Viola Is Sitting on the Examination Table

James Tadd Adcox

Viola is sitting on the examination table at the doctor's office in a green dress with an empire waist and sky-blue shoes. She is thinking about floating up through the ceiling of the doctor's office. She is thinking about passing through the clouds then coming to the edge of the earth's atmosphere and then continuing onward, past the rim of debris caught in earth's gravitational pull, past the meteors and the asteroids and so forth, she's not picturing the details too clearly now, past the moon and the earth-like planets, past the unearth-like planets, out of the solar system. Her husband Robert is holding her hand. This is their third miscarriage. Robert is wearing wrinkle-free grey slacks and a wrinkle-free white shirt. The doctor is telling them about how it is possible to have a healthy child even after multiple miscarriages.

Spontaneously abort is the term for what Viola's body does and has done with the pregnancies. There is not always an explanation for it, the doctor explains.

They are cursed, Viola thinks, Viola and Robert and the doctor, to repeat this scene over and over, like ghosts replaying the circumstances of their untimely deaths.

Viola and Robert have a fight in the parking lot of the doctor's office, except that it's not a fight, because Robert is being too reasonable. That's how Robert gets when he's upset: too reasonable. "It would make me feel a hell of a lot better if just for once you'd raise your voice," Viola says.

"I'm not going to raise my voice," says Robert.

Viola wants to go back inside and tell the doctor to get the damn thing out of her. "Then we should go back inside and talk with the doctor," Robert says. "We should discuss our options."

"It doesn't make any sense to have the doctor get it out of me," Viola says. "It's an unnecessary procedure and potentially damaging to my health."

"That's true," Robert says. "I mean, that may be true. The part about it being potentially damaging to your—"

"I don't have diabetes," Viola says. "I don't have heart disease, or kidney disease, or high blood pressure or lupus. My uterus contains neither too much nor too little amniotic acid. I don't have an imbalance of my progesterone nor a so-called incompetent cervix. I have had ultrasounds and sonograms and hysteroscopys and hysterosalpingographys and pelvic exams. I have eaten healthy. I have exercised. I have refrained from tobacco and alcohol and caffeine. I have taken folic acid and aspirin and—" Viola starts crying, standing there in the parking lot.

"You've done everything exactly right," Robert says.

"I know that," Viola says. "That is what I am trying to tell you."

News helicopters fly overhead. On the radio there's a story about another shooting downtown. Outside the car windows, rough parts of Indianapolis stream by.

Viola's aunt comes to visit.

"I'm not even sure I wanted a kid," Viola tells her aunt. "Robert, he definitely wanted a kid."

"You'd be a great parent," her aunt says.

"I'd be terrible. I'm pretty sure this is a sign. Like, I'd be watching a movie or just getting to the really good part of a book or something, and that's when the terrible thing would happen. The kid would find the matches or stick something in a socket or drown in the bathtub. This is God saying: Viola, honey, you and I both know that you'd let the poor thing drown in the bathtub."

Viola's aunt laughs, a great hacking laugh.

Viola and her aunt go and get drinks at a country-western themed bar in a strip mall near the actual mall. Viola still looks pregnant. The blond waitress who comes to their table looks at her belly, dubious. According to the doctor, Viola's body should expel the child naturally in several weeks. "I don't want to expel the child naturally," Viola says, slightly drunk. "I want it out of me."

Several nearby patrons glance over. "My womb is become a grave," drunk Viola says, trying to be quieter.

"What?" says her aunt.

"My womb is become a grave."

Viola's aunt, who never had kids of her own, helps Viola into the car.

"My womb is become a grave," Viola, still a little drunk, whispers to Robert in bed that night.

"Stop it," Robert says. "Your womb is become no such thing."

The next day Viola heroically cleans the bathroom.

Every night for a week after that Viola dreams about giving birth to her dead child. Or, it appears dead at first, but after a moment it coughs, rubs its eyes, and crawls from the doctor's hands up onto her belly.

"I thought you were dead," Viola says.

"Oh sure," says her son. "I was. But according to the ancient laws of pregnancy, after three times, something is born. You can't expect to give birth three times without something being born."

"I suppose not," Viola says. Sometimes, in the dream, she's back in North Carolina, on the coast, where she lived as a girl with her aunt and uncle, and everything around her has once more been flattened by Hurricane Diana. Other times she's walking through downtown Indianapolis late at night when the first contractions hit, and she gives birth surrounded by empty corporate towers and closed restaurants, terrified that something or someone will swoop down on her and steal her child before it has the chance to speak.

"I want to be kind towards you," Viola says to Robert. Robert is cutting up a tomato for a tomato sandwich. "Ultimately this is your loss, as well as mine. But I'm not sure if I have enough kindness right now to show towards both of us."

"I get that," Robert says. "That makes sense."

"In the future, I will probably be kinder," Viola says.

Robert and Viola eat the honestly somewhat disappointing tomato sandwiches that Robert fixed. The tomatoes were beautiful, but not delicious. Later, they drive to a home furnishings store.

"I'm pretty sure it's a sign," Viola says.

"What is?" says Robert.

Viola makes a gesture in the air that means, you know. "We both know I'd be a terrible mother," she says. "This is like God saying, Viola, honey, you and I both know you'd let the poor thing drown in a bathtub."

"I don't think that's funny," Robert says.

"Neither do I," says Viola.

In the home furnishings store Viola keeps wanting to buy things, even though they don't match anything else in the house. Someone, she isn't sure who, once told Viola about the woman who went into such shock after her miscarriage that she carried the baby around in a blanket for weeks, long after it had begun to decompose. Or maybe Viola just imagined someone told her that.

"It's possible that I may not be in love with you anymore," Viola says carefully, lying next to Robert that night. Robert is quiet in a way that makes Viola think that he maybe already knew.

"Do you want to stay married?" he says, finally.

Viola's body naturally expels the pregnancy. The doctor hands the strange blue child to Viola without asking if Viola wants to hold it. She cradles the strange blue child. She puts two fingers over its closed transparent eyelids. "I'm not very good at mourning," Viola says to the strange blue child. "I'm not sure how to mourn you. I've had dreams about you, but it wasn't like this." Robert stands beside her in the scrubs the hospital has given him. He can't figure out to do what his hands, whether he should be touching the strange blue child, or what. "Robert, it's okay," Viola says. "You can cry too. No one is going to feel strange about it. You're allowed."

They pass the strange blue child around the room. Robert kisses it. Viola's aunt kisses it. Viola's uncle kisses it. There are the sounds of the medical equipment operating. Viola takes the strange blue child from her uncle and kisses it.