“What?” Ariel said. “When?”
“I don’t know. Five days ago?”
“Five days ago?”
“Three days ago?”
“Three days ago?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Ariel asked.
“I forgot to tell you.”
Ariel thought about this. On the surface, it seemed Summit was telling the truth. But there was something suspicious about what he had told her. “She couldn’t have called,” Ariel said. “You’re only appeasing me, Summit. Lying to me. She never called because I’ve been calling her nonstop for the past seventy-two hours. She would have picked up her phone. She would have called me back. She’s either dead or she’s in a conspiracy with you to find a better mother for Carla.”
“Becca’s in Asia,” Summit said.
Ariel tried to process the information. Asia. Countries in Asia: China. Thailand. Japan.
She had a faint memory of Becca telling her she would be performing in Japan. The executives at her record company didn’t think her CD would be a success in the U.S. There was nothing on it the radio would play. She had done a show in Sherman as well as in Cleveland and Columbus, but nowhere else in the States.
“When she called,” Ariel said to Summit, “why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were sleeping.” He tried to smile. “For the first time ever. She said I shouldn’t wake you. She said congratulations on the baby and she would call again soon.”
“When is soon?” Ariel said. “When the hell is soon?”
But Summit couldn’t answer because Carla left Ariel’s nipple with the repulsion of someone who’d swallowed a fly. She released a mammoth scream. Ariel felt that all the world’s misery wasn’t sufficient to account for such a noise. Ariel thought, She’s a monster. She thought, She’s the most fragile creature ever born.
“We need to find help,” Summit said. “You need help, sweetheart. I need help. What you’re feeling is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re a doctor. You understand this. We…”
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Ariel said. “I’m tired, all right?”
Her Boston friends, even her Boston doctor-friends, had lied to her. Or if they had their own children, they had either forgotten how difficult the days after their births had been or their children had been angels. No one had mentioned hours of screaming. No one had used the words devil or banshee. No one had invoked Edvard Munch.
They visited her only in the mornings or early afternoons, and never for long. Ariel felt compelled to tell them what she was sure they wanted and expected to hear: Everything was great, great, great.
Only Becca had told her to beware. “Do you remember in high school there was a class, I forget its official name, but we used to call it Babies Having Babies? The principal railroaded all the poor girls and trailer trash into taking it. I’m sure he would have gone after me if he wasn’t terrified I’d call his wife about the dancer at the Above and Beyond Club he was dating.”
Becca, who occasionally had looked after the children of the young families in her trailer park, said the students in the class—“and it’s true, some of them were pregnant or in clear and present danger of becoming pregnant”—had to carry an egg around for a week to simulate looking after a baby. “But an egg isn’t a baby,” Becca said. “An egg is quiet. If they were carrying around eggs with lungs and tear ducts and shit-filled diapers, they would have had a better picture of parenthood.”
At the time, Ariel thought Becca was exaggerating. Becca liked to exaggerate in order to be funny.
But nothing was funny now.
And Becca was on the other side of the world.