I wrote this back in 2015, but I feel like this short monologue is as relevant today, as it was when I first tried to speak out about the solidarity felt between women thrown into an experience like this.
First published by The Milo Review, it earned me a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. However, I can honestly say one of my bravest moments as a writer, was reading this piece out loud to a live audience in Portland, ME (during the WORD Portland series).
The Milo Review has since disbanded, but I feel as strongly about this character's voice, as I did when I first created her.
And to the many women out there who are still speaking up today, I want you to know, "I am with you!"
WE ALL COME HERE FROM A LONG WAY OFF
Sarah E. Caouette
It’s not who you think turns up here to wait in this room. Empty containers decorated with real flesh and bone—almost-humanlike. Preterists. Drums kicked and tumbled down alleys, and mill yards, and the gutter sides of the street—to lie with their own, in their own refuse. That one wears her mink eyes well, the curvature of her earlobes are custom-made.
And that one there, he’s a soccer player from
, who smells of fried
plantains and the honey-scent of cannabis oil he uses to medicate his knees.
Ever since he was a boy, those yellow bags drifted up from Belize . Water-logged parachutes cut
loose and sent spoiled into the sea. He and his baby brother dug holes in their
yard like a Mancala board, like they were digging their early graves. And their
mother, watching her sons from the kitchen window, flicked her brittle fingernail
against each ceramic tea cup looking for that genuine Cuba . The one who dragged those
boys down to their primo segundas when
the disease was going ‘round. Now, it’s permanently in their bones—premature
arthritis that has moved in like Strangler fig. China
He winces when his carina, sixteen years old, squeezes his leg. These clinics are for the poor. The immigrant trash who don’t receive paychecks, but under-the-table wages. Who can’t cover the flu they’ve caught on The Vineyard, stacking stones without mortar, as the biting frost sneaks in through their flimsy court shoes.
Urban decay is like a cavity of the mouth—but rooted deeper.
The young girl plays with the golden bangles on her wrist. Does she know she’s a poster child for Help the Children?
She does. Jingling pleasantly with a look to pity, taught to her when learning to beg. I want to feel as sorry for her as I feel for myself. But unlike her, I was born to ignorance and privilege.
I’m here for the paper-bag prescriptions. Some calm for the nerves. To medicate away the dead pets, the date rape, the divorces. I wait and watch a parade of girls in smocks and socks make a beeline toward a set of swinging doors. Behind which they will stick out their tongues and take confirmation. For in preparation to terminate a fetus, they like to sedate them here. Though, occasionally the guilt sneaks in quicker than expected—before the drugs can really take effect. Especially, with the first-timers, and the middle-aged career women who stumble in, in their suit and cardigan coordinates, while their husbands are away on business.
I saw a girl collapse once outside the administration window, right in the middle of signing the waiver. They stuck smelling salts under her nose, and the moment she came to she cried out,
“Fuck Je-sus!” and it was his name, not the son of God, but the one who knocked her up. And I hated him too, without knowing him—her lover—because here she was alone, and no one should be alone in a place like this.
The truth is: my friends wouldn’t come here either. The ones who eat mushrooms on the beach and paint and screw. And that’s all we ever seem to talk about other than the lines we regurgitate unoriginally. Because we don’t want to be like our parents who have forgotten us since the day we were born. Who know nothing of the society of Gogol or Zola, or the hardship that comes with entitlement and expectation.
We’re pampered little beasts, pissing in the streets in our polo shirts and loafers. Whining out literature in some frustrated guild we’ve created. Our tribe: with member fees and club jackets. And it always being in our best interest to breed.
What I’m trying to figure out is if I’m here like the others. In this windowless clinic with the pillow muffled shouts of protestors coming in through the concrete walls. I’m in a porous tomb, and I’m alone. Is this what it feels like to be dead on the inside?
Achieve! is all I hear. Succeed! is the only demand.
“My mama thinks I’m at school,” the girl leans over to whisper to the man. To which he puts a hand over her fidgeting fingers, silencing the charms on her gaunt arm.
My feeling is that the mama’s not around enough to take notice, and that maybe these things we say and do is a way of being noticed. Of how it connects the two of us—me and this young woman. Coming to this city center where I’m a nobody surrounded by nobodies. And her wanting to be a somebody, other than who she is.
They call my name and I rise. I give the couple a smile as a show of solidarity, and walk toward the swinging doors.