Dancing Barefoot and Running in Heels: Prologue

           “Can anyone tell me where babies come from?” Mrs. Wheeler asks the class at large.

            “Storks?” Blaine has his finger up his nose as he calls out his asinine answer.

            “No, but good guess,” Mrs. Wheeler responds.

            Sex Ed in the fifth grade, and my brain is about to explode. I’ve already read The Period Book and It’s Perfectly Normal in preparation for my upcoming young adulthood. I’ve got maxi pads under my bathroom sink already, though I have yet to experience my first period, much less grow hair anywhere but the top of my head. I know where babies come from.

            “I thought they came out of the belly button. You know, because my mommy always says I came from her tummy,” Willie James offers.

            In the years I’ve known Willie James, several things have kept me in a general state of disdain toward him. First and foremost, he has only ever addressed me as Kari DICK-inson. Because, you know, my surname contains the word, “DICK,” and when you’re in elementary school, that’s hilarious. Secondly is his name. At the tender age of ten, I’d only witnessed the existence of two other Willie’s: the word boys sometimes used to describe their genitals, and Willie the orca from that awful movie. Oddly enough, it was the killer whale that was by far the most negative association I had with the name. If Willie was so miserable in captivity, why didn’t he just eat the living hell out of his captors and escape way sooner than he did? And why did he need that dumb boy with the mullet to help him? For God’s sake, you’re the scourge of the sea, Willie! Just bite the shit out of these assholes!

            “I mean, what else is the belly button for, if not babies?” Willie continues to argue his point while I picture an angry orca eating him.

            I can’t stand it anymore. I raise my hand.

            “Yes, Kari?”

            “They come from the vagina,” I say firmly. “Well, actually, they grow in the uterus, and then they’re born out of the vagina.”

            The rest of the class giggles.

            Mrs. Wheeler blushes for a brief, puzzling moment before she responds, “Yes, that’s correct, Kari. Well done.”

            Bite me, Willie James. You obviously haven’t read up on this stuff.

            “But then what’s the belly button for?” Willie asks.

            I suspect Willie was dropped on his head fairly often as a small child, and I scowl at him to make him aware of my disgust with his stupid questions.

            “That’s where the umbilical cord attaches to the baby to feed it as it grows inside the mommy,” Mrs. Wheeler patiently explains.

            “So then why do boys have them, too?”

            …I’m surrounded by imbeciles. I might only be ten, but I know stuff. Really important stuff.

            I feel eyes upon me, and I glance up. Arthur Regis is staring at me…again. I glare back at him—he’s a bad boy: kicked out of Cub Scouts, swears like a teenager, and purportedly smokes cigarettes. He raises his hand in front of his face, two fingers held up like he’s making a peace sign, and he sticks his tongue out between them. I don’t quite know what this means, but I know it must be vulgar, since Arthur is doing it.

            I flip him off in response. I, too, am vulgar. I’m just better at hiding it from authority figures.

            He makes an O with his left hand and inserts his right index finger into it repeatedly while maintaining creepily intense eye contact with me.

            Unlike the other girls in our class, I’ve given up on being a ballerina. I don’t take singing lessons, and I don’t play softball. Instead, I practice karate (only ever pronounced “kah-rah-tay”), and it’s really only left me with a sense of over-confidence in the idea that I can kick anyone’s ass, regardless of how much bigger than me they might be.

            I will end you, I mouth to Arthur.

            He just grins, which infuriates me even more.

            My training bra, which isn’t even a real training bra being that it’s a sports bra, is suddenly incredibly uncomfortable. It’s not because I have boobs yet, or that I’m even developing a chest. It’s because one of the straps is sticking out of the collar of my t-shirt, and I’m suddenly aware all the boys can see it if they look for it. It suddenly strikes me as silly, because I’m not yet “blossoming into womanhood” like Audrey or Manda. There’s basically no point in my wearing this thing yet, and I curse my stupid judgment, or lack thereof, in my choice of wardrobe.

            I stare at the clock and fidget in my desk chair. Why do they teach sex Ed to ten year olds, anyway? Why is Arthur such a creep? Why didn’t that stupid whale just eat everyone?

