Where Dreams Fall
A streak of blue against the white plastered wall. Alvin continues to move his paintbrush back and forth, coloring in the abyss of emptiness with life as I move a chair around the room to stick glow-in-the-dark star stickers onto the ceiling. After using up only half-a-sheet of stickers, I start feeling dizzy so I sit down on the chair and watch Alvin paint some clouds instead. He was so tenacious about decorating Laurie’s room himself, and it was the first thing he did when we moved into our new home. We haven’t even opened the boxes yet. I carefully walk towards the living room, leaning against the wall for a while until the dizziness fades away a bit. Even though Alvin doesn’t want me to do anything and just rest, I really don’t like feeling useless. After all, Laurie isn’t due until six months. I start picking up boxes and carry them a little closer to the living room to clear out the space in front of the doorway.
Alvin peeks out from Laurie’s room, and his eyes widen when he sees me putting down a box. He makes me sit down and watch him do all the work again.
“Alvin, the boxes aren’t that heavy though,” I protest.
“It’s okay, I can do the rest.”
“I’ll start opening the boxes then.”
As I open a dusty box of souvenirs from a trip we took to Paris several years ago, Alvin picks up a book and flips through the pages.
“Remember this? Les Misérables in French. I remember we bought it because we thought it was in English.”
I chuckle at the memory.
“Maybe Laurie can learn French and be the first one to read it.”
“Maybe.” I take out a few other items. “Are you done painting the room?”
“Yeah, do you want to go see it right now?” Alvin helps me get up.
Even though it was dark, I can see a glow stretching out from under the door. I turn the handle and stare around the room in wonder – at the ceiling light cover that dimly shines in the dark, at the star stickers. It’s a sky accented with stars, a moon that traces the skyline with silver in the darkness. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” Alvin quotes from a book of proverbs he picked up last week.
Winter lacks the balmy days of spring, the pours of brassy summer sunlight, the syrupy nostalgia of autumn. It’s just cold and soporific with spreads of monochromatic elegancy. All I can hear is the snow under my feet, and the integrity of that sound, that crackle, so isolate and lonely, leaves an imprint in the snow, on folded shadows as I walk towards the hospital.
It’s my fifth trip to the doctor in a week. Something’s wrong. The doctor said there was a problem with my back at first, and a few days ago, he said something might be wrong with the baby…with Laurie.
“Did you physically strain yourself in any way during the past few weeks?” he asked a couple days ago.
I hesitated. The boxes. Planting rosebushes. Gardening. Packing, unpacking. Decorating. Work. “Not really,” I said slowly.
The doctor sent a couple letters home about the problems, but I hid them. I didn’t want Alvin to know. When I came home from work or from a trip to the hospital, I felt happy watching Alvin put the crib together and shopping for blankets and baby clothes with him. It was as if nothing was wrong, as if Laurie was perfectly fine. It wouldn’t be like that if Alvin found out something wasn’t right with Laurie.
I enter the hospital and wait in front of the elevator when I see the doctor coming down the stairs.
“Hello, Mrs. Hanson.” He rubs his finger against the folder he’s holding. “Since you won’t be doing a test today, I thought it might be better if we talked in my office today.”
I follow him to the room, and he offers me a seat. He sits down in front of me and looks at the folder.
“Is something wrong?” I ask.
He opens his folder and takes out a chart and a couple other papers. “The test results from the last check-up showed us that…” He stops. I stare at him, confused.
“Mrs.Hanson, the machine we used at the last check-up was a CTG machine, and as your caregiver must have told you, it’s used to detect a baby’s heartbeat.”
I think my heart stops beating.
“We…we couldn’t detect your baby’s heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
“No, no. Are you sure?” My heart races. Everything was floating. I grasp the arms of the chair.
