John Beeson
T he pregnancy made Estella mostly paralyzed. From the sternum down especially, and spotty in other places. The doctor shook her head. "I've seen little comparable."
Not being able to feel like she used to was especially annoying when she had sex. It was like when she was young, walking from bed to the bathroom with two feet asleep. But it was worse than that.
She bent her pinky toe back along the side of her foot on the coffee table one night. It was her husband that pointed it out to her.
She dropped a bottle of applesauce in the store. She used her walker, took off her shoes and stepped on the glass in her bare feet. She wanted to feel it. The produce man had to clean up the blood yellow sauce (they were under-staffed).
While she waited for the baby, she did movements the doctor said would supposedly help. She used a bath towel for stretching exercises. Milo, a high school kid, picked her up on Tuesdays and Thursdays in his green Cobra. He took her to therapy.
Toward the end of the pregnancy she ate only cold things. A broth that put blisters on the roof of her mouth and the inside of her cheeks made her like cold things. Cold things were safe and she could feel them better. She hated when her food slid out on her chin.
She smoked cigarettes constantly. She could usually get them lit, but seldom exerted energy to knock off the ashes on the end. She would just leave it in her mouth until finished. There were ashes in their house, also, all over the front of her. Her clothes and her chair were grey, black. Her husband spent time at night vacuuming. She burned herself once with her lighter, on purpose. In between her fingers. To feel.
She never hit the baby when he was born. She only pushed on him, pinched him at times. She couldn't really hit.
Her husband caught her pinching their baby one night late. It wasn't the first time. He turned her in. The police had her speak her confessional into a cassette recorder.
Her husband, the guards told her later, had bought a truck with their savings and was trucking Liquid Oxygen with their son. He worked mainly the northwestern states.
She spent time hitting the back of her head to the cement wall in her cell. Beth, in the next cell, said she heard a "non-stop knocking." "It was there when I fell asleep, and there when I woke up." Beth called the guards. They hadn't heard the knocking; they hated the clean-up.

First published: October 1997