I was in my kitchen, prepping for my revenge party; wrapping my toga, dabbing fake blood around my eyes and straightening the crown of papier-mâché snakes on my head. I believed that the evening had all the elements of success: An angry pregnant woman with a boyfriend on the lam, an epic Greek theme, and the chance to torch an effigy.
That was before my brother's boyfriend texted the first hole in my plan: "I'm not coming to your party because I don't hate men."
I did, I guess, and that was the problem. That's why I was dressed like a Fury, one of an ancient Greek trio of bad bitches with similar sartorial inclinations. In the old days, the Furies had one job: hunt down unpunished sinners and hound them into contrition. They swooped down on thieves, blasphemers, and mother-killers out of blue skies — snake hair flying, eye blood forever on point. Swooped down and punished. I was three months pregnant, and my boyfriend had walked out two weeks before. He was not sorry and he had not been punished. Hence, my party.
The e-vites read, Damn the man! End the patriarchy! In the details section, I wrote: Bonfires. Hexes. Effigy-burning. (Fury costumes provided.)
I made the effigy with my friend, Kate, who could be counted on for such things. We called him The Man, but he looked like my ex. It was August, and we sat on the driveway in the summer heat, stuffing old clothes with newspaper and making a balloon into a plaster face. While The Man's head dried we made the Fury costumes, bending hangers into snake heads and forking pink pipe cleaners for tongues. When everything was dry, Kate let me pop the balloon with a long needle. "I am not okay," I said to no one in particular. Kate nodded as if she didn't know this already.
In fact, I was worse than not okay. I was furious. And furious, I had begun to learn, was different than angry. Angry stays in one place, clawing at your gut and only your gut, or your heart and only your heart. Fury is full-bodied, a clamor of heat. I'd become a devouring furnace, shoveling myself into myself until my rage turned incandescent in the flame. Monday through Sunday, I would swim to put myself out. I'd sizzle my way across the community pool, lap after lap until I was panting. I was swimming because I needed to need something more than revenge. For a time, this thing was air.
I was furious that my boyfriend had left. I was furious he had a body that let him, while mine was tethered to a belly, to the consequence of a choice we'd both made. And I was furious because I'd been in this predicament before. Two years earlier, in Northern California, with a boyfriend who matched the setting perfectly — all billowy pants, bedroom tapestries, and trips to Burning Man. I, however, didn't match the setting at all. I'd come to California because I wanted to be the exact opposite of who I'd been my whole life: a believing Utah Mormon, and a virgin. So I'd thrown some clothes in a bag and my Book of Mormon across my parents' living room, then walked past the mark it left and drove until I reached the ocean. I planned to reinvent myself amidst Redwoods and hippies, to become a person who drank alcohol and voted progressive, who said oh my god casually in conversation, in reference to no one. And I really did try my best. I traded prayer for crystals and weed, benighted beliefs for approved opinions. I no longer believed in God but I attempted to believe in the goddess, to observe the tarot and to talk in benevolent terms about the will of universe. I had sex, too, and pretended to like it, believing that changing my mind about my beliefs could change my body, could change what was written there before even I was written there.
In the end, I reinvented very little. In my parents' home, there was still the mark where I had thrown my Book of Mormon. And there was still a mark on me, on my family — a dark line dividing us from each other and from ourselves. I had tried to leave the place I came from, but my shadow had limped behind me the whole way, keening and cupping its begging bowl.
When I told Phil I was pregnant, he offered me champagne and an abortion. I didn't want either, but I drank the bottle anyway. We fought: He didn't want a baby. I didn't want one either, exactly, but I was tired of being alone with myself. When he fell asleep, I found the bathroom and knelt on the floor; I turned the tub to hot and held my head under until it ran cold. I laid back down after, but the thoughts were still there: How deep a hole God left in my body, and how much I wanted to fill it. How a baby might fit that shape perfectly, might curl up in it and fall fast asleep. But I couldn't say that to my boyfriend. I was too ashamed.
When the miscarriage happened, I knelt on the floor of a different bathroom, looking from the red on my hands to the red on the floor. "Come on!" my brother said, pounding on the door. My family was on vacation; they were leaving for the beach. I wiped the tiles and flushed the toilet, I washed my hands and turned the knob. "Finally," said my brother, and we walked out into the sun.
I called Phil that evening to tell him what happened. "Well, that solves that," he said brightly.
But it didn't.
Read the rest of this story at Narratively.