Silence, Screams, Serenades

Mark Brazaitis

From the living-room window of the Boston apartment Ariel had moved into with her husband, Summit, when she was three months pregnant, she could see, off to her right, the intersection of Serenade and Division. Twice a day, she noticed the same blind woman negotiate her way across it. In the morning, the woman crossed both streets before heading north on Serenade. In the evening, she walked in the opposite direction. The woman was always wrapped against the January winds in a boot-length black coat, a purple scarf, and a yellow cap from which poured her long gray hair. She was never accompanied, relying only on a walking stick, which, so far as Ariel could tell (her window was at least a hundred feet from the intersection) was red.

Ariel was still pregnant. Or pregnant plus, as she was telling everyone—she was overdue.

She was having a girl. Summit hadn’t wanted to know the sex of their child, but Ariel insisted. There was the matter of painting the baby’s room, of buying her clothes, of…well…of constructing her world so the baby, and her parents, would feel secure in it. “We could either drive with the headlights on or off,” Ariel told Summit. “I’d rather see where we’re going.”

Summit had said fine. He said fine to whatever Ariel said, and sometimes this pleased her and sometimes she became annoyed at his servility. “Could you disagree with me once?” she said to him when they were deciding between baby swings that played Bach or Mozart.

“Okay,” Summit said. “I prefer Mozart.”

“But Bach’s music is supposed to be the most mind-expanding.”

“Mozart,” said Summit, whose slouch, which dated to his college days and was accentuated by his height, had grown profound in the months of Ariel’s pregnancy.

“You obviously didn’t hear me,” Ariel said.

“All right,” Summit said. “Bach.”

“Thank you.”

But the girl, whom they were going to call Carla, after Ariel’s mother, who had died of breast cancer a decade before, refused to come, even after Summit had constructed her Bach baby swing and sounds of the Goldberg Variations filled the apartment.

“She’s waiting until there’s a woman president,” Ariel joked with her Boston friends.

“She’s boycotting birth until we upgrade her stroller,” Ariel joked with her colleagues at the Boston Children’s Care Center, where she was a fifth-year resident.

“She’s waiting for the Beatles’ reunion,” Ariel joked with her best friend, Becca, over the phone before saying, gravely, “I wish she would come already. I feel like I have a metropolis growing inside me. And I haven’t slept in, I don’t know, fifteen days.”

“You’re stunningly coherent for someone who should be dead. How’s Summit treating you?”

Objectively, Summit, who was teaching as an adjunct in the philosophy department at Boston University, was doing everything Ariel could have wanted. He gave her massages. He brought her ice water. He faithfully attended all her doctor’s appointments, and he even had questions. He claimed to know exactly what to do when she went into labor.

But: “He isn’t the one who’s pregnant,” Ariel said. “So I hate him.”

Ariel asked Becca about her life, and Becca, who’d moved to San Francisco two years earlier to find a bigger audience for her folk-rock music and had released her second CD a month before, told her about the shows she’d done in their hometown of Sherman, Ohio, and elsewhere in the state. “But I told you where I’m touring next, right?” Becca said.

“Yes,” Ariel said, because she knew Becca had. But because of sleeplessness or distraction, she didn’t remember, and now her baby started kicking and she wondered if she and Summit should buy a baby-wipe warmer and she didn’t hear anything else Becca said.

 

Ariel’s father had come three days before her due date and had stayed four days after it. A couple of times she expressed regret over not choosing to have the baby induced, and her father reminded her that her mother hadn’t induced her. “She’ll come when she’s ready to see the world,” he said. They sat on the couch in the living room and stared out the window. Ariel had told him about the blind woman, and he looked forward to spotting her every morning and every evening. It was a live version of Where’s Waldo?

They each imagined the blind woman’s history. Her father, whose gray hair in the sunlight of a certain hour looked gold-red like hers, saw a sea voyage, a shipwreck, days in a storm before she was rescued. Ariel’s story was less thrilling. It was merely her own autobiography over the last several weeks plus congenital blindness: A happens, B happens, C happens. The next day, A happens, B happens, and C happens. The next day, A happens….Ariel’s pregnancy was, she imagined, akin to the woman’s blindness in the limitations it placed on her and the routines it encouraged.

on Jun 15, 16 by

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