I’m standing in my town’s ice cream shop when I notice them: the white couple smiling at me. Blonde woman standing beside a mailbox, waiting patiently for news, husband reassuringly placing a hand on her shoulder. The flyer they’re on is pink: international color of positivity in the face of infertility. They are having a hard time, my couple. That’s why they’re here in my ice cream shop. But they have faith, they’re trying, haven’t quit wanting what they want, in spite of it all.
Could you be the one?
I lick the crest of my cone slowly, examine their bullet-pointed criteria.
21 to 42 years
It’s not conscious, but somewhere inside a voice says: “Check.”
No criminal record. “Check.”
No history of mental illness.
I say, out loud to the paper, not caring if the teenager behind me churning into an icy chunk with a steady fist hears, I say: “I know this is different, Susan, Jim, but I would never wish Frida to not have been hit by that trolley. I would never look her in the face and say, ‘I choose to unmake you and your paintings and your horroring heart. I rob the woods of your little deer.’”
“It’s different,” Susan says, “you’re not Frida.”
“Plus,” adds Jim, “that was physical. A freak accident. Try another argument.”
What they don’t want of me lives. It sees through my eyes that they would prefer it dead. It knows better than to whimper, or show defeat. What they don’t want of me breathes.
“Eugenicists,” it says
The woman gasps, hand to chest.
It continues: “You want to spare yourselves. That’s not love.”
“We don’t want her to suffer,” they chime in unison. Oh—her? It was decided: A girl. Claire. Or, Vanessa. Or, Claire. She’d have red curls, love olives, sing in her sleep.
“She doesn’t want to suffer either,” I peel the words open slowly, “but she’d rather be alive, than not suffer.”
I am not talking to a piece of paper in Herrell’s Ice Cream Shop. I am not invoking Frida. I am not naming an unloved ghost Claire. I’m licking my wrist of a smudge of strawberry cream, listening to the terrible Top 40 hit blaring overhead. I’m staring at the words No history of mental illness, trying to move my feet, and leave the world where this is taped up, natural as the moon.
Will the Normal Rockwell of our time paint me standing here before it? In my jean cutoffs, finishing what’s left of a soggy cone, drugs in my blood, unwished for by strangers.