            “Kari, you haven’t spoken up in a while. Do you know the answer?” Mrs. Wheeler interjects into my train of recalcitrant thought.

            “Sorry, what?”

            I hardly listen as she asks the question again, and I give a vague answer. Willie James raises his hand and calls out a less vague answer. He is allowed to go to Mrs. Wheeler’s desk and grab a Smarty out of the treat jar as a result.

            It’s times like these that I hate my name. Not the DICK-inson part, but the Kari part. It sounds overly-juvenile to me when I get questions wrong, and it makes me hate my sports bra even more. I’m too young for a sports bra….

            I pick at my nail polish—something else I suddenly decide I’m too young for—and consider whether or not I’ll really pick a fight with Arthur after school lets out. By the time the bell rings, I’ve decided it’s probably not worth it. Not only would it not be a fair fight, since I am a master at Kah-rah-tay, but I would also probably get in trouble. My big brother got grounded from time to time, but I never did, and I’m not willing to start over someone as stupid as Arthur Regis.

            I grab my backpack and run like hell to get away from Arthur. I don’t feel like walking home with Kim or Gina, so I keep running until I hit the big hill. I slow to a leisurely pace and flip my backpack around to my front side so I can retrieve my uneaten Cheetos.

            Willie the killer whale (“Orca! He’s an orca! ‘Killer whale’ just perpetuates the stigma around these beautiful animals,” my mother has said so many times. Yes, she really said, “perpetuates the stigma,” and I really understood what the hell she was talking about) really should have eaten his captors. It would have made for a better movie, and maybe it would have made me despise Willie James a little less.

            I consider these things as I walk by myself and slowly eat my Cheetos. It’s probably not what the other kids are thinking about, but that doesn’t bother me.

            Our kitchen is decorated with orcas. The wall is blue and watery, the trim has orcas diving in and out of water on it, and there’s an orca mobile over the table. Why shouldn’t I think about orcas? And why, for Christ’s sake, shouldn’t I imagine orcas eating my classmates? Not the ones I like, just the ones who annoy me.

            Somehow, by the time I’ve gotten home and unlock the door with my purple key attached to my pink kitty keychain, I’ve once again come to the conclusion that boys are gross. That, and sports bras are stupid. But, mostly, boys are gross…and should be eaten by killer whales when they pick on me.

            Yeah, I’m too young for a training bra.


           Photo: Killer whale breaching


Categories: Uncategorized

We are Heart-Shaped

We are Heart-Shaped


for Twin



Atoms dance, collide, cling to each other,

become molecules, the substance of life.

Bound together, they form geometric

perfection. Like atoms, our two bodies

embrace, electricity surging through

us, our heartbeats in sync. You and I share

a common base—that place we began, roots

intertwined. Like a mineral system,

we grow upward and outward, two prisms

reaching for the stars, connected at the

core. We shimmer with our shared inner light,

and together we face the unknown night.

Mysterious, inseparable bond

we’ve got—driven by both physics and fate.



Karin Dickinson

Nonce Sonnet



Categories: Poetry

It’s possible this’ll get me put on a government list. Well, shit.

Nothing Lasts Forever


“What the hell are you doing down here anyway, Sil?”

            “Making a bomb.”

            “Oh, what the shit?”

            Silvia opened a sealed container and wrinkled her nose at the smell. She carefully scooped a bit of the powdery substance into a test tube, corked it, and resealed the container. “God, sulfur is such nasty stuff,” she mumbled. She slowly tipped the test tube back and forth, mixing the substances within.

            “Why are you making a bomb, Sil?” Tracey asked.

            “Because I’m going to blow up a truck.” She pushed her safety glasses up on her nose with the back of her hand and shook her hair out of her eyes. “What kind of stupid question is that, anyway, Trace?”

            “I think it’s a legitimate question,” Tracey scowled.

            “Yeah, but it’s still stupid.” Silvia opened the next container of powdered chemicals.

            “Well, regardless of its stupidity, you could at least answer my question.”

            Silvia set the container down on the workbench and began to dig around in her purse. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes and fished around in the pocket of her torn jeans for a lighter. She placed a cigarette between her lips, set her safety glasses down next to her would-be bomb, and lit the cigarette. “Remember that time I broke up with Johnny Greenberg?”

