My Husband Had a Name Once and So Once Did My Son

When I come home at night from yoga, I am so heartless, I cannot even pet the dog. I would rather sit on my hands than reach out to touch his fur, even when he nuzzles next to me on the couch.

Why are you sitting like that? my husband asks. Isn’t that uncomfortable?

I’m practicing, I say.

My husband does not ask: For what? Once we danced around this room rehearsing the tango for our wedding. Now he picks up the crumpled tissues scattered about the living room floor.

I’m going to bed, he says. Namaste, I tell him. I do not turn my head. I sit there, still and silent, until even the dog gives up and leaves.

 

At the shelter, they said this dog was sweet and loving, a great family dog, the kind that wouldn’t mind a baby squeezing its wet nose or mounting it like a horse, the kind that would prance around the living room with the baby on its back and, even with the baby’s chubby, flat feet kicking its sides, would still give its slobbery grin.

They didn’t tell us about the dog’s one bad habit—tissues are his catnip; he is in love with the bathroom trash.

This didn’t used to be such a problem.

 

There is another doctor now, another doctor my husband wants to see.

My husband had a name once. Then we got married and I called him only Love. When my body grew so round that I couldn’t move much on the yoga mat, once or twice I called him Daddy. To try it out in the air, to see his face shine.

In the thick of it there on the hospital bed, when I had asked: Am I still alive?, trying to joke, trying to laugh through the hurt, I was crazy with pain. There was a crowd of doctors in the room but it was him, my husband, who had to tell me. He said: Yes, but the baby—

 

The plan was this: first the dog and then would come his rider.

What were you thinking of, my husband asks, stroking my hair. When you were lying there pushing him out, what were you thinking of?

He is hoping for a message of love. He is waiting for me to say our child’s name. But I wasn’t thinking anything. I was watching the men at the foot of the bed who were watching me. I was wishing I could squeeze my legs shut and start again.

Breathe past the pain, my yoga teacher says. She is talking about bodies. I am talking about bodies too. Small ones, still ones, pink-yellow-gray-blue.

 

This new doctor says: I’m afraid there’s a good chance each time it will be like this.

My husband crushes the paper cup in his hand, then goes straight for the mound of tissues in his pocket. What kind of good chance is that? he says. What kind of luck?

If my husband had a name, now would be the time to take his hand and say it.

The dog will be in heaven with the bathroom trash tonight.

 

In the evenings, I tell him I am going to yoga. Okay, my husband says, when what he means is: Again?

I place my mat now always at the back; I prefer to be invisible. The teacher says: Breathe past the pain. The teacher says: If you don’t want to do what I am doing, do your own thing. So I never follow along. I brush a dog hair from my mat and crouch back into child’s pose, forehead to the ground. I am good at staying still, while in my mind, a whir of motion, as some other body emerges from my own, begins to move, twisting itself letter by letter into the shape of his name.

 

Whose name? Which name? Your husband’s or your son’s?

Both. Always. Forever and ever as long as I still live.

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