You’ll Always Have a Story
by Laura Schuller
Just a few weeks ago the air was still warm and quiet, there was no hurry, only glowing skin on skin. Now time is of the essence, the wind is urging the trees to shed their dying leaves. Change, the only constant in live, they say. The magic of the forever reapeating circle, lost on my body, which is simply tired and confused. Maybe it is just transitioning, unlike me, taking part in it, playing its small role, knowing something I can’t fully seem to grasp. As if I need another reminder that I am part of this.
I sit in my gynaecologist’s waiting room between pregnant women, posters of healthy happy babies and pamphlets of an Oxford study on the pill. I know I am part of this. I grab the newspaper. Tell me about the non-cyclic world or something like that, I think. The headline reads Men and women. The big difference. Should men be better protected or is this a tabu?. I put it back on the little table, I am certainly not in the mood for this. I exchange brief glances with the other women, I don’t know them but there’s this odd feeling of unspoken familiarity. I am wondering about their stories and remember something you once said to me: ‘If something terrible happens to people, the only options they have is either to complain or feel bad about it. I envy you, as a writer you’ll always have a story.’
Well, I’m sorry my love, I don’t have one. Maybe I am all out of story. Write what you have, they say. Currently the only thing I have is a broken heart and what looks like a little plastic double hook in my uterus. You wouldn’t catch anything with it, in a way that’s the whole point. It almost looks like a little cross, I guess the church wouldn’t agree with the analogy though, because clearly there must be the devil at work.
‘Please take it out of me,’ I say like I’m asking a priest to perform an exorcism. I do lie there, not like a possessed spider hanging from the roof with my head twisted 180 degrees, but definitely a bug on the back with its limbs hanging in the air, in need of some assistance.
‘Are you sure?’ the doctor asks.
I nod vigorously.
‘Ok then,’ she says while putting on a fresh pair of gloves.
No further questions asked and I’m thankful for it. No comment on how these kinds of mini-hooks are supposed to be a 3-year plan – as if I need another reminder of that – not something you change within just a few weeks like your dirty bed sheets maybe or an ugly birthday present you’d like to return. Simply lying there already feels enough like a test on how well and responsibly you cope with your womanhood, measured by how casually you chitchat while you have various instruments inside of you, how effortlessly you can talk about the functions or dysfunctions of your reproductive organs like they are some sort of detached object to marvel at. Eventually I guess how much pain you can tolerate and how well you can manage all of your different bodies; the sexual one, the natural one, the emotional one, the physical one and the sometimes crowded and awkward get-together of all of them at the gynaecologist’s. I’m wondering if the women in the waiting room feel the same or if they manage to perform all of those unwritten rules, slip in out and out of their bodies more elegantly. What about those with the big bellies, do they feel less or more so?
‘This will be slightly uncomfortable, but the good news is it will be very fast.’
I wish this would be true more often.
She takes some sort of forceps and says, ‘I need you to take a deep breath now and exhale while cuffing very strongly.’
I take the first deep inhale in a long while and before I can really feel the cramp like profound pull inside of me, it is already over. Gone. I wish this would be true more often. A deep inhale, a profound exhale and all is well.
‘That’s it!’ she holds the forceps with the little hook up and smiles like a proud fisherman.
‘Don’t worry if you might spot in the next days.’
She throws it in the trash. The ceremony is over. There you go, right into the trash, I think, along with my 3-year plan of just you and me in a very small and preserved container, hooked to each other. What sounds like a rather stuffy and horrible plan, seemed to be a reasonable desire at some point. I try to think of some clever parting words, but I can’t come up with anything. It wasn’t your fault? Isn’t that what they sometimes say. Whose fault was it anyways? Mine for wanting to become a sardine in a can? I put on my clothes, schedule an appointment in 6 months and leave the practice as fast as I can, relieved.
Later at home I open the window, hoping that the fresh autumn air has a renewing effect on me as well. I let myself fall on the bed, the cool breeze is slowly tightening my skin and letting the hair on my arms rise up. I can still feel the soft pulsating pain inside of me. It comes with a side of shame, believing that this might have been a story worth telling. However, one day you are just a few milligrams lighter and it slowly dawns on you that you have been as much a cliché as roses are red, love lifts you up where you belong and all that jazz. Clichés are especially hard to endure for the ego. Seriously believing you are the special one under this sun, the chosen one by love, able to dissolve trouble-free. It’s not your broken heart, sometimes it’s your broken ego. In writing you would never use a cliché, it is considered a lack of original thought, unimaginative, lazy even. Eventually it turned out that the only interesting part was my gynaecologist performing the lost art of a modern closing ritual. I take out my phone, open our message history, only blue bubbles. Maybe this a story of ghosts. I swipe left, there’s another little trash bin. Are you sure. Writing is rewriting, they say. I nod again, less vigorously. All the stories I used to know or retold myself transformed at some point into depressing tales. The story of happily ever after, the princess kissing the frog, being saved by a knight in shining armour, all of it changed into a mere story on the importance of endings. My body feels different now, still heavy, tired and confused, but different. The desire to dissolve persists while the radiant and warm summer bodies will soon feel like a distant memory. You’ll always have a story. A story to entertain strangers at cocktail parties if you are the kind of person to attend these, but there’s more to it, the purifying and thrilling relief of writing and telling it.
Maybe this is just a very short story, a tender lullaby, whose soothing and terrifying sound you’ll forget over and over again, only for it to turn out to be your own heartbeat. A story shaped like a fleshy house, that you’ll be forced to revisit again and again, in pain, in joy, in love and in despair, no matter how much you wish not to. A reminder you do need. A tale much older, much more universal than the princess and the frog, shameful at times and barely tolerable at others, it goes like this: for better or for worse, I am.