            Tracey made a face at her friend. “Yes. I also remember that time you quit smoking.”

            Silvia sighed. “Nothing lasts forever, Trace.”

            “I see that. Ok, what about the time you broke up with Johnny Greenberg?”

            “So I caught him cheating on me, right? And I swore I’d never speak to that asshole again, right?”


            “Just like I swore six months ago that I’d never smoke another cigarette, right?”


            “And yet here I am, smoking. And there I was, a week after the breakup, with Johnny Greenberg all in my pants again. I mean, it was just a one-night stand, but there I was! And there he was! And we were naked and fucking again!”

            Tracey’s face paled. “You’re not going to bomb Johnny Greenberg, are you?”

            “No. Of course not. Again with the stupid questions, Trace.” She took a long drag on the cigarette before tossing it to the concrete floor of the basement and grinding it out with the toe of her boot. “But I found myself thinking about his stupid ass last week when I got that huge splinter stuck in my thumb.”

            “Wait, why did a splinter remind you of Johnny Greenberg?”

            “Because he was kind of a thorn in my side for a long time. And, you know, he poked me a lot,” she giggled.

            Tracey narrowed her eyes and sighed. “Well?”

            “Oh. Yeah, the splinter. It wouldn’t come out, but then I remembered this one time when I was little, and I had a splinter, and my mom made an Epsom salt solution and had me soak my finger for a bit, and the stupid splinter came out like magic. So I went to the store, and I bought a big bag of Epsom salt and a pack of smokes, but the line was super long so I had to wait forever to pay for this shit. Long story short, it gave me time to read the label, ponder the explosive properties of magnesium, and decide to make a bomb.”

            “With Epsom salt?”

            “No, of course not. There’s not enough magnesium in that shit to make an effective explosive. That, and a magnesium bomb is nothing more than a flash bomb. It makes a biggish noise, and it lights up the immediate vicinity, but it’s not terribly destructive. And I want a huge noise, not a biggish one, and I want an out-of-control exothermic reaction, not just some light.”

            “Uh-huh. Sil, whose truck are you going to blow up?” Tracey asked.

            “Johnny Green—“

            “I knew it!” Tracey shouted.

            “Lemme finish. Sheesh! Johnny Greenberg’s younger brother’s pickup.”

            “Wait, Greg Greenberg? Why?”

            “Dude, who even names their kid something like that? If he lived in Georgetown, Georgia, he could be like, ‘Hi, my name is Greg Greenberg of Georgetown, Georgia, and I’m a gigantic douche bag.’ He should probably move to Georgetown.”

            “What the fuck?”

            “I know, right? His parents must love alliteration or something.” She lit another cigarette and gazed at the chemistry set on her workbench. “Also, he hit my sister. She won’t admit it, but I’ve seen her checking herself in the mirror and globing way too much foundation around her left eye. So I’m going to blow up his truck.”

            “Oh, my God!”

            “I know, right? She, like, won’t even talk to me about it. But I can tell she’s terrified of him, so I figure I’ll, like, put the fear of God in him, or something.” She balanced the cigarette between her lips, shoved her glasses back on her face and returned to her chemicals.

            “Isn’t it dangerous to have an open flame around that stuff?” Tracey asked with a smirk.

            “No. Yes. Probably. That’s why I’m a chemistry student drop-out and not a chemistry graduate.”

            “Well, as long as we’re clear on that….” Tracey rolled her eyes.

            “Don’t roll your eyes at me.”

            “You have your back to me! How did you even see that?”

            “There’s a mirror over here. That and I’m, like, psychotically psychic, or something like that.” She hummed to herself as she began mixing substances again.

            Tracey bit her lower lip and shifted uncomfortably.

            “What, Trace?”

            “You’re not gonna blow the truck up with him in it, are you? ‘Cause I think I have to call the cops if that’s what you’re going to do.”

            Silvia began packing the mixed powders into an empty canister and laughed. “I’m not going to murder him, Trace! Jesus Christ! Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m gonna blow the stupid truck up tonight when he’s asleep in bed. He usually parks a few doors down from their house on the street. No one’s gonna get hurt. Well, his pride will be hurt. I guess he saved for that stupid thing for two years. It’s a piece of shit, anyway.”

