Birthday

by Amanda Rizkalla

We decided to freeze the baby. The test came back positive, with the pink plus, and he said Okay, it’s okay, we’ll just freeze the baby. I nodded. At three months, we put ice cubes on my belly, barely a bump, so that the baby might adjust better to the freezer when it came out. At six months, we wrapped frozen beach towels around its biggest, most stretch-marked center, and when the towels melted, the water dripped down and made my underwear wet, and he said Look you’re all wet for me and I said No, stop, that he wouldn’t want to make another baby, we only have one freezer. He stopped touching me.

            At eight months, I began to practice. I would name the grapes we bought from the market and give them life stories. Billy was a hotel clerk. Monica, seedless, was a musician. And then I would freeze them. Billy and all of his life and customer service, frozen. I could barely help myself. I cried and cried. Because when I squished Billy between my fingers, his frozen insides came out from the top, where the stem used to be. What are you going to do, he asked me, dying. I placed him in the center of my palm. I don’t know, I said, I don’t know. I tried to deal with the loss head-on; I drank wine, I ate raisins. I tried to encounter new grapes, even venturing onto their cousin, the blueberry. It was all too much.

            When the baby came, she was pink. Flushed. She had slipped out of me and landed in the bucket of ice he had gotten ready for her. When the doctor handed her to me, I told him to put her back with the ice, that we would start taking care of her tomorrow, that I just needed a minute, however many of them were in a day. I wondered if the freezer would make her pale or if she would be even pinker. The doctor did as we asked.

            When we got home and unloaded her, she was still warm because the hospital was only a few minutes’ drive away and there was not any traffic—it was a Sunday at noon. We put her on the counter and looked.

            This is the baby, I said.

            Her name will be Monica, he said, After the grape.

            I decided to feed Monica. She liked my milk. She burped and then gurgled and pulled on my hair. Later, when I burped, he told me it was not nearly as cute and that maybe I should be a lady. I helped her into her onesie, counted her toes, and then the T.V. show he liked was on and he said we needed to watch.

            Well, he said, Time for her to go into the freezer.

            Wait, I was just about to hold her, I said.

            He told me okay, to get on with it. My lips stayed on her pink forehead.

            When we finally put her into the freezer, it was three in the morning. I brushed her little hair, combed it back, sang her a song, then sang her another one about a starfish. I held her so close. He laid her down on the ice before closing the lid and slipping the box into the freezer, near the blue ice tray. He closed the door shut.

Amanda Rizkalla is an emerging writer from East Los Angeles. She is a student at Stanford University, where she studies English literature and creative writing.

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August 2019

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