Janie (novella excerpt)
“Janie, look at me. Janie, that was the agency. Look at me. Janie, they said we’re approved, we’re on the list, we’re going — oh god would you look at me?”
The distance from here to the frothy top of the waterfall would not be what one considers far if looked at horizontally from downstream. Or even if looked at vertically from the bottom up. But measured vertically from up here, the distance is probably death itself. Or maybe not. She has heard of someone falling from an airplane and surviving.
The man’s fingers are on her chin, gently, firmly pulling her face toward his. He keeps talking and talking.
“Janie, do you hear me? We’ve been approved.”
His face is so close to hers that she feels the dewy puffs of his breath land on the top of her nose like waterfall spray. Then all she can see is his mouth, open, open wider and wider.
“Janie. We got it. We’ve been approved. We’re going to have a baby.”
He swallows her.
It is dark, it is dark. She hears his body as if through a stethoscope — the echo of his breath, the rushing liquid of what must be his blood. Now his stomach acid will dissolve her and her plans into nothing.
Recently Janie has decided that she will enroll in some courses at the college where she works. They’re free, after all. She used to believe that all the books on the Classics table at the bookstore were supposed to be more or less like exercise or healthy eating: worth it if you could get through them. But she found herself turning pages the way she imagines a marathoner turns laps — with a buzz, a rush, a hum.
After the last few years of regularly scheduled visits to fertility doctors, the calendar for the rest of Janie’s now life looked quite open.
She knows that just as not everyone enjoys running marathons, including herself, not everyone enjoys reading. But she does. She loves it like a cook loves cooking and a singer loves singing.
Next week she has appointments set up with a person in the English department and another in Education. She’s used to so many appointments, and she’s just glad she will be able to keep her clothes on for these.
Did she tell the man about these appointments? No.
She has no idea how rockets work, but aren’t there always two sections? And in the burning heat of take-off, the rocket breaks apart, with one piece heading for Mars or wherever and the other veering off in the opposite direction? She is not sure which section is her and which is the man, but she knows they are in two parts, flying or falling in different directions. She knows a screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before but there is nothing to compare it to now.
She will not miss her appointments.
The man’s ribs are the bars of a prison. “Let me out! Let me out!” she calls to the man.
“Janie,” he whispers, “open your eyes.”