            “What are you gonna do if he finds out it was you?”

            “Punch his stupid face like he did to my sister. Actually, I think I might do that anyway. I think I might beat him up just for, I dunno, posterity or something.”

            “So how do we make this thing go off?”

            “A fuse, duh.”

            Silvia tossed a coil of wire into her bag, wrapped the homemade bomb in a towel, and carefully placed it on top of the wire.

            “You’re fucking crazy. You do know that, right?”

            “Yeah, but, you know, family first and stuff.”

            “Yeah, ok. Are you still gonna see Johnny Greenberg after all this?”

            “Nah. My resolve around him didn’t last forever, just like my broken resolve won’t last forever. And I think this’ll be my last cigarette for a while, too.”

            “What about your sister. Won’t she figure out that you were the one who messed up Greg’s truck?”

            “She probably will, and she’ll probably be pissed, but that won’t last forever, either.”

            “Is that your new mantra?”

            “I guess so. Come on, let’s go blow up that stupid truck. You know, before I lose my resolve on this, too.”

Categories: Uncategorized

…the kind of thing you post when you find yourself longing for simpler times.

Letters to Fallujah


I sent you a letter today, as I

did yesterday and the day before that.

And though you’re half a world away, I will

send another tomorrow, for I still

love you without sight, without logic– no

conditions here. The words I send you are


silly, mundane, odd little bits of life

at home, away from war and bullets and

the pain of innate hatred. Because you

can’t come home yet, I will send it to you.

My logical self says I’m a great fool,

but my foolish self says, “You go, girlfriend!”


So I’ll love you from afar, and I will

yearn for the day you finally come home.



Karin Dickinson

English 163


Nonce Sonnet


Categories: Uncategorized

Remember that time I lived in the woods all summer?

Karin Noël Strom Dickinson

June 3, 2008

English 690

The Tale of the Valley and the Willow Man


And she drew unto herself Warriors of Earth who would protect her from the world of men. And these Warriors would serve her and love her as she loved them. And though the world around her changed and became dangerous, she trusted that her Warriors would see to her safety.


Jeffery Franklin had grown up on a small farm. His front yard was a cherry orchard, his side yard a stable of horses, chickens and Bethany the milk cow, and his backyard the lush, green and watery Yosemite Valley.

As a small boy, Jeffery, who didn’t have many friends, often explored the Valley alone. Yosemite became his closest companion over the years of his youth. During his fourteenth summer, while hiking alone, Jeffery was bitten by a rattlesnake. He treated the wound as best he could by himself, made a fire, and stayed the night in the woods, praying to the spirit of the Valley for protection. The next morning, he limped home. By that afternoon, he was already making plans for his next excursion. Nothing could keep him from his sweet Yosemite.

Somewhere along the way, Jeffery’s parents realized he was a bright boy, and they decided to send him to college, where he studied archaeology and forestry. Upon graduation, his only wish was to become a ranger in Yosemite Valley. An ambitious young man, he accomplished this shortly thereafter.

Forty-seven years later, Jeffery sat at his desk eating lunch. The radio beside him buzzed to life. “Hey, Jeff. Some scientists are here for testing. Do you wanna come on down?”

He set his fork upon his plate, picked up the radio, and replied, “What are they testing, Harry?”

“The water.”

Jeffery sighed. He’d been dreading this day. Many of the news reports he’d been reading months before about water contamination had left him with a gut-wrenching feeling. It was only a matter of time before Yosemite succumbed.

“I’ve protected you all my life, but I couldn’t stop this. I just couldn’t. But maybe you’re okay. No. You have to be okay. You’ll be fine,” he said to the dirt floor of the lean-to he sat in. Then, to the radio, “Yeah, I’d like to be there. Where you at?”

“Bridal Veil Falls, Jeff.”

“Alright, I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. I want to finish my lunch first,” he said and clicked off the radio.

He looked at the food upon his plate then out the window where his gaze rested on Half Dome for several minutes. Jeffery sighed again and pushed his half-eaten lunch to the other side of the table.

