Lily Iona MacKenzie teaches writing at the University of San Francisco. Her essays, poetry, book reviews, interviews, and short fiction have found a home in numerous publications. Her poetry collection, All This, was published in October 2011. Fling, one of her novels, will be published in July 2015.
I don’t miss the life I didn’t have. I miss the one I did have, the long months in Mother’s womb, each moment an eternity, awash in warm waters, weightless, floating. A tropical climate, the temperature constant and balmy. The silence suited me, broken only by the occasional gurgle and thump, or by heavily muffled noises that penetrated the stomach walls.
I never wanted to leave the velvety safety of that enclosure, Mother’s heart beating in sync with mine. The fluid darkness. The intensity of my hearing and touch, all my senses focused into so few channels.
You’d be right to say I knew Mother intimately. I sensed her thoughts before she did. I knew what she was feeling every minute. Joy, anger, fear: they all visited me through her. But her face remained a mystery to me. And her body: Was she short, tall, fat, skinny? Was she beautiful or ugly? In many ways, she also remained a stranger to me, as I must have been to her.
And Father? The head of his penis often probed the entrance to my room. I didn’t know what it was until I discovered I had one too. His semen found its way into my space. It had an odd, salty taste that I never grew used to. But then, I don’t think Father ever got used to me either.
He always resented me. At night, I could hear my parents in bed talking. My blood turned cold the first time he urged Mother to get rid of me. “We’re too young to be saddled with a kid,” he said. “We should wait a few years. Have some fun. We’ll both be more mature then.”
I hadn’t thought of myself as an intruder until then. I imagined both of my parents welcoming me with open arms when I made that final triumphant passage into the world. His attitude made me even more determined to hang on, to remain in Mother’s womb as long as possible. To thwart him. But his words changed my relationship with both parents. How could she stay with someone who wanted to get rid of his child?
Yet I must give her credit for not going along with him. Those nine precious months can’t be replaced. Still, from the time I was first conceived, Father seemed intent on dislodging me. He rammed that rod of his deeply, hoping to batter me to death. I heard him tell Mother on several occasions he didn’t like sharing her. She laughed. “He’s just a fetus. Why are you so threatened? He’s part of your flesh too.”
He didn’t respond. At least I didn’t hear him. Later, he said it was as if she had a lover, a constant distraction, preventing her from focusing on him and his needs. The truth is, I didn’t want to share my mother either. Not with him. Not with anyone. We had a cozy, comfortable existence, her every thought centered on me. Why would I want it to change? I would never have such an intense relationship again.
By the time she was in her eighth month, I’d grown so attuned to both of my parents I could pick up on Father’s thoughts too. It was clear he felt suffocated, choked by the very umbilical cord that was keeping me alive. I could hear him prowling the house at night, pacing, plotting.
In his frustration, he began seeing another woman. He needed to be with someone who wasn’t carrying his child. It wasn’t his wife he was avoiding but me. He claimed he didn’t want a son, though I don’t think it would have made any difference if I were a girl. He didn’t want a child. Period.
I realized then that both my mother and I were headed for a lot of misery with this man unless I thought of something. Fast. So I began doing my own plotting. In Mother’s ninth month, I planted the idea that we go fishing on San Francisco Bay. Father was a great fisherman and loved showing off his prowess with a rod. Ready to give birth any day, Mother needed some distractions.
We set off on a sunny but chill December morning. The water was calm, just a few swells causing the boat to rock from side to side. The motion made it creak like the cradle I would never have.
While father fished, Mother knitted. I could hear the familiar needles clicking away, giving shape to a sweater she was making for me. I started kicking and moving around, letting her know I was awake. She stood up, hoping to ease the discomfort of me pressing on her heart, and leaned on the railing. The boat lurched, throwing Mother and me overboard. It happened so quickly that Father didn’t know we were gone until several minutes later. The ocean’s roar and the boat’s motor concealed any cries for help.
It didn’t take long for those freezing waters to claim us, and I was able to keep Mother to myself until the end. You may feel sorry for me, but in those nine months in the womb, I had a complete life, as full as I wanted. If Mother had survived and given birth to me, I don’t think I would have liked what the world offered. From inklings the TV news gave me, it seemed unwelcoming with all of its wars and other troubles. I already knew I wouldn’t like my father. Maybe not even Mother. It wasn’t worth the risk.
The rest you probably know about. Father was arrested and convicted for murder. It got out he’d been seeing another woman, and everyone thought he’d killed his wife so he could inherit her life insurance and be with his mistress.
As for me, I have my memories of those idyllic days when I had Mother to myself. From where I am, that’s all I need.~Lily Iona MacKenzie