by Rebekah Chan
All the things that you want, I’ll provide
Till your footprint is swept away by the tide
And I can wait for a while, I don’t mind
Yeah, I can wait for a while, ‘cause I got time[i]
Yellow. The color of my underwear that night my water broke. It was mustard yellow with lace. I remember being in the hospital, lying on my back, knees bent open, the yellow underwear around my right ankle. Nurses surrounded me when the doctor pulled out her bloody, gloved finger and told me that I was losing you.
Coral. The color of my toes. It was much too happy of a color. It was vegan polish, pregnancy-friendly polish, just as my deodorant, shampoo, face wash, and life used to be.
For three days a thin needle permanently stabbed my hand. I tried not to notice when my skin turned pink and itchy, when my wrist couldn’t bend to pull up my pants after taking a piss. I tried not to notice when my entire arm swelled from keeping the needle still, so it did not worsen my pain.
Pink. I was suffocating, unable to breathe, unable to grieve. Only known as bed 13B: the woman in distress, the woman with high blood pressure, the woman who had just lost her baby the night before.
I wore a pink button shirt and drawstring pants, the uniform of patients in the obstetrics department. I wore the maternity clothes just like everyone else, only my belly was empty and the clothes too big.
“Mama” they called me in Cantonese, as they called everyone else in pink.
Norah Kwon, Daughter. Delivered June 16th.
June 16th is Bloomsday. It celebrates the life of James Joyce. On Bloomsday, the events of his novel Ulysses (set on June 16th, 1904) are relived in Dublin and around the world. Joyce chose June 16th, because it was the day of his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.
Purple. “Look,” I tell him. “I still the have scars from the hospital.” I show him my hands. A purple circle sits on the vein of my ring finger. Another dark circle sits on the vein of my right index finger. I feel bumps when I touch them.
The holes where they drew vials of blood from my arms are no longer visible and the bruises, now gone.
22 weeks. Five and a half months. That is the time we spent together.
Blue. When I was well enough I changed my toenails to blue. I had never painted my toes blue before. I was different now. I asked my husband what he thought of my toes.
“Cadaver,” he said.
The nail polish was no longer vegan, no longer pregnancy-friendly. I now drank wine. I ate raw meat, unpasteurized cheese. I swallowed back tears along with my first cup of tea.
Brown. The vertical line on my stomach is nearly gone. Soon it will fade like the holes in my arms and in my hands. I used to rub my belly with oil, wishing that I was stroking your skin.
Red. When I was well enough I changed my hair color from blonde streaks to red. I dyed my head covering the old black and blonde, something I would not do when I was carrying you.
$44.4. That is how much we owed the taxi driver when I came home from the hospital.
Black. I now knew what that vacant look felt like. The look when a woman who’s just lost her child stares blankly toward the ceiling.
And when people meet me, they will have no idea what mama has gone through. They will just see my red hair and blue toes and not the fading brown line on my belly. They will never notice the purple scars on my hands and they will have no idea that I was almost your mama.
They will never know that your name was Norah, named for the meaning “light” because I needed you to outshine my darkness. They will never know that you died on Bloomsday, a day that was chosen to celebrate your namesake.
They will never know that you existed, that I birthed you, and that when I saw you, you were beautiful. They will never know that you looked like me and I, you, the daughter I dreamed of, born sleeping on the day I marked long ago.
They will never ever ever know it baby. But baby, I don’t mind and I don’t care at all, because it is my joy and my burden alone, to keep on, carrying you.
[i] Lyrics: “Uprising Down Under,” Sam Roberts Band
Rebekah Chan is completing her MFA at City University in Hong Kong. Originally from Toronto, Canada, her love affair with words began as an obsessive letter writer and reader of song lyrics.