“You’ll be okay,” he whispered. “You’ll be fine, my love.”

He slowly rose to his feet, taking care not to make too much noise as he did so. Lady Nature liked her quiet, and that was something he respected.

His knees creaked as he walked to where his hat rested across the room. After placing it on his head and picking up his walking stick, he took a moment to gather his courage. He had to admit to himself that he was afraid of the scientists he was about to meet. With one word, they could convince him his whole life had been a failure.

The truck bumped and rumbled down the dirt back road to the falls. A USGS van was parked by the steam at the base of the waterfall, and several men were stooped by the bank gathering samples. Harry stood near their van, looking apprehensive.

As he pulled up, Jeffery noticed there were several more men gathering samples across the road from a lagoon. He got out of the vehicle and slowly made his way up the steep trail to where Harry stood. Jeffery leaned heavily on his staff, and, for the first time in many years, he began to feel his age.

“How long until we know, Harry?” Jeffery asked so quietly he was almost drowned out by the rushing of the waterfall.

“Shouldn’t be too long before the preliminary tests are done. They said they’d have to take all samples to their labs for further analysis, though.”


“Are you okay, there, Jeff?”

“Yeah, Harry, I’m okay,” Jeffery said, attempting a smile. It came out as a pained grimace.

Harry nodded to Jeffery and sat down on a log, leaving the senior of the two standing by the stream bed. Jeffery gazed up at the waterfall, and his thoughts began to wander back to his youth. As a boy, he had firmly believed there was magic in the Valley. From the day he found the first set of cliff paintings to the day he’d been bitten by the snake and beyond, he knew in his heart of hearts the Valley was a sacred place.

He wondered how it could have come to this, then. Jeffery knew the Valley needed protecting, and he was her greatest knight. But if she was so sacred, so full of power, surely she could protect herself from the contaminants of the world.

He began to walk toward the nearest worker and painfully stooped by the man.

“How’s she looking?” He asked.

The young man glanced at Jeffery then back at his test strip. “Not too good,” he said.

Jeffery felt a knot form in his throat. He swallowed hard and whispered, “How bad?”

“Well, I don’t know how much you know about the water systems of North America, but, in a nutshell, a lot of the junk that’s in the rest of the water has made its way here.”

“No,” Jeffery mouthed.


“No,” he said firmly and rose to his full height. “Test the water again.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. There will be more testing done in the laboratory, of course, but the preliminary tests clearly show what we feared. Yosemite’s waters are no longer pure.”

“No!” Jeffery shouted. He turned on his heel and stormed down the trail, waving Harry off when he tried to approach him.

“Jeff! Where are you going?” Harry called.

“Elsewhere,” Jeffery muttered to himself.

He crossed the road and half walked, half slid down the bank to the lagoon’s edge. Jeffery fell to his knees and wept into the water, lamenting, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t save you. And I knew about the water for a long time, and I tried to come up with a way to protect you, but I just couldn’t. I’m not your knight, your protector, your savior. I’ve failed you, Valley of my heart, only woman I ever loved.”

The trees surrounding Jeffery seemed to shudder in response, and he sobbed even harder.

“I love you. Tell me how to save you. Oh, I’m only one man, but tell me how, and I’ll do it. Let me save you. When that snake bit me, I prayed to you to keep me safe, and you did. Now tell me how to save you, my love. I’m so sorry I let you become soiled. But I’ll clean you. Just tell me how. Please, my love, please. Tell me. Just tell me.”

A cool breeze stirred the water, and birds chirped from the bushes. A lizard darted from under a rock to catch an insect and a crow cawed from overhead. Harry came stumbling down the embankment and crouched beside Jeffery.

“Jeff, let’s go. It’s not your fault, old friend.”

Jeffery slowly faced Harry, turning his companion’s words over in his mind. Finally, he said, “Of course it’s my fault. I failed her, Harry.” He wiped a tear with the back of his hand, smearing dust on his face.

“Let’s go, Jeff,” Harry repeated.

“No. I want to stay here awhile.”

“Are you going to be okay?”

Jeffery frowned and chewed his lower lip. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ll be back at the station shortly. I just want to sit awhile, that’s all.”

