What Happened, Anyway

This was Carol’s second pregnancy. It was 1968, a turning point for her. In only three years she had met her husband, converted to his religion, had his first child and was gestating a second. This was all a big change. 

She’d been alone mostly since seventeen, since she set out from her family home in Baltimore, against her will, down to Richmond to simply get out of her mother’s house. Those were the words that came out of her mother’s mouth: Get out of my house. There was a second cousin in Richmond who would take her in. Soon enough she found her own job as a secretary, her own place with a roommate on Grove Avenue, and her own rundown baby blue Ford Pinto. She worked, drank, bowled, smoked. 

Surely she wanted what all girls wanted, or wanted to want, to burrow into the suburban married family life. She wanted security, someone to lean on, something to ground her more than she could herself. Internally she was swinging always between raucous and sunk. She always harbored those fantasies of going somewhere big and doing something fantastically romantic – New York City, painting. She had to be resourceful more than other girls, but she was waiting for the chance to let it all fall to the floor, out of her hands so she could better hear the big mystery. 

By the time the second child was on the way, nothing seemed mysterious at all. A cast had been set. A groove was beginning to wear, and maps full of other routes dissolved. One part of her nature had chosen something so rigid – not just the path, but the shepherd – her husband was orthodox Catholic and Marine reserves. And lots of girls had more than one child, sure, but she could see what was coming. Her husband’s complete opposition to preventing new life in any way whatsoever, her obvious fertility. The mystery of motherhood was ferreted out by now, and the relief of safety tarnished by the removal of all personal choice.

By her nature, she was willful, ornery. She craved escape, laughter. She slumped into darkness often. She wrote sad poems disguised as sweet poems. She loved Elvis, called Ringo Starr the best drummer in the world. When she married, her poems became prayers, and she befriended nuns, bought records of nun choirs singing like angels. And she loved babies, wanted them. 

At seven months pregnant, she took a walk in the park, alone. She didn’t understand anymore who she was. And in the sunlight and breeze, watching them both touch the water, everything changed. Something was wrong, the second baby was coming out. Like everything else she didn’t want, it was going to happen anyway.


Richmond, VA

I write nonfiction, and I'm sharing a few free-written moments from a project that currently has me by the throat.