Trying to Conceive


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Bethany Marcel is an alumna of the 2020 Tin House Workshop and a Contributing Editor at Barren Magazine. Her work has been published in Literary Hub, Creative Nonfiction, Longleaf Review, Post Road  [+]

Image of Creative Nonfiction
Originally published in Creative Nonfiction #65 / Fall 2017 / Science & Religion

It’s not difficult to imagine a line. First, close your eyes. Remember when you were a child and noticed everything about the world: the light stretching just so across the baseball field, the white dog fur on the kitchen floor, the map-like lines on your mother’s stomach.
            It can’t be that hard to see a line.
            Open your eyes. Do you see it yet?
______

Hold it up to the window. To the bedroom lamp. You’re searching for light. Take it outside. Squint harder.
______

Tell your husband, I think I see something. Watch as he squints. I don’t see it, he says. Get angry with him. Think how you always notice what he doesn’t: the new restaurant downtown, your friend’s haircut. Hold it closer to his face. Does he see it now? How about now?
            Hold it closer still so that it’s almost touching the tip of his nose. Say, Try pretending it’s a Magic Eye. When he says, What’s a Magic Eye? try really, really hard not to get upset.
            Count the days.
            Twelve after.
            Three before.
            Count them again.
            (Just to make sure.)
            Twelve after.
            Three before.
            Memorize the calendar.
            Call your best friend. Call your sister. Ask when they first saw their line, the one so thick and obvious no one could have doubted it.
            Do not call your mother. You know she’s already knitting. You’ve seen it—the products of her excitement—and you don’t want to get her hopes up any more than you already have.
______

Buy your husband a new pair of glasses.
______

Lift your shirt and squeeze your breasts. Walk around the house carrying your breasts like two swollen grapefruit. How do they feel? Are they heavy? Are they hard, like cantaloupes? Wonder if you’ve ever really noticed your breasts before this. The areola, the bumps. What are the bumps called again? Have the veins always been there? Have your breasts always been this large? Poke them. But not too hard.
            Make cookies. Decide they don’t sound good anymore. But don’t cookies always sound good? Note this.
            Search for more lines. Drive to the grocery store to find them. At the store, notice the lines everywhere.
            _______________________________________

The lines of mass-produced products.

            _______________________________________

The lines of people at the checkout stands.

            _______________________________________

Feel suddenly dizzy.  

            ______Maybe it’s all the lines.______

______

But maybe it’s not.
            On the drive home, notice the overwhelming scent of cilantro. Realize the cilantro is in the trunk of the car. Aha! Your sense of smell is at an all-time high. Realize it’s actually your fingertips: you touched the cilantro at the store, and now your fingers smell like the unmistakable scent of cilantro. Say either, Shucks, or—if you’re so inclined—Fuck.
            Begin laughing so hard your belly hurts (or is that why your belly hurts?).
            Or begin crying (or is that why you’re crying?).
            Do whatever it is you need to do. Call your mother after all. She loves you more than you could possibly know. When you get home, wash your hands.
            Get on the Internet. Know it’s a mistake. Get on it anyway. Search for signs.
            Twitch in the abdomen.
            Hot flashes.

            Headaches.
            Earaches.
            Breasts feel weird.
           
Say aloud, “I am a rational woman.”
            Search for Is noticing the scent of cilantro a sign?
            Eat a cookie. Eat two cookies, or twelve. Bake some more because baking soothes you and you need to do what soothes you.
            Go to bed. In the darkness of the bedroom, reach out for your husband. Feel the lines of your two bodies against each other. Think how perfectly they fit.
______
______

Wake early the next morning, before anyone else in the house has stirred. Tiptoe into the bathroom, locking the door behind you. You don’t want your husband to see you. Not this time. Think how you must look. How the sight must be almost humorous—you squatting over a cup and pissing. Your oversized T-shirt skirting the floor. Your sallow face and your tangled lioness hair. Tell yourself you are wild and fierce and even perfect. Know it’s fine if you actually feel like you are failing or broken or a total asshole.
            Know you are perfect anyway.
            Now, close your eyes. Remember the day you first rode your bike without holding on—Look, you said. No hands. Think about how, after that, you could ride your bike for hours without ever touching the handles. Repeat this to yourself: If not today, tomorrow. If not this month, next. Whisper it so that no one else in the entire world can possibly hear it. Whisper it so quietly that it’s almost as untraceable as the line only you could see.
            Wait five minutes.
            Then look.

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