He worked in escrow. An inspector introduced us at a charity run and we agreed to each other’s leads. He acquiesced when I prodded him on subprime, I folded when he brought up unions. We both enjoyed sushi and 5Ks. We were both born to immigrants. Spoke the same make-abuela-sigh Spanish; enough to impress our white colleagues, too basic to get jokes. We were inevitable.
I was the kind of feminist who believed in political borders, so not a feminist at all. I was a fourth-date, bourbon-drinking-panty-dropper. I went to mass some Sundays because I had a thing for guilt. I worked out. He brewed beer, rolled his Rs, and knew three guitar chords—enough to sing at barbeques and beach fires. He went to a for-profit night school, was learning management skills. He managed me, I managed him. He cooked, was enthusiastic about my work and talked about what kind of father he wanted to be. I pulled out the most intimidating of my sex toys and he played along. He threw away the clothing of his I didn’t like. I let him decide which eyebrow shape best suited my face. We were both working our way toward vegan. We adopted a rescue dog. We read books on secret love talk to better love each other.
We took engagement pictures. We chose nature as a theme. We had a wedding. Our favors were envelopes of wildflower seeds. We were eager to have babies, to graduate from couple to family. Every month I wiped, praying my lining had held and not shed. We took supplements. I sat over a bowl of herbs in steaming water and let a woman wearing latex-free gloves massage my vagina from the inside. He groaned into a cup and blamed the results on the pills he bought at the gym from a guy as cut as he wanted to be. We held hands before a counselor who had us stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. We later laughed, my legs up on the headboard so as not to spill a drop.
My eggs still said no. The baby-making attempts drained us. I said nothing when I found an ATM receipt from a titty-bar in his pocket while dropping off the dry cleaning. I started using a private browser window to research sperm banks, just in case. He began collecting reclaimed wood and piling it in our garage. I enrolled in a Spanish night class at a community college forty minutes away. We needed the time away from each other. I ate eggs: chicken eggs, duck eggs, caviar, and once, an emu egg omelet when we went to the mountains. He ate seeds, fish oil, the sexual organs of animals bought on the black market. I practiced manifesting, I chanted, I made a vision board. I bought a rose quartz crystal egg and wore it in my vaginal canal on drives back and forth to my Spanish class. I sang to my fallow matrix, trying to wake it up.
The love we had moved into so eagerly had turned cold. We gave everything to our imagined child, never blaming the other yet blaming the other for everything, in ways we never could have imagined possible. I spoke to a psychic. who told me some things were better left unsaid. He spoke to a priest who insisted we make love under candles burning for the Virgin Mary. I felt impaled by his erections, my eyes on the face of the Blessed Mother, serene and flickering on our nightstand. He approached my body perfunctorily, with the rigor of a dentist. I began praying to gods whose names I didn’t know, forgotten gods, gods who hungered. I made promises.
When autumn darkened toward winter, I told him my anxiety was activated. Nights I had class, we agreed I’d stay at a motel near campus. I hated driving in storms, and though our niño was nowhere, El Niño was having a year. I relished those nights alone; my body starfished across the mattress, no morning breath in my face or erection against my back. I slept deep sleeps, my best sleeps. I loved the scent of cheap hotel soap.
It was a rainy night. There was a stretch of highway I sometimes drove after class, the long way to my motel. I was woozy with translation. The professor had us play with Neruda’s words. I was heart-fragile; ideals of islands of bread and honey, and my beloved who found no territory in me, rising in me.
I slowed when I saw my husband walking on the side of the road in the rain, wearing no coat, carrying no umbrella. I flashed my lights, the ice of confusion in my gut as I passed him and pulled alongside. It wasn’t my husband who came to the window but another man. He looked at me. He was the same shape as my husband but his body had work-muscles, the kind impossible to get from a gym. This was a man who lived in his body. His eyes were green, not brown, the color of fields days after the end of drought. I was full of poetry and longing. I offered him a ride.
He didn’t tell me his name. He watched me drive, my hands loosening on the wheel. Everything fuzzed. I was quickly drunk with the wet smell of him, the way he looked like the man I told myself I loved, but the prototype: undimmed, wild, teeth in their natural animal alignment.
He didn’t tell me where he was headed and I didn’t ask. When the neon of the hotel sign came into focus, I slowed and turned into the lot.
I picked up the key to my usual room and led him in. He watched me, how I sailed through the night. He looked at me, looked, at me. He sat on the edge of the hotel bed and stretched his arms over his head. He was feline in his movements. He asked me what I wanted. I went to my knees; all the women within me fell to their knees. He pulled me up and kissed me. I held onto his arms, arching through the night. Near dawn, he slept, and I left.
I kept the secret of him in my mouth like a church candy tucked between jaw and cheek as long as I could. I knew there would be no blood in my panties the next new moon. My husband wept when I showed him the two blue lines. I took down the Holy Mother candles and felt a sisterhood between us as I threw them in the recycling.
I stopped going to class. When Spring came, I knew how to touch the flowers with tenderness, and thought my feet glistened like fishes, sweetened in the storm-washed air. My husband learned more guitar chords and sang to my belly, to the child he did not know was not his and so would always be his.
When my son was born, my husband cut the cord, gasping in delight. I knew my secret was safe. He was mine, with the shape of his feet, the pointy ears. When my son, eyes of sea and grass, hair as dark as crows’ wings, suckled, I felt encircled by fire.
My husband bagged my placenta and put it on ice. I added a handful of dirt from our garden, an envelope of seeds. I had made promises. I took the placenta to the road, our son ensconced in safety wrapped snug against my body. My bound belly was still tender but I had insisted to my husband that I come alone. Woman’s ritual, sacred. I was too tired to dig. I found a tree, close enough to where I’d stopped my car the night of origin and ripped open the bag, watched the blood seep into the soil, smelled the liver stink of organ.
I walked back to the side of the road and heard caws. I didn’t turn. I saw the brown-gray darting of a coyote and knew what I had offered had been accepted.
Lizz Huerta is a working class writer from San Diego. Her work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Lumina, The Portland Review and other journals. She’s currently working on a short story collection and a fantasy novel.