On Monday of last week I drove to Providence, RI and parked downtown. My first order of business was to tuck some cash and my cell phone in my coat pocket, grab my tote bag, and head for WRNI. The tote held three things: the essay I'd written for NPR two years ago, the latest Orion magazine (in case I was kept waiting), and my ice skates.
The essay was written shortly after my first wedding, planned pregnancy, and miscarriage, from the perspective I had at that time on life and the direction of mine thus far. If you'd told me then that I would soon experience another pregnancy, miscarriage, and an impromptu wedding, not to mention divorce, of course I wouldn't have believed you. Even if I did believe you, and you explained, in graphic detail, how painful it was all going to be, I would have had no clue. Maybe I've lived a sheltered life, but I had no idea emotional trauma could hurt like that.
I'm not talking about the miscarriages here, I'm talking about the break-up of my marriage to A~. If you haven't felt the sensation of such intimate betrayal, let me tell you, it's like having your guts ripped out in slow-motion. It hurts. It literally, physically hurts. I still break down sobbing every now and then. Life is, in so many ways, wonderful now, don't get me wrong. But I'm by no means "over it."
So perhaps you can appreciate how strange it felt to read aloud, for public consumption, that "to this date, my unplanned teen pregnancy remains the most painful episode of my life." I wrote that with such confidence, clueless that anything could ever happen to rival the shame and guilt and gory dead-baby nightmares. It was definitely a dark time. But, people, I'm telling you, I didn't know from pain.
The two men who recorded me were very friendly and appreciative. They were also determined to have me read with gravitas and emotion; urging me to re-recite certain lines again and again, slowing down here, adding more drama there. It didn't take long -- I was in and out in less than an hour (I never needed the magazine) -- but even so, I left that radio station lathered in nervous sweat.
As soon as I hit the sidewalk, my spirits soared. It was a sunny, gorgeous early spring day, and the ice rink across the street was all but deserted. I paid my three dollars and spent the next two hours pretending, as I had on the pond in the backyard of my childhood winters, that I had all the grace and skill of an Olympic ice dancer: frontwards, backwards, one-legged, even managing a few drunken-looking and techniqueless spins. For those two hours, it didn't matter that I am actually thirty-seven-years-old, fertility challenged, and wearing a sweat-soaked bra, nor did it matter that I was unaccompanied in my adventure (as we all are, always, to some extent), not to mention confused about my direction in life. I was having fun. And sometimes, that's all that matters.