Where They Found Her by McCreight, Kimberly
For all the daughters, especially my own.
ONE CAN’T BUILD LITTLE WHITE PICKET FENCES
TO KEEP NIGHTMARES OUT. —Anne Sexton
It isn’t until afterward that I think about the bag or the bloody towels stuffed inside. They’re too big to bury, but I can’t just leave them behind. Maybe I should have been better prepared. Thought more about the details. But it’s hard to be ready for something you never imagined you’d do.
I end up taking them toward Route 17. A dumpster, I figure. Behind a gas station, maybe, or a fast-food restaurant. And then, in the morning, a trash company will come and haul the evidence away. But the gas stations are all still open, and so are the restaurants, cars parked right near the garbage, customers in and out. Too many witnesses. It isn’t until I come to Highlights, the tanning salon, that I find what I’m looking for. It’s closed and backs up to an empty lot, a dumpster tucked in a far dark corner.
My heart is pounding as I go to lift the lid. Relief—that’s what I already feel. Almost over, almost finished, the whole thing. But the top won’t budge. I jerk it once, twice. The second time I do it so hard that I bend my fingernails back. It’s chained shut. Locked tight, so someone like me can’t hide dirty secrets inside.
But I can’t look for someplace else. I don’t have time. Can’t wait one more second. Can’t take one more step. This needs to work. I need this to be over, now.
I race around the edges of the dumpster, yanking up. Looking for a sliver of weakness. Finally, I find an edge that lifts—just a few inches, but enough, maybe. I have to shove hard to get the blood-soaked towels in, even harder to push the canvas bag through the thin crack. I’m afraid for a second it’ll get stuck. But when I push my whole weight against it, it flies through so fast that I almost smash my face against the edge of the dumpster.
When I pull my hands out, they’re covered in blood. For a second I think it’s mine. But it’s not mine. It’s the baby’s blood. All over me again, just like it was an hour ago.
Molly Sanderson, Introductory Session, February 18, 2013
(Audio Transcription, Session Recorded with
Patient Knowledge and Consent)
Q: If you didn’t want to come see me, I’m wondering why you’re here.
M.S.: It’s nothing personal.
Q: I didn’t think it was. But even if it were, that would be okay, too.
M.S.: Because everything’s okay in therapy?
Q: You don’t think much of the process.
M.S.: No, no. I’m sorry. I’m not usually this belligerent. I didn’t used to be, anyway.
Q: Grief can be a very powerful force.
M.S.: And so this is the person I am now? This is who I’m left with?
Q: I don’t know. Who are you now?
M.S.: I have another child, you know. A little girl, Ella. She’s three. Anyway, she’s the real reason I came. For two weeks after it happened, I didn’t even get out of bed. I don’t think I touched Ella once that entire time. Didn’t hug her. Didn’t tell her everything would be okay. I wasn’t the only one who’d lost a baby. Ella lost the little sister she was so excited to meet. It was all she’d been talking about— Wait, I need a tissue. Sorry, I’m just . . .
Q: You don’t have to apologize for being upset. You’ve experienced an incredible tragedy, Molly. Some would say losing a child is the single most traumatic experience a person can have.
M.S.: Is that why I feel this way?
Q: What way?
M.S.: Like I died that day, too. And there’s nothing that’s going to bring me back.
Q: Maybe we should start at the beginning. Molly, I think it’s time you told me how you lost the baby.
The sky through our large bay window was just beginning to brighten when I opened my eyes. Not quite morning. Not the alarm, not yet. When the noise came again, I realized it was my phone vibrating on the nightstand. Erik Schinazy glowed on the screen in the darkness.
“Is everything okay?” I answered without saying hello.
In the five months I’d been working at the tiny but respectable Ridgedale Reader, the paper’s contributing editor in chief had never once called me outside business hours. He’d had no reason to. As the Reader’s arts, lifestyle, and human-interest reporter, I covered stories that were hardly emergencies.
“Sorry to call so early.” Erik sounded tired or distracted. Or something.
I wondered for a second whether he’d been drinking. Erik was supposedly sober these days, but it was widely rumored that his drinking had gotten him fired from the Wall Street Journal. It was hard to imagine fastidious Erik, with his tall, rigid posture, swift military gait, and neat buzz cut, ever being sloppy drunk. But there had to be a better explanation for a reporter of his caliber landing at the Reader, editor in chief or not, than his wife, Nancy—a psychology professor at Ridgedale University—being tired of commuting to Ridgedale from New York City, where they’d lived when Erik was at the Journal.