There was no excuse. I had no more excuses and had to go in to find out what there was to find out. When I opened the door, the eyes that looked at me were shocking. It seemed that in this situation everyone should keep to themselves and leave me the hell alone.
I avoided those eyes and walked in as if no one else existed. There were open chairs, but I avoided those as well and stood to the side of the entrance, far from anyone, and faced the registration area until the people standing in line sat down. I would wait all day if I had to. After twenty minutes, the last person finally sat down and I walked up to the receptionist as if I had just walked in.
In a voice that only she could hear, I said, “I’m here to get my results.”
“Your test results?”
I looked at her as if she had asked the most stupid question imaginable. Which she had. I tried to take a deep breath, but felt air going in and out of me in shallow pants. I was afraid she could hear me. My blood rippled with a bitter stirring that came with the growth of anger and hatred.
While thinking of how to respond to her without swearing, and while I stared her down with a look I hoped stripped her of any confidence in her intelligence, she asked with sincere gentility and care, “Your name? It will be a moment. As you can see there are quite a few people waiting as well.”
My breathing slowed and lengthened, and my blood steadily sweetened. Yet, I knew my face revealed a distasteful covering.
“I’m sorry,” she continued. “You could come back in about a half an hour. I’m sure it will take a bit longer than that before I get to your name.”
She was not pretty by anyone’s standards, with her hair seeming to not have seen a comb or afro pick in weeks and her teeth hovering on the brink of needing a jet sprayer. Her words, however, glazed her features with a gentile beauty. Even so, I could not bear to think of walking past those following eyes again. It was not mid-morning, and no doubt, there would be more people entering as those thirty minutes ticked by, each person tracking me as if ready to shoot poisoned darts from their eyes when I returned.
I gave her my name, thanked her, and walked over to a corner that lacked chairs and instead was stocked with a plastic tree-plant thing that looked as real as I felt. I pushed up against the plastic tree-plant, glad that it would not lash out at me for having the audacity of getting too close. And it did not have eyes. I waited there.
Time, I began to believe, had its own life and weight while I waited, not looking at anyone. I felt the pressure of ticking time and everyone’s digging focus on me, and I imagined myself disintegrating into a mist that clung to the tree-plant thing like a thin sheet of dust.
No air blew and I remained clinging. I never thought that dust could stay in one place for so long without being dealt with.
I gathered myself and walked languidly toward the receptionist. Remembering her facet of beauty, I managed a smile.
“You can go in now. The nurse practitioner will go over your results.”
I followed the receptionist into the medical area, passed several people sitting in chairs in the hallway, and to the door of Room No. 2. “Have a seat. The nurse will be here soon.”
“Now’s the time, Valerie,” the nurse said as she rushed in through the partially opened door. “Are you ready?” She was all smiles, as if whatever answer she gave would be a delight to my every sense.
“Can’t say that I – ”
She cut me off before I could finish, “It’s a positive!” She looked at me but did not seem to be seeing me. “Isn’t that just great! You're going to have a baby!”
Only I did not think it was great at all. She had no idea what she was talking about. Even though she was prettier than the receptionist by far, this nurse was talking even more stupidly than her.
When I failed to react to the news, the nurse slowed herself down enough to finally see me. She pulled a chair close to me, placed a hand on my knee, and said, “I guess this is not what you were hoping to hear. What’s going on, if you don’t mind me asking.”
I was facing her, looking at her, but refused to see her. If I did not see her, I did not have to answer her. There was no way I could tell her that sixteen years ago I wanted to have as many babies as I could stand, which then I figured would be about four, maybe five. After my first, who had just turned seven, I became pregnant with my second. It took a lot longer than we thought it would. This was partly my fault, working too much and not eating enough, and not being intimate enough with Jacob.
Then my life changed when Julia disappeared. After years of police investigations, it was determined that she was likely the victim of a renowned killer of little girls during that time. The Snatcher.
Depression set in even while I hounded the police every chance I had. Jacob tried to be comforting and understanding, even as he suffered in his own devastating loss for our daughter. When I had the abortion without his knowledge, that was the very short beginning of the end for us.
And now, after a chance meeting with Jacob so many years later, my test results were positive.