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February 18, 2020 Fiction

On the Morning of

Kara Moskowitz

On the Morning of photo

Wake up on the morning of your baby daughter’s funeral. Have sex with your husband—half-asleep and half out-of-mind, a futile attempt to feel something like closeness, something like humanity, something. Shower—let the cold water prick your skin into goosebumps, harden your nipples. Watch the water circle the drain, imagine how it would feel to follow, melt into drops and slide, easy, away. Measure out a dime’s worth of shampoo in your palm, and then conditioner, then run a bar of soap in perfunctory traces over arms, stomach, breasts, buttocks, back. Nick your shin shaving, stare idly at the blood coursing down your foot and down the drain, and maybe this is how you do it, empty out all your insides until your shapeless skin is all that’s left. Pull on the black dress Jess picked out for you just yesterday at Saks, once it occurred to you that how could you possibly wear any of the clothes already hanging in your closet, dresses you’ve attended weddings in, suits that have made the circuit of Bar Mitzvahs, charity dinners, Rosh Hashanah brunch? Turn on the television, because it’s just so God-damned quiet, and bristle as the weatherman wishes a very happy birthday to centenarians who enjoy knitting and Civil War reenactments and attribute longevity to a glass of scotch a night for seventy-seven years straight. Look over at Mike, perched on the foot of the bed in a towel, holding socks in his hands, staring at them as if he’s never seen socks before in his life, like he has not a clue what to do with them. Watch him sigh. Feel your heart rent to pieces, all over again. Blow dry your hair and apply makeup, guided by muscle memory, realizing you’ve not even seen your reflection though you’re facing the mirror. Put on earrings—black pearl studs; your father’s old Patek Philippe; a Claddagh ring you’d gotten for Caroline on a trip to Ireland that fits on your pinky. Slide on black panty hose, even though it’s hotter than hell, because this is your baby daughter’s funeral and bare legs feel irreverent. Pull a pocketbook from a closet shelf, examine its contents—a hair clip, pilled tissues (maybe from a wedding, a depressing movie, a head cold), Starlight Mints. Add a fresh pack of tissues, even though it will turn out that you don’t actually need them, as tears won’t come even as you wish them—will them—to fall. Add a lipstick—just something a little pinkish so you don’t look washed out. Add a brush. Add Valium. Your phone. Wonder whether you should put in a bit of cash or a credit card, your driver’s license—that ingrained lesson from your Eagle Scout father, semper par and all that—but the truth is that you’d rather cut your ID into shards and scatter them from the window than have to be this person, here and now. Go downstairs, realize you’ve been trying not to, trying to prevent the inevitable. Take a sip of coffee Mike has poured you, thank God for the bitter blackness that bores down your throat. Make toast, dry—a prisoner’s breakfast, a pauper’s breakfast, all you can possibly stomach on this day. Notice the newspaper, retrieved from the end of the driveway, removed from its bag and lying on the breakfast table. Look at Mike and think, “Really?” because life doesn’t possibly just go on, you mean, does it? Catch your eye on a front-page headline: “Colombian Soccer Team Decimated in Plane Crash over Andes.” Remember there is an obituary that you barely recall writing, feel the wind knock out of you, and your heart rent to pieces again. Go to Mike, put your head next to his, breathe into his neck, the shaving cream smell Caroline so loved. Say to Mike, “We should drink water, stay hydrated,” like a fucking gym trainer, think. Through the bay window above the breakfast table, see the limousine in the driveway, wonder how the driver plans to maneuver back out to the street. Remember, from somewhere, your own mother’s funeral when you weren’t much older than Caroline. Wonder if you were even there, or if you were with a sitter somewhere, the playground or the diner eating silver dollar pancakes, but something of the limo is familiar in its strangeness, the strangeness of big machines on quiet streets where they mainly don’t go. Remember, from somewhere, when you weren’t much older than Caroline, how your heart rent to pieces, though you couldn’t have described it then. And feel your rent heart rent to pieces and pieces, again.


image: Olga Breydo