You were 24 and you said no more babies, only books, only words. You drove to the mountains to sleep in the comfort of your parents' home. Not your childhood home, but one that would do for a soft place to land, a good place to rest your tired wings. You spent the week staring at the lake, not yet warm enough to swim in. Instead you taught your daughter how to throw rocks into the creek and yell "dopes!" just like you did as a child. You waded knee deep into the cool water, the April sun hot on your back. At night after she had gone to sleep, damp curls stuck to her temples, you ran upstairs and wrote furiously. And after you were done you read the words aloud and felt, at last, relieved; as if they had been burning holes in the tips of your fingers and you were glad to be rid of them.
The summer came and blanched your eyes, not with heat but with loss. You stayed inside and remembered other summers that felt just as empty, months that blinded you with counterfeit light. You remembered the summer you found out you were pregnant and could barely open the refrigerator door. The summer that every bag of tomatoes you bought rotted on the laminate counters, leaving a sad orange ring.
You were 25 and longed for the softness of a new baby, the opalescent skin, soft as breath. You remembered your first and longed for a second chance; a happy pregnancy, a happy you. To hell with books, you said. To hell with achievement and intellect. You wanted again to be doused in motherhood, in the sleepy vulnerability of new life. You longed for a ripening belly again. You made lists, promises to yourself, your daughter, your husband. This time would be different. This time would be better. This time those two lines would be a promise enough.
But the summer came again and you began to unravel. There was so much unraveling you began to see parts that had never been exposed to air before, parts you never knew you kept hidden.
You were 26 and had never felt so old. You could feel yourself inching further away from solid ground, toes teasing just over the precipice. How easy it would have been to pitch yourself forward, to free fall away from the pain. But you didn't. You didn't. At last you admitted the hardest thing, that sometimes strength does not come in the form of endurance but in the form of surrender. And although a thousand angry voices inside of you screamed NO! you opened the bottle and took the very first pill and you never looked back.
You were 26 and the mother of two small girls, girls that could be scooped up into your long arms, folded into all the open spaces of your body and fit like nesting bowls against you. You drove your eldest to school in the springtime down a country road shaded by leafy giants and at times you wanted to cry. This is what it feels like to be happy, you thought, in disbelief. The woods were lit up in technicolor green, so vital you could hardly believe your eyes. You wondered why you had waited so very long to do something so simple as swallow a small yellow pill.
You are 27 and at times happiness feels tenuous, as if your subscription could expire at any moment. But faith is a practice and this time you know that should you fall, should you skin those beaten knees of yours, you will stand again. This time you know that "help" is not a four letter word.