That Motherfucker

creative nonfiction by Melissa Ragsly

That Motherfucker

          Both my pant legs swung from my right ankle. In the emergency room, black leather wedged into a stirrup. One boot came off fine, like it always had. The other refused. 

          Onto the crinkly paper, blood seeped out slow and dark—a black/brown—like overwatered soil. The pain was different from period cramps, more piercing. Instead of a lining sloughing off, it felt like something had clawed inside me and burrowed. It was an ectopic. A “complication of pregnancy.” 

          They told me many things but it all meant this: a fertilized egg embedded in a tube where it shouldn’t be and that it would burst—fatally—if not immediately removed. I stopped hearing words and instead there was syncopation. A song sung in another language but you still feel the intention. My brain told me this: don’t worry. My brain has always been a good liar. It told me it would be easy to get pregnant again, just like the first time. 

          I laid back, my main concern, the boot stuck on my foot. That motherfucker. I pulled that motherfucker as hard as a woman prying dead weight off her child would. The nurse tried to help. I pointed my toes, anchored the shoe deeper in the metal loop of the stirrup which looked just like a giant eyelash curler. I got up, flopped around, unsteady on one foot, delivering drops of blood to the floor. My jeans, a flag slapping against the sunburnt skin of my leg. 

          The nurse looped her hands around my waist and stretched me like taffy. My first thought: did she feel any fat? It was all such sloppy choreography. I just kept laughing. Small polite giggles at first, to try to make the red-faced nurse feel better, but soon I couldn’t control it; laughing until a pleasant pain of exertion became a balm to my deeper cramps. I pictured myself going into surgery—white and blue laundered gown peaking open at the back—with only one calf-high leather boot on. 

          We paused our attempt to remove that motherfucker so the nurse could examine me. Getting in closer between my legs, I held the pants aside, like I was pulling back my bangs to eat. I tried hard to control each breath, to stop those hiccuping giggles. I closed my mouth and breathed bleachy air through my nose. When she was done, the nurse pulled off plastic gloves, stained rust, and handed me some paper towels before she left to get the doctor. 

          Alone, my headphones on, I listened to a comedian talk about a nude scene she filmed. How it was brave because she had a full bush. I howled. 

          Is it brave to have a body? My body put me in that room. It needed to be tended to by strangers. Someone I’ve never met will need to fix its blue vein mapped mass. I felt disappointed for not being able to control what happened inside of me, like how I couldn’t stop laughing. Like how I was failing in giving my daughter a companion. She shouldn’t go through life without someone to confer with about what it was like to have me for a mother. My mind made all the worry morph into laughter, like it was lying to me again, like how you have to always lie to your kids. It’s protection. An act of love. 

          And despite that motherfucking boot, despite the ectopic, I was just so overwhelmingly hungry. My body wanted to be fed. My stomach took over from my brain. My stomach didn't lie, it demanded. All these different parts of me couldn’t agree. 

          The last thing I’d eaten the night before: popcorn while we watched Chicago. My tongue buttered. Dancers all in black behind bars. Muscles moved independently like a body was just a nest of snakes charming their master into submission. In the morning, I had taken too long in the shower, hypnotized by the pinwheel of blood around the drain. We rushed to the plane to get home, no time for breakfast. On the flight, I was too light-headed for food. We landed and           I went right to the hospital. It was a Sunday. 

          I found a granola bar in the side pocket of my bag. Chewing ravenously, I let my toes circle inside the boot. Two bites in, I heard a tear. I felt it too. The lining inside the boot. I worried I’d ruined my only good pair. I shoved the rest of the bar in my mouth. 

          My toes spread. They were already inside of the gash, the movement widened up what was already ripped. That motherfucker wouldn’t come off because my foot had slid inside the lining of the shoe. My big toe ripped the hole bigger, by just a bit, but enough, like how they use a scalpel to tear your perineum. 

          The doctor came in with the nurse. I dragged my jeans, sweeping up cherry-almond scented cleanser. I greeted them eye-to-eye, even as I worried I had granola stuck between my teeth. I told them about the tear, my laughter tamed enough, I could speak through a smile. I felt like I had solved one of the problems my body presented, all by myself.                   They ushered me to lie down. 

          With the boot back in the stirrup, my pants fluttering, I glided my toes. Accentuated my hips. Bent forward. Rotated the shin. Slow slow slow like Fosse. I held my breath to make my body smaller. And that motherfucker finally popped off. 

          Inside the boot was ripped to shreds, a house hit by a hurricane. I started laughing again and kept laughing even when I found out the granola bar would delay my surgery hours, laughed again when I had to sign all the forms, laughed until I counted down as I went under. The chemicals pumped into me could control my body more than I ever could. 

Melissa Ragsly's work has appeared or forthcoming in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best Small Fictions, Iowa Review, Epiphany, Hobart, Joyland and other journals. She is an Associate Editor for A Public Space and a Program Coordinator at the Authors Guild. More can be found at melissaragsly.com.

Melissa Ragsly

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