“Yes. I’m sorry. Three caregivers already confirmed this. There was an ultrasound that followed…”
He continues talking, and I hear him say something about suffocation and something about another chance in the future, but the words just don’t make sense. The words swirl around me, out of my reach, wiping out the colors in the room. White. Everywhere. White. From the white walls of the doctor office to the white sheets of the hospital beds, everything is white. White like the snow. White like the walls in Laurie’s room before Alvin started painting them. And the words fall into this abyss of emptiness, of this whiteness. Suffocation. I murdered my own baby.
It isn’t possible. I must be dreaming. It just isn’t possible.
I stare at his nametag. Dr.Chevalier. French. I remember Alvin suggesting that Laurie learns French a few weeks ago, and I hear the doctor say something about physical strain and stress. Dr.Chevalier. Laurie. Suffocation. Another chance. Future. I’m sorry. Murderer. Suffocation. The words spin around me as I walk out of the doctor’s office, out of the hospital. The words don’t make sense.
I don’t understand.
But I do.
I sit down on the ground and lower my head to my knees and cry.
I slowly get up, still feeling dizzy. I start walking home, stiffly forcing my feet to move, and something gets into my eyes as I walk by a group of trees.
I blink once, twice, and then I shut my eyes tightly, counting to ten before opening them again. A little better, but I can only see an undefined blur of rufous attached to the tree next to me. I clench my phone tightly in my pocket. How can I tell Alvin? I open my eyes and peer at the trees around me through unsettled contact lenses. It was a night captured in crisp strokes of the winter moon, and I make out the figure of a leaf falling before my lenses fall out.
Suffocation. Did it hurt? Unable to breath, trying to breath…I bite my lips at the thought. What was I doing when Laurie was struggling to breath? Carrying boxes?
I squint my eyes, hoping I’ll be able to read the driveway sign. I think that’s an “E.” I tiptoe and lean closer, but before I can make out the next letter, the ice layering the ground slips beneath my feet and I tumble down the slope, snow pouring down my back, into my shoes, into my gloves…This was getting out of hand. My fingers feel around my pocket. It was empty. I take off my gloves, and my bare hands freeze as they make contact with the snow in my pocket. No phone. The street must be deserted. The only sounds were my uneven breathing and the sounds of the tree branches tapping softly against each other. I slowly get up, biting my lips at the pain in my lower back and brush off the snow on my pants.
I stick my hands into my pockets and walk cautiously, placing one foot in front of the other. I was used to the raindrops of California, not the burning flakes of Colorado snow. Unable to see anything now that it was even darker, I feel around the ground around me, trying to find a way to avoid the ice. I could feel ice all around me. I sit down and slide myself carefully across the street.
A loud rumbling noise. A flash of light. Lightning? Was there even lightning here when it snowed? That’s weird though, I thought the speed of light was faster than the speed of sound. Or was it the other way around. I don’t get a chance to think about it any longer as the snow flies upward and the strident, high-pitched sounds of skidding tires and shattering glass screech and echo in my ears. Please look after Laurie.
I end up slipping again, and as I fall and tumble down a hill of rose bushes, I wonder if Laurie is doing this to me.
I open my eyes and find myself in a hospital bed. White.
Alvin is sitting on a chair next to my bed, folding and unfolding the corner of a sheet of paper. He opens his mouth to speak when he sees me looking at him but closes it. He clears his throat softly and stares at the paper. “Are..are you feeling okay?”
Was I feeling okay? The words start to swirl around me again and the whiteness of the room sucks them in, out of my reach. Was I feeling okay? The words were meaningless…like the white frosting on cupcakes. I don’t know. I don’t understand. Inverted world. Spinning. Empty.
“I…I talked with the doctor, and he thought I already knew about the problems.” He folds the paper in half. “Why…why didn’t you tell me?”
I turn away and focus my eyes outside, at the sky, where there is color. The clouds wrap part of the sky in a clammy shroud but where there aren’t any clouds, there is a deep blue. A streak of blue in the midst of gray clouds. And it seems so near, so close. But there’s a window between me and the sky. And I stare at that streak of deep blue, and I notice that…that it’s actually deep and empty as well.
Dreams fall into the reality of fiction.