“Alright. I’m not sure if I believe you, but I’ll leave you alone for now. But if you’re not back by five, I’m going to send a search team out for you.”

“Okay. I won’t be long. I’ll probably be back by dinner time.”

“See you later, then.”

“Yeah, later.” Jeffery almost smiled as he said the words. He watched Harry get into his truck and drive off. The USGS workers had since left with their samples, and he was once again alone.

“My love, help me help you. I know you know what to do. You, my enchantress, must help me to heal yourself,” he prayed.

An odd tingling sensation began to creep through his body. “You saved me once. Now help me to save you, my love.”

Jeffery stood and extended his arms out to his sides, feeling the breeze caress him like the gentle hand of a woman. The tingling, he began to realize, had originated at his feet. As it slowly moved up his legs and to the rest of his being, he sighed, “Whatever you need, my love, I will give.”

He soon found he could no longer move his feet, that his arms were stuck in place. He closed his eyes, feeling the magic of the Valley work its way through him.

“I am yours, my love. Do with me as you will.”

He gasped as a voice whispered into his ear, “You have protected me. You have wept for me. You have loved me. And you can help me once more. Come, Jeffery, and we shall be as one.” And then he knew no more of humanity or fear or pollution. All he knew was the Valley, and the knowledge that she loved him as he loved her.

Later that evening, when Jeffery didn’t show up, Harry sent a team of rangers out to look for him. When they came upon the bank of the lagoon, Jeffery was nowhere to be found. All that remained of him was his walking stick, left upon the ground at the base of a weeping willow.


And when the Warriors of Earth grew old and could no longer stand strong  for her, she drew them unto her soft bosom and accepted them home once more—ever embracing them, ever loving them. And she would gently whisper lullabies into their ears, singing, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”




Categories: Uncategorized

Too Blues-Able



I went to the graveyard,

not so much to visit you,

since you are always with me,

but to pay my respects to

the piece of my heart I left

in that box, full of dust that

used to be you. Used to be….


As I parked my car, the sky

opened up, and I heard you

laugh at this cosmic joke in

the back of my mind. Joke’s on

you, love. The rain brings life

back to the house of the dead,

and because of it, I can still

breathe as I walk these marble halls.


I find your niche, and I lean

against the wall facing it. I

slowly finish my hot cocoa,

and when I’m done, I place

my cup on the floor next to my

purse. No one else is here on

a rainy day—it’s just you and me.


I close my eyes, and suddenly

you’re standing right in front

of me. You place your hand on

my heart—people say mausoleums

are quiet places, but it’s loud here.

Above the screaming hawk in the

distance, and the crows laughing

back at him, I can hear the sound

of my own heart—“This,” you whisper,

“is very blues-able.”


You withdraw your hand from my

chest and extend it for me to take.

In a whirlwind, I am pressed against

your warm body, and you lead me

to the middle of the corridor where

the rain continues to fall.


Rivers of mascara run down my cheeks,

their flow encouraged by both my tears

and the rain. The inky solution drips

from my chin onto my white blouse

as you twirl me through millions

of perfect, frigid droplets.


We dance to the beat of my

broken heart—the best blues

comes from heartbreak, we both

know that. “Very blues-able,”

you whisper again. I feel your

warm body, your warm breath.

I listen to your heart as it

echoes through these marble walls.


Miles could have composed

this, and Ella would have moaned

and belted it out. The sound of

my own heart grows so loud

in my own ears, I can no longer hear

the arguing birds. I can’t hear

our footsteps on the cold marble

floor. Just this beat—this blues-able



You spin me so fast that I fly

away from you, and when I stumble

into the wall hiding your remains,

I open my eyes and find I am

alone again. Your niche is so

high up, I can’t touch it even

if I jump. It doesn’t matter—

you were never in there anyway.

Just that fragmented piece

of my crumbled heart.


I sob, not because you’re gone,

but because I can still feel the

warmth of your body where it

lingers on my skin. I sob, not

because you’re gone, but

because I can’t let you go.

I sob, of course because you’re

gone, and because I’ll never

let you go. Too blues-able.


Open Form

K. Dickinson



Categories: Uncategorized




            “Are you currently sexually active?”

