I am nowhere. I am upside down and in between. I am not really here and yet I am too much here, sitting on top of myself and breathing down my own throat. But this me, this here and now, it's not me.
This here and now is just a bunch of jangled shards wedged together awkwardly, the edges never meeting where they're supposed to meet, the sharp points jutting out in all directions. A mirror smashed and pieced back together clumsily. How many years of bad luck?
But I am counting in months. And I am counting in should be's. I should be nearly eight months along now. I should be counting the intermittent staccato of kicks landed against my elasticized uterine wall.
Just when I think my brain has moved on, I wake in the night to the urging of a body that has not forgotten. I wake with my hands tingling, my classic late pregnancy symptom, and in the dark I sit up and shake my traitorous hands, shake off the pins and needles in my fingers and, when I can, the more hoary prickles in my mind.
Like a phantom limb, my body remembers the sensation of being pregnant. Still wakes me at night with tingling hands, still craves pickles and sour lemon-flavored everything. Some days I feel like I will be forced to live out this phantom pregnancy in its entirety, like I am caught in third trimester of my grief and counting the days till I birth a shadow.
Though, if truth be told, I am the one who feels like a shadow these days, like the substance of me, the depth, has gone translucent. So then perhaps I am the shadow, and time is carrying me in its belly. Perhaps the ache of being in this muffled space, this cramped and confining place, is the age old ache of growth. Perhaps caterpillars feel this in the hours between bug and butterfly, as the wings are knit together and begin to consume every millimeter of space left in the cocoon.
All I know is that if these are wings crushed up against me, these twisted and bent things, they are lifeless, bloodless things still. They are useless weight now, taking up space, choking the air. And it hurts, crammed in here with my legs pinned beneath me and my hands tingling and my maybe-wings bent and twisted around me. This doesn't feel like growth; it feels like the world is shrinking around me. Because growth is supposed to be the opening up of the world around you, not this process of outgrowing your own space, of feeling your limbs press into the walls harder and harder until you bust it wide open.
And though this doesn't feel like growth or rebirth, really, I am thinking about the nature of healing. I am thinking of scabs that heal the skin and yet sting when they peel off. I am thinking that if a door closing means a window opening, getting to the other side may mean scrambling up to the second story and squeezing yourself through a dormer window. I'm thinking how everything is always replaced with something; even when you empty a bottle, you really just fill it with air. Then, if you take that empty bottle and submerge it, the air may come screaming out and the bottle may shudder, but the water will rush in and fill the empty spaces.
So I think about a newborn butterfly, with wings that appear so mangled they will never unfold. I think how it must hurt as the blood goes pounding through those wings, how each tentative movement would sting like your foot gone to sleep and then kicked awake. I don't know how long those wings must sting, how long it must hurt to be a butterfly before the ability to fly kicks in and erases the pain of transformation.
And I think about how using images of butterflies and birth to talk about the the process of growth and change seems cliche, but then I remember there is a reason we always go back to the cocoon and the womb to understand this process. I wake in the night, shaking my hands, feeling the prickle of blood return to my fingers, thinking of the birth that will not come and the one that may, someday. I wake wondering what I will be this time, when my cocoon splits open, rubbing an empty belly with tingling hands and hoping that the pain of loss will bring some glorious transformation for me, too.