She is standing outside the hospital doors, clutching at the skin of her abdomen. She bends down to retch. The dusty heat is rising from the pavement. It is a little before six in the afternoon, the sun is still in the sky, but the shadows are long and the quality of light is grainy. It is the same quality of light as that of a partial eclipse. She will remember it like that, like an old photograph, grainy. He stands beside her, holding her hair back as she retches. He is nervous, sweating.
In the car, she is almost hallucinating. The light has turned orange by the time they reach the highway. Her vision is blurry and punctuated, and in later recollections of the afternoon, she will distinctly remember blue stretching out above her, although the car does not have a convertible roof. In her memory, the sky’s edges will be fragmented, and she will remember it as though she were peering out from the bottom of a large, moving egg.
They stop at a supermarket on the way to his apartment. She stays in the car, the pain tugging at her abdominal muscles like waves. It is as though she is being ripped apart from the inside. The fuzzy irony that something was being ripped out from inside of her just under an hour ago is not lost on her.
She eats the toast and jam he makes her in his bed. She drinks the tea with lemon and honey. She soils the bed. She does not apologize.
He fumbles with the hot water bottle. He snores gently beside her. She does not cry; she only stares at the wall and thinks of nothing.
In the bed sheets, she wraps herself up in a cocoon, folds and folds, tucking the blankets under her feet. She can only focus on minute clarities, like finger streaks on the window of a fogged up car; she can only see a bit at a time, and her attention darts between more important things, like Social Justice, Existentialism, the American Psychiatric System, Ideology, and Laundry.
She wriggles enough for her arms to exit the cocoon and smokes in bed. The ash flutters down and smears black onto the white linen. It is Marks & Spencer linen, too expensive to be practical, in her opinion, but too generic to be considered anything important.
She has a quiet relationship with cigarettes. It is one that was conceived in the heat of an immature perception of Stress, ie. college life, drinking with social anxiety, dickish lover, et cetera, and one that gestated in the lonely womb of her studio apartment, the walls of which she had found to have been already decorated with heinous stickers of butterflies by its previous tenant. They were tacky butterflies, offensive. She would even venture to describe them as obscene.
She had read somewhere that a caterpillar does not actually form wings when it spins its cocoon. Instead, its enzymes break it down and build it up again from its constituent amino acids. She is not sure how accurate this is, but it will make do as a convenient metaphor for the time being. It is nice to know that it is possible to be rebuilt from the core rather than having to graft any kind of contrived “wings” onto her back, which is already raw and peeling from the sun anyway, and probably can’t handle being straddled by a cliché.
The sun sets, the cigarette has been stubbed out into the bed frame. A puddle of drool has formed on the pillow beside her. She is sweating in her cocoon, and her raw and peeling uterus continues to pulsate.
Thurayya Zreik was born in Beirut and received her B.A. in Sociology-Anthropology from the American University of Beirut in 2014. She is currently reading for an MSc in Medical Anthropolgy at Oxford University.