            “No, I’ve never had sex before.”

            She raised a skeptical eyebrow at me and marked something on her clipboard. I raised an eyebrow back at her.

            “Do you plan on becoming sexually active in the near-future?”

            “I dunno. I haven’t really given it much thought.”

            “Have you ever been pregnant before?”

            “No. I think that’d be hard to do since I’m a virgin and all.”

            She pursed her lips and made another mark on the form.

            “Any miscarriages?”

            “Is there not a box for N/A items on the form?”

            She sighed and narrowed her eyes at me. “If you’re not sexually active, and you have no plans on becoming sexually active, then why do you want to go on depo provera, Miss Dickerson?”

            “It’s Dickinson, but it’s all good. That’s an oddly common mistake.”

She scowled.

I sighed. “I’ve had incredibly painful menstrual cramps for years, and now it’s just as bad when I ovulate.”

            “Have you considered taking pain medication?”

            “I usually go back and forth between Advil and Tylenol. I’ve had several doctors suggest something stronger like Vicodin, but it tends to do bad things to me.”

            “Well, then I guess birth control medication is a good idea in your case.”

            “That’s kind of what I was thinking.”

            “Alright then. Would you prefer your bicep or your buttocks?”

            “Bicep, please. Since we’ve only just met, I’d rather not drop my pants for you yet.”

            She finally cracked a smile, but only a little one. If I had to guess, her job had simply left her jaded. Too many teenage girls in crisis, too many hush-hush abortions, too many irresponsible people for her taste. I wondered if this was what she thought she’d be doing with her life after nursing school, but my ruminations were rudely interrupted by the large needle she shoved into my left arm.

            Her face came floating into my mind’s eye years later, and it bothered me that I couldn’t remember her name. It was a Tuesday, my second day on a new job, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I was dying. When I got up that morning, my first thought was, Ok, whatever. Breakthrough bleeding. This is what I get for trying this hard to control my body. But then it got heavier.

            Around noon, I had my first fainting spell. My new manager sent me back to the break room to have some water and put my head between my knees. I stopped by the bathroom on the way there and discovered I’d soaked yet another sanitary napkin. Twenty minutes later, I soaked another one. And another, and another….

            They sent me to lunch, and I feebly fed myself, though the smell of food made me want to vomit. I thought about calling Matt to pick me up, but then I reminded myself it was only my second day, and bailing that soon wouldn’t look too great to my new employers.

            After a long internal debate with myself, I finally decided that I wouldn’t go to the emergency room, but I would at least call my doctor and make an appointment for the end of the week. If nothing else, I could always go to the ER after work.

            We had steak that night. It was life and death: if I had bloody, rare red meat, I knew I’d live. If I opted for anything else, I would certainly perish. I didn’t eat my potato, and I skipped the veggies. Just the steak. It was the only thing I could think of eating without wanting to gag.

            The bleeding continued through the next day just as heavily, and then it finally ebbed by Thursday.

            “Precious, I’m worried about you,” Matt kept saying. I’d stand up, begin to faint, and he’d have to catch me again and again.

            “I’m worried about me, too. I just have to make it to my appointment on Friday, and I’ll be ok. Oh, son of a bi–“ And then I fell to the floor yet again.

            I could barely keep my eyes open by the time I got to Half Moon Bay. My hands shook, and my head spun in hopeless circles. I must have looked as terrible as I felt, because when the secretary looked up at me, he immediately suggested I sit down. I took his advice and collapsed into a chair until the MA called me into one of the examination rooms.

            “What brings you in today, Karin?” Jessica asked.

            I had geometry with you in high school. What the hell? I’m not gonna tell you anything, I thought as I gazed at the MA.


            “Oh, sorry. I think I had a miscarriage this week.” The words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them. I could feel tears trying their best to escape, but I blinked them away.

            She seemed a little surprised, but she maintained her cool. “Ok, well, let’s take your temperature and blood pressure, shall we?” She scribbled something on my chart before reaching for the thermometer.

            I was below normal on both accounts, as usual, though that didn’t stop Jessica from putting little stars next to her findings anyway.

