By DANIELLE B.
Of course now that it’s almost too late, it’s all I can possibly think of. I want to finally arrive at that place where I’ve never been, but where I know for certain I belong. I want there to be a space for me without question or concessions made. I want to fit.
It’s been more than four years since I’ve changed my diet, not in a craze or some bandwagon that everyone’s jumping on. I’ve reduced the intake of meats, sugars, refined grains, and even cow’s milk. I grew up on a tall glass every night before bed for strong teeth and bones, and now it’s all about the almond variety. It’s olive and coconut oil, and no frying, just baking, sautéing, or grilling. It’s less juice and water, water, water, even though I know I don’t drink enough of it, but I try.
It’s been about two years since my last obstacle course race, lugging cinder blocks and climbing walls, and crawling through mud, and jumping over flames. I’ve kept up a routine of riding a bicycle and periodically jogging in the park. I dip in and out of martial arts classes to jog my memory of a jab-cross-hook followed by a swift knee to the ribs. The body doesn’t forget when you’ve rolled endlessly on a mat going from mount to guard to hip throw and back again. All manner of submissions comes flowing back to your hands and elbows and shoulders and ankles even if you don’t remember all the names. Some things you just feel.
I feel strong when my heart races after sets of jump rope or sprints up and down stairs or burpees in my living room. All these things I work on to build stamina and endurance, and maybe some killer glutes, are all part of a plan. There’s things I need to make ready beforehand so that when I get there, everything will be right. After all the work and the practice, there are the tests. The weight is in perfect balance for height and frame. The blood is rich from that good nutrition and conscientious swallowing of Vitafol Ultra every day.
Then there are other tests of things I can’t control. Genetic mapping, clear Fallopian tubes, ovulation cycle, follicle growth, egg maturation. There’s no way to prepare for these other than handing over the arm with the good vein for blood draw, and sliding down to edge of the bed, placing my feet in the stirrups, and bracing for the probe covered with a latex sheath tipped with lubricant searching, checking to see what’s happening in there.
I’ve done the work to be fit. My legs look good in short shorts, my shoulders sing under spaghetti straps, the belly is not quite a six-pack, but it’s flat. I can hold a conversation during my two-mile jog, and I can stand on my head without using the wall anymore. But maybe too much time has passed, and maybe I’m to old now to fit into that place where I’ve never been but I know I belong. I’m supposed to live there with all my rights and privileges; my badges of honor clear for everyone to see. But maybe I waited too long to choose. Maybe I was waiting to be chosen. Maybe I never thought it would come to this. Sitting in a room, waiting for my name to be called. Swallowing a series of pills starting on day three of my cycle, going in starting on day twelve to check for follicle size with an individually sealed trigger shot tucked in purse in case that day is the day. Leaning back with the paper sheet wrapped around my waist looking at the black and white screen, hiding the tear slipping down one side of my face. There’s no work to be done here, besides the obvious. At this point, the act takes on a different tone. It’s love, it’s always been love, but now there’s a veil of desperation that I’m reaching through like we’re on two sides of a canyon, arms outstretched, leaning, pulling, longing with every inch to finally fit together in that place we have never been, but where we both know we belong.
I’ve written your name down on small Post-It squares. I write quick notes, saying random things that you might want to know and I always sign them, Love Mommy. I say your name but only to myself, only when I’m alone, and never too loud. No one knows it but us. It’s our secret, our prayer, the only place in the whole world where we fit.
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Danielle B. lives in Forest Hills, New York. SALT is her first novel.