by Cheryl Murfin
The end, after all, is merely a re-telling of the beginning. Of a beginning. One. Whichever point in time that you believe is the beginning of your story. Or, the beginning of the end.
Rebecca realizes as she walks into the emergency room that she is approaching the other end of a circle, one that started five years ago, possibly that very first night with Adam, and ends today in this place, with it’s sterile walls and antiseptic smells and watery, indecipherable black-gray images. This hard place with its fixed points and measurements and expectations.
She sits down in the waiting room and waits while Paul parks the car. As the circle closes and she waits to be called back to the exam room, this alone is the difference between the beginning and the end of the story. This story. The fact that Paul is parking the car. The fact that he will walk through the same sliding glass doors through which she just passed and will sit down beside her. He’ll pick up her hand and run slow circles in her palm as they wait together.
Together. This is the difference. The cold steel and vinyl table on which she laid alone, when Adam was nowhere in site. When Adam was sitting at a breakfast table sharing a pleasant coffee with one of his many exes. Perhaps it was Natalie, but Rebecca will never know. And she no longer cares. Because the message was so much louder than the details.
Adam was not there.
They are losing a baby, who, like the one before was a complete surprise, unexpected, scary, overwhelming, but equally theirs. It was a presence created without any tinge of guilt, or the heavy weight of knowing so little about the man that accompanied the surreal double-lined window on that little stick she held in her hands just a few weeks after she met Adam.
The end of the circle is Paul, unsure about anything, no sure whether there is a forever with Rebecca but laying all those worries down to be present to this moment, to Rebecca, to the heartbeat that will or will not flutter on the screen. To the yes or no that, no matter which, will change the course of their lives.
As she sits there, Rebecca understands that she is finally reading the last chapter of the book of Adam, the last page upon which the full sum of the man, of that period in her life, is written: Adam was not there.
He never was. Neither with her on that cold table nor with her in love, in life, in anything real or sustainable. Adam was never there. And that is where she would leave him. In the empty space of nowhere.
Paul slides through the sliding doors. He reaches out to her and keeps holding her hand as they walk down the hall to the room. There he is, taking off his coat to warm her as the IV pumps fluids into her dehydrated body. Every now and then he whispers encouragement:
“It’ll be alright,” he says. “We’re going to be alright.”
And she believes him.
It’s why there is no agony. There are only those words as they wheel her down to the ultrasound and the technician searches the screen for any sign of life and finding none, shakes his head in a way that only Rebecca sees from her angle on the table. He tells them he’ll pass the results on to the doctor waiting upstairs.
Rebecca doesn’t even pump the technician for information. She is a midwife. She saw what he saw on the screen. And she is not torn up inside. She is not confused. She is simply glad that she is not alone. That Paul understands that she needed this brief gift of life, if for no other reason than to have the last child in her life –the last possibility of a child – not end in a cold white room alone. Just to have that child exist in a well of love.
This moment changes everything. The past. The future. Everything.
When they go home to wait for the miscarriage to take it’s full course, Paul is gentle, listening for any sorrow she might have. But there is no sorrow. Only joy.
This is the difference between the beginning of the circle and the end, between Adam at the start and Paul at the end. Adam could never, ever be with her, living as he did haunted by the past and always with an eye for the future. And Rebecca – now she knows, now she sees – was not there either, trapped by the same tug-o-war, oblivious to the balance at the center.
The center. The present. This is where Paul is. He is here. Now. He is here acknowledging Rebecca’s past but not allowing her to wallow in it. Understanding her desire to articulate the future, but not giving in to it. Instead, leading her gently away from the things that have strangled her for so long.
Things, like Adam. Adam, Who was not the love of her life, who was never that, who was a thing – a space, a time perhaps—that she simply needed to move through in order to learn to live. Here is Paul inviting her to breathe. And here is Rebecca discovering air.
The closing of this circle is a grace. In its life and its death, this baby, this new vinyl table, they are a miracle for Rebecca.