            “Dr. Carrington will be with you shortly,” Jessica said and smiled at me. She had a worried look on her face, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to care. I was dying…or something else had died…but either way I felt like shit, and I didn’t care what she thought about me. My head effing hurt, and it was almost all I could think about.

            Dr. Carrington had that same worried look after she glanced at my chart. She asked me to describe to her exactly what had happened that week, and when I finished, she asked why I hadn’t gone to the ER. I told her I’d just started a new job, and she let out an exasperated sigh.

            “Karin, when you’re bleeding so much that you nearly faint, that’s a sign that something’s very wrong. You should have gone to the ER on Tuesday.”

            “Woulda, shoulda, coulda….” I trailed off. It was hard to hold my head up, and my eyelids had suddenly gotten much heavier.

            “From what you’ve told me, I think you’re right. You had a miscarriage this week, and looking at you now, it’s left you very anemic.” One thing I’ve always liked about her is how direct and to the point she is.

            “I’ve been having steak with almost every meal since Tuesday night.”

            “Do you normally eat red meat?”

            “No. It’s the only thing that hasn’t made me want to barf, though.”

            “Yeah, I’d say you’re anemic. We could do a blood test, but I think draining you of even more blood is a stupid idea at this point. I don’t really want to put you on iron pills, because knowing you, they’ll seriously mess your stomach up. I think the best way to treat this is how you’ve been instinctively doing it. Keep eating high-iron foods, and if you don’t start to feel better in a week or two, call me, and I’ll put you on iron supplements.”

            I thanked her and left her office in a daze. Food. I needed food, and I needed it fast. I cautiously drove to McDonald’s on the other side of town, ordered at the drive-though, and ate my burger in the parking lot. It wasn’t nearly as good as the steaks I’d been having, but it did the trick enough to get me back on the road home.

            Matt was lying in my bed watching a movie when I got home. He looked up at me hopefully and smiled. “How’d it go, Precious?”

            Again, the words just cascaded out of my mouth, “I had a miscarriage, and it made me anemic.” I was surprised at how deadpan it sounded in my own ears.

            Shock plastered itself across his face, and I sat down on the foot of the bed as he closed the laptop and let it slide to the floor.

            “But, Precious, how could that have happened? You’re still taking your pills, right?” Typical male reaction straight out of a sitcom? Maybe.

            “Of course I am,” I whispered. A lump began to form in my throat.

            “Then how did this happen?”

            “I don’t know. A fluke?” I could feel the tears trying to return, and I took a deep breath, not even knowing why I wanted to cry so badly.

            “Maybe this isn’t the right time to ask this, but did you know you were pregnant?”

            The dam finally broke. I put my face in my hands and began to sob. My whole body shook, and though I was afraid I’d faint again, I didn’t try to stop the tears. “No,” I sobbed, “but if I had, I’d have done everything I could to prevent this. And I know I’m crazy about not getting pregnant, and I know I’m a fiend about taking my damn pills, but despite the odds, it still happened. Anything that tries that hard to live deserves a chance.” My voice broke, and for a brief moment, I could barely breathe.

            He wrapped his arms around my shaking shoulders and pulled me to the top of the bed and close to his body.

            “Oh, Precious, I’m so sorry. Did it hurt?” he asked.

            “I don’t know. No, not really,” I said between sobs.

            “Your poor little body. How do we fix this? Did your doctor put you on iron pills?”

            I shook my head. “She said to just keep eating high-iron foods.”

            “Ok, we’ll keep feeding you beef, then,” he smiled weakly and wiped a tear from my cheek. It was then that I really looked at him for the first time since that morning, and I realized that he, too, was weeping.

            “Precious, I didn’t mean to make you cry,” I whispered. I ran my fingers through his hair with a frail hand, and he caught it in his own before I let it drop to my side.

            “You are the love of my life, and you’re in despair.”

            I nodded.

            “I wish this hadn’t happened to you.”

            “Me, too.” I took a deep breath.

            He kissed my hand and pulled me closer to him. “Oh, Precious, I really, really wish you didn’t have to go through all this. Your poor little body. How can I help make it better?”

            I kissed his hand and then his lips. “You already have. I love you.”

            “I love you, too, Precious.”



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