No listings under ‘soul’ except fish feeders and palm readers. I called a palm reader named Regina’s Revelations, but got an automated recording. I flipped through to ‘punishment.’ An ad for Then ‘justice.’ A listing for the Boston Association for Justice and Peace. I called. They were closed. I walked back to Erin’s room and the sea of cards, quietly reading from an already-opened stack. I wanted to tear into new envelopes and find one that said ‘gangrene,’ or ‘ovaries,’ or ‘feet.’ They were all positive, which was a lie. I looked up at the half of Erin above the sheet-line, the part that was human. I followed the curves of the blankets that covered a mess of tubes and army of sensors that spilled from her lower intestine and replaced her legs, like a mechanical jellyfish. The large blue box beside her fluttered two small blips, Erin stirred and settled, her torso alive for a brief moment. Everything below her waist had been black, her uterus was gone, her stomach blown apart and hanging in tatters beneath her skin. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be through her arm, not her throat, for the rest of her life. I hope her life is short. I hope mine is too.

I picked up a bouquet with another note about hope, but Erin liked flowers, so I carefully lifted it and moved across the room. It would look good on the empty ledge beneath the window. The city was busy today, but the sky was quiet. The trees tried to blend the silence into the city, but it didn’t work. I need a tree, perhaps it will blend silence into me. Two commercial airliners traced scars across the sky, I wondered if I could call them and they could pick me up. Or perhaps I could take the emergency chopper, it had been sitting on the roof for three days. People would say, ‘Why did he take it? It should be used for saving lives!’ They wouldn’t know that it would be saving mine. A small bird smashed into the window and I dropped the vase, petals and stems exploding on the glossy white floor. Erin yelped and tried to sit up, arms flailing against the blankets, almost like she was swimming. But I just watched the sparrow fall, pinwheeling with shattered wings twenty stories to the ground, its broken body disappearing amidst a sea of moving people.


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