Building a crib is hard. Especially when it doesn’t come with instructions. The cat crawls underneath the bottom piece and presses his face up against the springs. I swear that he’s laughing. If cats can laugh, that is. And I believe that they can, and do.
The husband sits on the floor, various crib side pieces strewn about. He ponders what goes where, and I shrug. He tries one piece, and then another. He tosses them aside on the floor. “We need a new mattress for this.”
I look at the mattress and nod in agreement; it has minor stains in a few places and has obviously been well loved. This is something I can do. I pull out my laptop and look up crib mattresses, trying to figure out which one will be the best. There are many choices. It’s hard to choose.
This is all hard.
Getting ready for a baby is hard.
We are sitting in the parking lot at Walgreens, and I do not want to get out of the car. It’s not that I’m incapable. It’s just that I simply do not want to move. But I need things. My mother in law comes around and opens my door in an attempt to inspire me to get out. I wonder offhandedly why the husband is not here. Why he did not drive me home. And I don’t get it. It’s all too hard to think about. Life is too hard.
We are in my car. It has taken me the entire drive to realize this. I look in the rearview mirror and see the carseat base. Nobody thought to take it out. A simple little thing everyone forgot, but huge. No carseat would ever attach to it. No baby would ever ride back there. I fight the urge to rip it out and throw it into the snow, run it over until it is shattered and broken.
I get out, the maternity pants I’m wearing slipping down around my hips; they’re too big now. Nothing will fit me; I haven’t been home yet, but I know this. My feet sink into the slush around the car. I hate winter. It seems so awful that the world is still moving, that it has snowed and melted, that Earth is completing these cycles and he is gone.
He is gone.
I follow my mother in law blindly through Walgreens and I throw things into the cart I am using to hold myself up. Giant bottle of ibuprofen. Yes. I hurt everywhere, in every inch of my being. Extremely tight sports bra. Check. Feminine products. Check. Caffeine. Check. I may never sleep again. I will need caffeine.
We go up to the register to pay and the clerk flips my credit card over and asks to see my identification. She looks from the identification to me and back again, and I imagine how horrid I must look for one fleeting second before I realize I don’t give a shit. It doesn’t even matter. Not without him. The clerk asks me my birthday, but I can’t remember it. My mother in law says something and steers me away with my things. Back to the car. I dimly think that I must still be in shock, and I wonder why I didn’t stay longer in the hospital. Why? Because it’s expensive. That’s why. And it won’t help.
He is gone.
The husband has gotten two out of four rails properly fastened to the crib. I am holding the third in place as he attaches it with a screwdriver.
“A few drop rail cribs have been recalled lately. But this one’s not one of them; I checked.” When he nods, I let go of the piece I’m holding and hand him the last side.
As he screws it in, he asks, “Why were they recalled?”
“Babies get caught in the drop rail. A few have died.” I shudder. Our baby dying isn’t something I want to think about.
“But not this one?”
I shake my head.
He puts down his screwdriver and shakes the last piece slightly, making sure everything stays together. “That’s good. We wouldn’t want to kill our baby and all.”
The husband is leaning on the breakfast bar when I get home, talking to his father. And eating pizza. He didn’t drive me home because he was eating pizza? I don’t understand this. I don’t understand anything. And I don’t want pizza.
I didn’t think it would be this way. I pictured coming home to be happy. Tiring, but happy. Just like I had pictured the delivery ward differently. No one expects their baby to die. I certainly hadn’t. I hadn’t seen this coming. And suddenly I was back in my life as it had been pre-pregnancy, just expected to move forward.
It hurts to walk. I move nowhere, let alone forward. I can’t believe life is expected to go on. I will not go on.
He is gone.
I sit on the couch. People visit us in seemingly random spurts, but I don’t remember who they are or when they come. I remember random details.
A single yellow rose in brown paper. I think it goes in a vase.
A handful of brownie batches still warm in their pans. They go to the fridge.
An empty cardboard box. Something had been inside it. The cat takes it over.
I do not notice these new things. I only notice the lack. When people are gone and everything is quiet, we rent a movie on demand. “Land of the Lost,” the new version. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but I am not watching. I am staring into the side room, the room where the crib and all the things had been. The things that aren’t there. The crib that is gone, broken, somewhere else.
He is dead, broken, somewhere else. Not here. The lack can never be made up for; the hole can never be filled.
He is gone.
We put the finished crib into the side room. One cat climbs inside to investigate while the other sit beneath and sniffs at the legs.
“We can’t let the baby sleep out here,” I say. “When will we switch this area with the office?”
The husband shrugs. “After the shower? Maybe we could do it then. Get some people over. Put them to work. Feed them pizza.”
I imagined how the nursery would look when it was all finished. How it would evolve as our son aged. How we could take out the drop rail; how he would become a big boy in a big bed. How it would be broken down when he was a toddler, put in to storage.
The room was never used. His things were never used. They never will be.
Somewhere in existence, there is a storage shed that is filled with baby things. Bouncer, car seat, crib, clothes, toys. Everything disassembled, broken. I don’t know where these things are; I gave up everything in the divorce. But I wouldn’t want them anyway.
They’re broken down. Unused. Unneeded.
He is gone.
Things can be broken, and broken down.
People can be broken too. He was broken.
He is gone.