"Names" by Anthony Dragonetti

I try the doorknob again to feel like I have some say in the matter. The door is still locked. Nothing changed to indicate otherwise. I jiggle it and sit back down on the floor.

“Sweetie?” Not baby.

Nothing.

“Are you okay?”

“No.”

I lean my head back against the door. It makes a light thud. I do it again harder. Again. Harder. I hear something crack and I hope it’s my skull.

“I said I don’t want you coming in here!”

I start to feel dizzy and I stop slamming, satisfied. I don’t know what to do. There is no manual. Your parents don’t tell you about these things. I stand up and walk into our bedroom. I sit on the bed and run my hand over the comforter to get lost in the tactile sensation. My palms are sweating so much that I leave a stain.

The word “dandelion” appears in my head. Then the flower. I start muttering “dandelion” to myself until it’s a sound with no meaning. I read online that having a mantra word can bring you down during a panic attack and I chose “dandelion” because it was the first word that came to me. I’m picturing an entire field of them while my heart palpitates. The flowers multiply and nothing out here changes.

There is no such thing as safety. We were supposed to be in the clear by now. It’s late into things.  My mother is already calling herself mee-maw. We have names picked out for both a boy and a girl, just in case.

I stand up because sitting has become impossible. I’m pacing and thinking about the names. What do you do with them? Are they damaged goods? Do you save them for next time?  Hello, baby Anna. You are not the first Anna, I am sorry to say. You are Anna 2, a replacement for your older sister who wasn’t. I hope that’s not too much to live up to.

I’m getting ahead of myself. No one knows anything for sure yet. I look back towards the bathroom door and think, for a moment, would this be the worst thing in the world? Yes, it’ll hurt. This will cause a tremendous amount of grief for the both of us. But things haven’t been great between us for a while, either. If I’m being honest, and I’m sure she’d agree, this baby has been the only thing motivating us to try and make it all work. Maybe now we finally go our separate ways. Start new, happy lives far away from this moment.

She calls my name and I stand by the door.

“There’s a lot of blood.”

I tell her I’ll take her to the hospital. Or call an ambulance. Whatever she needs. It’ll be ok. New and happy lives, though I don’t say that part. I hear the door unlock and it’s impossibly loud. It echoes like the apartment is far emptier than it is.