Monday, August 21, 2017

Nocturne in the Key of Maternity

At work, two mothers are having a conversation near me. One has a child growing within her body and the other has already born two. I am sterile and cannot have children. This is an important fact. The experienced mother is touching the expectant mother on the abdomen. I know that this is not uncommon in workplaces where people are either very good friends or have poor boundaries. Or both.

I don’t understand most of what they are saying. I ‘get’ the words. The three of us agree about the grammar of our sounds enough to confirm the context of a shared language. Stairs, car, child all mean the same things. Hope, love, benediction: those words are not so clear. Perhaps that is why I have no idea of what they are talking about.

You may be wondering if this is all a cold philosophical sham because I am angry that I cannot share in their joy of giving birth—that act which I was always told was the ultimate meaning-bearer for any woman. For a time, I indulged in that brand of ressentiment with abandon. My rage at my sterility was visceral. The fact it was brought on by problematic decision making during a trip to Europe when I was 27 did not help. But now that I am older—almost at that age when age itself sterilizes us—I feel utterly alien to them. Their conversation does not clarify itself in the course of time but becomes more opaque.

I close my eyes. Their voices are kindly, softened in the tones that two women use when they move beyond acquaintance to confidence. It is a structure of intonation. Much of the expectant mother's words come forth in a comforting, ascending scale. Perhaps it is B Flat Major: the sotto voce of a new place—the sort of music you write for a child wandering into the forest covered with the first snow that child has ever seen.

The expectant mother answers in the sort descending chromatics that assure you of how the color aubergine looks in the sunset and how it must feel to lie naked upon the warm sand and let it ease the fatigued arrangement of bones altered by the gentle force of growth.

This is as close as I can come to understanding them. I don’t know the subtleties of power and reliability—these are the crystalline outgrowths from invisible grains of dust and sand which coerce the fractures into unique, transitory forms.

I listen, keep my eyelids closed and my fingers on the keyboard. Their words describe something I thought I had reached out for. Once. Touch is an important metaphor for it does not require sight. In my nocturne, I read the stones—meticulously cut and laid—with only my fingers.

1 comment:

  1. From the notes I've already seen, there will be a lot more to this... essay? It seems episodic and one of those quest-dreams where she wanders through a lot of different symbols. Seems to be her thing. I have my work "cut out" for me, heh. Anyway, I don't know just how much of it will make it here on the blog. Ada really wants to do this up as a Zine.