The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 42

“What do you mean?” asked Ashleigh-- a thin blonde and one of the first to laugh at Bill’s joke. “How do you stop being pregnant?”

Her friend Celia whispered something in her ear.

“Oh,” said Ashleigh, “You lost the baby, huh?” There was no sympathy that Meg could ferret out in her eyes.

Roy took off his hat and raked his fingers through his dirty-blond hair, scowling at all of them.

“Let’s move on,” he said. “And try to keep the histrionics out of what you share, please.”

The tenor of the class shifted. The rest of the students spoke about events that had somehow shaped their writing life: 9-11, an autistic sibling, divorced parents, or a dead pet. Megan anxiously scanned the room. Was anyone in the class even close to her age?

Roy pushed his hat back down low over his forehead; he looked more like a reluctant adolescent boy in the back of a high school classroom than a writing teacher. As soon as the introductions were over, he got down to business.

“Look,” he said. “Don’t waste my time with shitty first drafts that you insist moved right down your arm and out of your fingers onto the keyboard like a fucking vision. Bring in your best quality work, with a strong plot and interesting characters that actually do something in your story. Don’t make me say ‘so what?’ to another plot-less story where a girl meets a boy, they hook up, they fight, and then they break up. I want Bill and Megan to e-mail a copy of their work to all of us for next week’s workshop. Come in having read their work, marked it up, and able to talk to us about what works and what doesn’t work in their writing.”

Roy stood up.

Bill pointed to the clock in the back of the room. “Class isn’t over for another half hour,” he said.

Roy shook his head. “The clock doesn’t determine when class is over; I do.” He stuffed a bundle of papers in his backpack, hoisted it on his shoulder, and left the room.

“It’s your fault,” said Ashleigh, looking straight at Megan. “You threw him off with your stupid drama.”

“Yeah,” said Celia. She collected her book and pens off the table and shoved them in her purse. “You brought all of us down. Roy hates melodrama.” Celia tossed her straight hair over her shoulder and left the room alongside Ashleigh.

Megan sat frozen in her seat and tried not to cry. Her story hadn’t been workshopped yet, and she could already feel fat tears sliding out of the corners of her eyes. She didn’t even bother to wipe them away.

“They’re assholes,” said Bill. “They took a class with Roy in the fall, and now they think they’re God Roy’s gift to the world.”

Megan nodded. He was trying to make her feel better, which only made her feel worse. Why would she need any sympathy from this kid? She couldn’t remember being as young and cocky as Bill. Megan closed her eyes and hoped that Bill- along with everyone else in the class- would just file out and leave her alone. It was a habit she had picked up in the hospital when nurses and social workers would stop by her bed. They tried to talk to her about the baby, except that they never really let her talk about the baby-- because everyone knew that a three -month-old foetus wasn’t viable.

She searched for a tissue in her bag and blew her nose loudly.

“Did you really lose a baby?”

Startled, Megan lifted up her head. Hadn’t everyone left already? Apparently not. Abigail was sat down next to her. When had that happened? She had to stop travelling in her head. It was like waking up on the subway after missing your stop and you were now lost in a different borough.

Meg had no idea how to answer such a ridiculous question.

“I mean,” said Abigail. “It sounds like a line from a story.”

Megan laughed. It was more brittle than her laugh used to be.

“Yes. I made it up. I thought it would be fun to invent something bad that had happened to me. I mean, after all, we’re writers, right? That’s what we do.” The lie was in full bloom by now. Megan had begun to enjoy herself.

Abigail looked relieved. “That’s cool,” she said. “I make things up all the time.”

Megan looked at the clock again as soon as she heard the door shut behind Abigail,. She wondered how many times she would be looking at it during the semester, willing time away. Was there anything Megan had ever liked about being in a writer’s workshop? She didn’t think so. She only agreed to sign up for the class after her husband threw down the gauntlet and told her that she had to do something other than sit in the apartment and weep all day. This was the perfect choice-- a structured environment in the functional world where she could continue to cry.

By the time Megan got home, the sky was already darkening. It swelled with heavy clouds that suggested that bad weather was imminent. Rain or snow-- she didn’t care which one. Maybe she should have stayed outside and let herself drown. Weather was all anyone seemed to want to talk about with her anymore; as if by grounding her to the earth, the air and the sky, she wouldn’t be able to talk about the baby buried under the ground, disintegrating before it had even had a chance to form. But the baby wasn’t under the ground, or burnt into ashes. They didn’t even let Megan see the sodden detritus of whatever a miscarried foetus looked like-- maybe they had even flushed it down the toilet. It was the same way her mother used to get rid of her dead pet fish; the ones she had won at the street fairs by throwing a ping-pong ball into a fish bowl.

She could have started dinner, but she didn’t. Unpacking boxes from their not so recent move from Chicago, (had they moved last month? or the month before?) was even less appealing. She went into the bedroom and pulled down the Eiderdown quilt Megan's grandmother had made for them for after their wedding.

“It will see you through all the years of your married life,” Grandma had said. “It will keep you both warm, and your children too, when they are afraid and come into your room in the middle of the night.”

The quilt had certainly outlived their child-- and she was the only frightened person that seemed to be taking comfort under the quilt. It was where Kevin found her when he came home at midnight after a gruelling twelve hours in the hospital performing surgeries. He turned on all the lights and began to talk to Megan. It never mattered to him whether she was awake or asleep; Kevin had learned to talk to her either way, happy with whatever he could get.

“Sorry I’m so late,” he said, sliding under the quilt with her. Megan could feel all his protuberances: the cell phone attached to his belt, and his hospital ID card still hanging around his neck. He came to bed the way he went to work, as if any moment Kevin would spring up and return to the hospital if he was needed. He wrapped an arm around her and she nestled into his chest, soothed by the steady beat of his heart.

“Did you go to class?” he said, his voice already drowsy with sleep.

“Yes,” Megan said. And as if that was all the reassurance Kevin needed to slip away, he began to snore softly.

She kept her head on his chest. Megan tried to breathe with him, and willed him to take her along on his peaceful journey into sleep. She was afraid to sleep; afraid of her recurrent nightmare, a foetus ripped repeatedly from her uterus like Velcro. But sleep came anyway. It claimed her like it always did. Sleep forced Megan to look at what she spent every day trying her hardest not to see.

The Drowning Gull