This One Time, 52

This one time I was walking out along the cliff, pushing the baby in the huge-wheeled off-road stroller. There was a defined trail along the edge for the most part, but the rail had fallen down in a bunch of places and in some of those places the trail kind of forked away from the edge and was a bit rougher.

Technically all this land belonged to my grandfather, but the cliff’s edge had an easement from the county to allow public access to the view. This was a bit of a sticking point sometimes, since that meant that the county was supposed to put up benches and trash cans and, occasionally, send someone to empty them. But the onshore breeze made a huge effort to empty them on its own schedule into grandpa’s acreage. Sometimes I just came out here to police things to some bare minimum and put the lids back on and make sure the county was up-to-date on where the rails were down and where the trail needed maintenance.

Other than tending the baby, it was the only thing I could make myself do to feel useful. And it was still a big effort. But if the weather was nice out, I would come out and retrace my steps through where I would go to think when I got to come up here to visit when I was a little girl. I spent a lot of time at the place where I would always stop to throw rocks into the ocean.

It was awful, but most mothers will understand that sometimes when I stood there, holding little Chloe, I wondered if I had the strength to throw her out beyond the rocks at the cliff’s bottom. Or, on worse days, if I had the strength not to. My life ended the moment she was born. Throwing her over and then following her would just … make things tidier.

There was this awful little overlook where a wooden platform had been constructed, at enormous lowest-bidder expense, to stand out over the water and allow you to look down to where the sea broke against the rocks. We had at least a couple jumpers there per year. Back when the tech bubble burst, I got into big trouble at my high school economics class when I turned in as a project a business model for setting up a stand here selling tickets to the steady stream of jumpers — and slightly cheaper tickets to people who just wanted to watch. And videos. And a souvenir stand. Concessions.

The mandatory therapy was an enormous crock. That was the first time grandpa had stepped in to “save” me. The most recent time being after my shitheel boyfriend bailed when I decided to have the baby, throwing away my art scholarship and any shot of moving with him to Vancouver. I couldn’t have moved back in with mom and dad, not when they were struggling so hard already. Not after all the fights. Not after I caught mom with her boyfriend. Not after he tried to add me to his list of conquests.

In my head the ticket booth is there. And the concession stand. And, as a concession to my old therapist, a combo confessional and counseling booth. In reality, I wheel us out to the edge, where the platform of the deck is nice and springy. In my head, I gather Chloe into my arms and take a running jump. In my head, the motion sensor triggers the camera under the deck to snap a commemorative picture and the kiosk computer emails a copy to the next-of-kin in the register with any final comments.

In reality, I leave Chloe in the stroller and walk up to the rail, leaning into an onshore wind that smacks me with salt and threatens to pull away while I’m bracing on it. I lean over the edge.

In the long moment when I studied the ocean, I saw the surface of the sea as an enormous swelling membrane breathing up and down, gray and slate blue and scribbled on with white. Then it pushed upward higher, revealing the shape of a gigantic chubby hand under the surface, larger than a house, larger than any ship I’ve ever seen or even imagined. And then an arm, and a huge bald head — like a fetus the size of a city pushing against the placenta of the ocean’s pregnant surface.

I was horrified. Repulsed. The bonus, though, was that I no longer had any urge to throw in my child, or, Heaven forbid, jump in myself.

The sea was already full to bursting. And nearly ready to give birth.


February 21, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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