The bleeding starts on a Wednesday morning. We are sitting at the counter, and he is drinking coffee and I am drinking orange juice, and through the window we can see the breaking waves. We are drinking and watching and talking, and if I let myself drink and watch and talk I can forget how I am coming unstitched in my guts.
After an hour we get up from the counter and I go to the bathroom, and I know I will see it there, the red smear, but I go anyway and I wipe anyway and I breathe in and out anyway. I hold the paper in my hand and I look for the window that will show me the sea and I stand there for minutes or days, and the patchworked paper looks back at me.
At the register he drops fifty cents in the tips jar and I tell him I should go to the hospital. I tell him, I will go to the hospital, you don’t have to come. He puts on his mask of practised concern and says that of course he will come with me, of course, as though he would go to the ends of the earth to make sure that I survived but the child did not.
The hospital is on the way home anyway. It is late morning and there are children with broken arms and an old man with blue hands, and a woman with a round belly whose companion is crying openly. The triage nurse asks us why we are here, and I tell her why I am here and I tell her why he is here. She gives me a Panadol and a styrofoam cup and we sit around the corner where no one can see us, and the waiting room leads out to a playground and a child drops down a plastic slide. On the mounted television Channel 7 is playing High School Musical and I look at Zac Efron’s face and I think, Every time I look at Zac Efron’s face from now on, I will think of this waiting room and that child on the slide and the bitter scratch of the Panadol because the water cooler was out of order.
During an ad break the woman with the round belly gets called in. She can’t even go upright. They bring her a wheelchair and her companion pushes it and they are both crying, and in her crying I can hear the pitched ending where she wants to scream but won’t, because she is in polite company. The child on the slide comes inside and follows them to the radiology department, which I know is the radiology department because I have had ultrasounds there before but none of them have been like this.
He gets chips from the vending machine in the corridor but doesn’t offer them around, which is fine because I don’t like salt and vinegar anyway. On the TV, Zac Efron sings to a piano and the other girl who was his girlfriend for a while. My insides are lit in rows of candles and the Panadol is doing nothing, but it doesn’t matter because these are the minutes I need to remember, the minutes before they called us in and before we knew for certain, before he was right and I was void.
High School Musical finishes and it is two o’clock in the afternoon and we are still sitting. I go to the bathroom and look at the red river delta and sit on the sink and clutch the inevitability in my hands and push it into the mirror. When I go back out, the woman with the round belly is not there but her companion is and the child from the slide, and they stand in the waiting room and their faces are so black they are invisible.
He eats his chips and watches High School Musical 2 and puts his hand on my knee for reassurance. It is three o’clock and the shifts change and I watch the new doctors come in, and in the middle of the doctor pack is the one with the ghost skin and the sunken eyes, and I recognise her from the time I had to go in an ambulance years earlier. I know immediately that this is the doctor who will deliver my bad news, not wrapped in a soft blanket but thrown from a car window and picked up by a convict later on.
A nurse calls my name, and I pretend it’s someone else’s name until a minute has passed and I have to go. He goes too, walks with his arm around me which is a bad idea because I can hear the relief churning in his bone marrow and I want to run away from the radiology department but equally I don’t want to rupture and die in the hallway. We walk for a hundred years. I listen to the people in the wards, at the beginnings of their lives and the endings of their lives and the parts of their lives that don’t have time attributions. At the end of the hallway we go into an ultrasound room and my face disappears and my body climbs out of the window and I stand there naked, just the torn and bruised shreds of my uterus in the blue room.
The doctor with the ghost skin comes in and I lie my uterus down on the bench and she runs the machine over the top of it, but I already know, and we already know, and I put my hand to the purple organ crying on the bench and it sighs and weeps against my skin. He stands in the corner and watches the screen and he knows it last of all, when the doctor with the sunken eyes points at the white smudge where the baby was and says, Your baby has died.
All the breath goes out of the room in a second and I hear it rush back up the hallway and back to the waiting room and back to the bit that leads out to the playground and rewind the television to watch High School Musical. He squeezes my hand and the doctor leaves the room and we sit with my defunct womb between us and I cry and he cries, and we are both sitting in the blue room, crying for different reasons, and I call out the window for my body to come back so we can go home, but it is standing on the beach watching the storm come in.
My crying aggravates him and we fight on the balcony and he drives away. I call his phone because I am sorry for crying, I am sorry for my body escaping from the window and I am sorry he had to come down to the water to retrieve it instead of going to bed early because he has work in the morning. But his phone is off and I sit in my living room and then I get up and try all the doors to see if there is a dying room here too, but there isn’t.
On Thursday I have to go back to the hospital so they can tell me if my uterus needs to be scraped out. His phone is still off so I call my friend and my friend comes with me to the ultrasound but he doesn’t come into the room with me, so I lie there on my own and the doctor tells me I will have to come back for surgery. I think I should pray, but I don’t know how or who to pray to or which words to use, or if they still hear you if you don’t say “amen”, because I have always felt stupid saying “amen”, so I decide not to pray. I drive my friend to his girlfriend’s house, and I try to call to say sorry but his phone is still off.
In the car my body is disfigured and furious. I feel it happening, feel the end crouching and shouting. I cannot sit I cannot stand I cannot breathe but my friend does not have a driver’s license so I just drive and hope I don’t hit anyone. We get to his girlfriend’s house and I skip-walk to the toilet out the back and the door doesn’t even close but I throw myself down and I feel the whole of my eternity cracking open and I bear down and breathe and bear down and the pain is in my spine and in my nerves and it is hatching from my cervix and the bathroom is too small and too big and I feel everything and nothing and then I
and hold the dead baby in the palm of my hand, except it’s not a dead baby but just bits and pieces of stuff from inside my body, and it smells like a butcher. I feel empty like all of the water has been drained out of me. In the next room they are making lamb pizzas and the smells blend together and I am sick everywhere. My friend calls the nurse hotline and they ask if I am in shock, and maybe I am but how would I know if I was? so I sit on the little wall by the back door and my friend rolls me a cigarette and I try calling the number again but the phone is still off, and now I have dumped my red river all over the pavement.