She Resents Vera Wang
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Prejudice"
Originally featured on 03-09-2009
As part of our series "Bursting Into '09"

You can hear the bootstraps in her voice, the pulling it together, with none of the vulnerability that makes females likeable, the long bangs and the coos. I visit her, nearly always, in the mornings.

In the mornings, she makes me coffee because she loves me and we drink too much vanilla crème in it, a smooth, soup of a beverage. Her mom-hair has a barrette in it. She didn’t notice that only children wear that kind. It makes her look mildly retarded, like she doesn’t know better, but she says it keeps the hair out of her eyes. She holds her third child in her lap and rocks it and rocks it. This third one has a cleft chin and eyes like a beetle. She believes in him, that he will be a good man. No one ever talks about the way that babies are deformed. The way that they have cradle cap full of greasy scales, chemical, formula driven, bowel movements, the way they can arch their backs and scream for hours, having not yet developed the ability to be comforted. The baby sits on her emptied stomach. Now sitting on a sling of skin and fat, instead of tightly encapsulated inside it. I can almost see the hernia between her stomach muscles.

She urges me to stop talking, while the child transitions to sleep, and I do. I don’t want him awake. I see his fat wrist fall to his side from on top of his chest and it makes me remember being vulnerable. I pull a book from the table while she hums, not wanting to be in this moment. I read it, needing something to be beyond sad, to be my own kind of hurt. I need an individualized hurt, unshared and purer than singing to accidental, predatory babies. I want someone to mention that parts of the female body literally tear apart, to grow babies and to get them out. Not stretching, not healing, broken, unrepairable, except by surgery. I want someone to say it.

When there is too much inertia, everyone ends up with children, who become barbs, and follow the forward moving adults, always. Hers are already attached. I hate that she goes to community college part time so that she can pick up one of the other ones off the bus at 3:42. She mentions that she’s thinking about becoming a dental assistant as she stirs her second cup of coffee and I think of her, covered in saliva, tiny bits of food flying toward her covered eyes, brought out by sharp picks. This new job not much different than her current one.

She seems happy about this and I don’t understand. We need to address our need to waste time. That we all have a lot to spend. I think of the placid people sitting in cafes, staring out, having lost interest in appearing busy. The moving mothers never speak to them as they wait in line for their cups at 8:32 am. They move their fingers on the cardboard of their cups, a soft whirring sound, like traffic.

I rented the movie The Bridge for us to watch. It’s about people committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t think she’ll like it. I need her to remember. To address this. She says that she doesn’t want to watch it. I ignore her. I put it in. It doesn’t even mean anything, just wasn’t normal, didn’t involve daily sequence. The opposite of her relentless momentum. Something outside of it. She says she needs to go check on her napping two year old and I sit. If we took out the babies, we’d just see a woman, mopping, stirring, and cooing, for eighteen years.

It’s silent for a good twenty minutes. She doesn’t come back and I don’t want to get her. She may be breastfeeding. Literally emptying herself into their mouths. I look at the couches with their throw pillows. Seven in alternating green print and beige solid. I notice strange little flowers, hand embroidered, in every right bottom corner. She fixed these objects because she had a hard time staying here. Something had to pay and it may as well be the throw pillows. These children seem to have fallen out of her, with no thought. A hormonal impulse, a reaction, a confusing discharge of a result.

I lean back and notice a saliva mark on the couch, the size of my hand. I imagine the drooped baby lips, the pinkness of them. The way it is ok for them to leak. All over those with sense. Over every clean, adult, complicated, developed thing. Pushing it all back to its beginnings. Erasing what was accomplished. An adult woman, covered in spit, chanting ABC’s.

She comes back after forever with a new shirt and I know she leaked. She doesn’t mention it, but the sagginess of her body makes me think of nothing but deflation and I see a literal cost. Something was there and now it’s empty. She does not see her body as a metaphor and it’s not ok for me to say it.

She eyes my shoes, which I left by the door. She tells me they are cute, but I know she hates it. That I spent money on it and I haven’t bought baby wipes, ever. She resents Vera Wang, personally, and with fervor. Nothing is offered for her sack of a self. The designs Vera and her counterparts offer have too many jewel tones, nothing matches baby oatmeal or hugs tired feet. Too many expectations in crafted waistbands. And her eyes have come to favor muted pastels. Nothing too strong, for she is an earth mother, an asexual being. I wanted to give her my new shoes, because she needed their color, but I knew she wouldn’t take them.

The movie plays and it’s twenty more minutes of silence. An old man walks along the bridge, a jumpy camera following. He steps over the rail, like it’s part of an obstacle course. He steps off without hesitation. He is the only one to do so. The rest, younger, more life left in them, sit on railings, cry out for help. Some of them do make the jump. But it’s more of a fall. Not as deliberate. The errors of the young, the disgusting melancholy of it. Barney plays somewhere in the house and it is an odd juxtaposition to these images.

I ask her why she had children and she looks at me with both an empty and contemptuous look. Like there used to be hate there. She says that she always wanted to be a mother. I tell her that that is not a role; that is something that happens to you, like being a Caucasian or a cancer patient. She tells me that it fills her and it is the best thing that she has ever done. She tells me that she just wants her kids to be happy and she does not consider that her mother wanted her to be happy and I do not address this.

She has to pee after twenty minutes and I never will tell her that childbirth weakens pelvic floor muscles and that she may need some form of Depends by the time she’s in her fifties. None of her friends will speak of this either. They’ll just silently leave, in quiet rotation, to pee at malls, at baby showers, at Walmarts. Nothing will be said of uterine prolapse. They’ll pretend like it doesn’t happen and just walk around with parts of their bodies literally falling off their frames.

She told me the movie was disgusting and that she didn’t have time for this. She had laundry to do. She was not angry though, just had too much inertia. I stood to leave and accidentally kicked over my coffee by my feet. We rushed to clean it up, but it left a beige stain on the carpet.

Read More By Alice Clark

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