Authors: Kimberly McCreight
For all the daughters, especially my own.
ONE CAN’T BUILD LITTLE WHITE PICKET FENCES
TO KEEP NIGHTMARES OUT.
It isn’t until afterward that I think about the bag or the bloody towels stuffed inside. They’re too big to bury, but I can’t just leave them behind. Maybe I should have been better prepared. Thought more about the details. But it’s hard to be ready for something you never imagined you’d do.
I end up taking them toward Route 17. A dumpster, I figure. Behind a gas station, maybe, or a fast-food restaurant. And then, in the morning, a trash company will come and haul the evidence away. But the gas stations are all still open, and so are the restaurants, cars parked right near the garbage, customers in and out. Too many witnesses. It isn’t until I come to Highlights, the tanning salon, that I find what I’m looking for. It’s closed and backs up to an empty lot, a dumpster tucked in a far dark corner.
My heart is pounding as I go to lift the lid. Relief—that’s what I already feel. Almost over, almost finished, the whole thing. But the top won’t budge. I jerk it once, twice. The second time I do it so hard that I bend my fingernails back. It’s chained shut. Locked tight, so someone like me can’t hide dirty secrets inside.
But I can’t look for someplace else. I don’t have time. Can’t wait one more second. Can’t take one more step.
needs to work.
need this to be over, now.
I race around the edges of the dumpster, yanking up. Looking for a sliver of weakness. Finally, I find an edge that lifts—just a few
inches, but enough, maybe. I have to shove hard to get the blood-soaked towels in, even harder to push the canvas bag through the thin crack. I’m afraid for a second it’ll get stuck. But when I push my whole weight against it, it flies through so fast that I almost smash my face against the edge of the dumpster.
When I pull my hands out, they’re covered in blood. For a second I think it’s mine. But it’s not mine. It’s the baby’s blood. All over me again, just like it was an hour ago.
If you didn’t want to come see me, I’m wondering why you’re here.
It’s nothing personal.
I didn’t think it was. But even if it were, that would be okay, too.
Because everything’s okay in therapy?
You don’t think much of the process.
No, no. I’m sorry. I’m not usually this belligerent. I didn’t used to be, anyway.
Grief can be a very powerful force.
And so this is the person I am now? This is who I’m left with?
I don’t know. Who are you now?
I have another child, you know. A little girl, Ella. She’s three. Anyway, she’s the real reason I came. For two weeks after it happened, I didn’t even get out of bed. I don’t think I touched Ella once that entire time. Didn’t hug her. Didn’t tell her everything would be okay. I wasn’t the only one who’d lost a baby. Ella lost the little sister she was so excited to meet. It
was all she’d been talking about— Wait, I need a tissue. Sorry, I’m just . . .
You don’t have to apologize for being upset. You’ve experienced an incredible tragedy, Molly. Some would say losing a child is the single most traumatic experience a person can have.
Is that why I feel this way?
Like I died that day, too. And there’s nothing that’s going to bring me back.
Maybe we should start at the beginning. Molly, I think it’s time you told me how you lost the baby.