It was in the dark that she, adopted, met her mother. Before becoming aware of her mother’s suicide, she had been only curious. Now, confronted with the sweet smell of rotting flesh, long ragged nails brushing back her hair, she wished to return to the ignorance of her childhood.
Misha had thought to kill herself only hours before, lying in the deep bath of what a wealthy friend derisively called a “tract home.” She had been preparing for the well heeled event, a cocktail party with her husband’s colleagues, partners in the medical practice. Every year, around the time of her birthday, she felt herself slipping below the rim of reality as if she had slipped beneath the skin of the surface of a warm bath and was looking up at the world and its players, distorted and menacing. She thought she was screaming, but no one could hear anything. In a moment she would have to relinquish her soaking when the water turned cold. Then there would be the fixing of her hair, the straightening of her dress, the application of makeup, and the selection of jewelry.
What would she talk to these people about? And the women were all so stark and regal, proper doctor’s wives. She never lost the baby weight. That feeling of her self consciousness oppressed her. Planning on ways to kill herself did not help either, as if she were her own judge and jury, and sided with the sophisticated medical crowd regarding her value as a human.
At the party, things were as anticipated. But she found her solace in the locked bathroom where she let the water run from the faucet long and in a soothing little torrent. She used the brass stopper to close the drain and watched as the sink filled and the excess water spilled into the overflow holes. When she turned off the sink, she played with the water with little twirls of her hands. Maybe she should die in the bathtub, slashes deep and long in her flesh, the blood red and warming her as her body cooled. What if her child found her though. No, maybe there was something not so jarring in appearance.
What she didn’t realize was that there was someone in the toilet stall. A young yellow haired woman emerged, thin, a before pregnancy body, a black spaghetti strap halter dress hanging off of her like a dress hanging on a hangar. Her eyes were blotched with errant mascara and her hair mussed a bit as if she had been sitting on the toilet holding her head in her hands.
Misha remembered the night of her marriage. It had not been quite what she had anticipated. All the build up, the move from Minsk, the ceremony arranged by Rob’s parents in the United States. Misha so concerned to be beautiful, according to her advertisement on the Russian bride site, her parents and brothers and sisters and whole family crying before her trip overseas but wishing her well. The vodka, wine, cranberry juice, black bread, the gift of salt, the old sad songs for the loss of a daughter to her groom. After the ceremony in an empty white church devoid of the embellishments of her country’s faith, she remembered the lightweight veil on her head and realized what she had always wanted as a girl: To feel the orthodox bridal crown. She sat in the hotel bathroom, the first night of her married life and felt the sting of tears. What was wrong with her? She chastised herself. She thought of her parents, how happy they were, she tried to be happy too.
“How can I help you?” Misha said to the sniffling young woman, but the girl ignored her and dabbed at her eyes with a linen napkin from the stack provided by the sink. “Here, dear one, let me give you a hug.” The girl acquiesced and Misha felt the racking of her sniffles against her chest and her birdlike shoulders in the folds of her motherly arms. Where had she come from? She hadn’t even noticed anyone slightly under the age of thirty. The youngest couples were not that young, all of them having survived medical school and residencies and made it into partnership.
“I have to go,” said the girl, and twisted out of her grasp and slipped through the door.
Misha, who herself had only, hours before, been crying silently as she lay in the deep water of the tub, could not find the child among the mix of people when she emerged from the bathroom. At least she had been given the chance to be of comfort and she did feel a little lighter.
That night, she slipped out of her dress, took off her jewelry and lit candles around her tub.
Rob kidded her she would turn into a prune. She kissed him on the mouth. His eyes registered surprise. She had been withdrawn from him some weeks.
She slipped into the warm water all encompassing and primordial. How beautiful to hold herself in this way, suspended, and know she would come up for air.