play dead

In 2017, it’s not the first time that she wakes up on his birthday and it seems as if her body is having phantom pains that seize her hips and make it hard to breathe. She knows that it’s her head making this up, that it’s trauma resurfacing and gripping her brain. She doesn’t need a therapist (or two, or three) to tell her that. It’s perfectly understandable that her brain and her body are in unison about her pain, and Molly doesn’t really want it to go away.

It’s a reminder that Teddy happened, and a reminder that every emotion she had, every thought that snarled around in her had merit.

She might not have a child all to herself, she may not be a mother in the normal sense of the word, but the yearly trauma her body and brain sends her through are partial confirmations of the truth. The first few years, it had always felt like maybe, maybe she had hallucinated everything, that it was all a bad nightmare she had lived day after the day. Her mother had ignored it and pushed her forward, her father had never seemed to grasp the situation, and her brothers hadn’t known much of anything. She had no baby to show for it, had memories that seemed more distant and spectacular and painful the farther she got from it, and only the pain of it all seemed to resurface without warning.

They called that repression, denial.

It all eventually vomited itself back up. Trauma was like that: it could be held down until the pressure was too much and it burst out. There wasn’t anger or driving to channel it into. Instead, it erupted in fitful dreams that left her sweating, reliving the moments of curled up in the tub, gripping the edges in labor, and agonized weeping in her bed, fingers touching the stretch marks racing up her hips as she spasmed in reminder, and eventually, it had left her up at night, combing through everything she had to figure everything out. Missing pieces were littered everywhere, from how she’d even gotten to the hospital to the confusion at how quickly the adoption had happened. The paper trail she’d never paid attention to before was suddenly all she wanted, phone calls to her mother and aunt either barely conducted and never about what was actually clawing her up inside, or a delicate dance around the truth.

Everything was so draining, so visceral. It almost felt better to tamp it all down again, but there wasn’t any going back. Not when she passed women talking about their due dates, not when she found herself drinking on the day of, not when the more and more she agonized over it, the less and less things made sense.

And this was another year of waking up to pain radiating up her hips and her throat gummed up with grief, the inability to leave the bed. Maybe a few things had changed: maybe she’d finally be able to find him after all these years with help, and more importantly, she’d finally had someone come and pull her out of her apartment. She curled up closer in Adam’s bed, hands wrapping around the rabbit she’d brought with her, trying to at least stave off some of the urge to cry.

She doesn’t succeed. The day is long, but Adam is with her and that matters. She knew that she could tell if she wanted. She could divulge her grief if she wanted, but she was selfish and solitary in that way. Almost no one here came with the baggage she had, a fuck up kid of parents who’d wanted more from her. She didn’t think she could take the hand holding, the concern, the pity when not a single one could understand.

And worst of all, it would be too truthful. As greedy as she was with learning about her biological family, she couldn’t stand the thought of having to give up a piece of herself so intimate, so painful just for those looks, for them to look at her differently.

It’s the last thing she wants or needs. And what she needs is simple enough: hot soup down her throat, Adam’s warmth against her cheek, and the rabbit gripped in her hands. Everything else, from the movie she’s watched dozens of times, to the pajamas she’s sure that she’s worn a hole through, are secondary.