My husband can see everything I lost inside of me. He’s down there like a miner, searching for the parts that he’s sure are missing. The reason my vagina glows, the reason I’m luminous, is that I swallowed mercury as a child. I have a vague memory of the incident: the oral thermometer broken, shards of glass, mercury wobbling in tiny balls inside my hands. Such beautiful shiny beads on my skin. Swallowing.
“I found your mother’s old recipe for Xmas cookies!” he calls from the depths of my vagina.
“Thank God!” I say, as Mom has been gone for nearly a decade. I’ve been substituting fructose for whatever old-fashioned sweetener she used, and my Christmas cookies really tasted dry!
“You know what else I see in here, Hon?”
“That violet bracelet I gave you for your birthday? The one that almost fit? So, do you want me to excavate it?”
“Nah,” I say. “I’m waiting until my bones shrink, a bit, let’s leave it there for now.”
My husband can be impatient with me. He means well, but I can see, from the color of his scalp, the bit of him recognizable from way up here, that he’s wondering: why I won’t just make use of things I have.
“Why not let me dust this off,” he says, “your old rock polisher is sitting right here, Hon. You told me how your rock collection kept you sane, as a child.”
“Yes, well, it almost did,” I said. “But rocks bore me now.”
“How can a person who once loved rocks not give a crap about them anymore? Don’t you ever wonder about this? That you just give up on things?”
He had a point. And this was a loaded question. He probably thinks I’ll outgrow him, as I did my childhood collection of plastic amphibians. Or that maybe I already have.
“What are my closing hours down there? Are they posted anywhere?” I said.
It’s hard, and a bit tiring, having an all-night expedition taking place in one’s vagina.
And honestly, he’s been down there for years, trying to make sense of us, what’s possibly fixable, what still has legs.
“There are little people in here,” he says. “Deep in the interior. If I use a flashlight, I can almost make out their faces.”
“Oh, them. Leave them alone,” I say. “Pay no attention to them.”
I don’t have the heart to tell him those little people are our children, and that our children like it so much inside my vagina that they decided never to be born.
Some of them are more than thirty years old, and my husband still thinks we’re childless. Little does he know. The fact that our children are attempting to contact him now seems cruel, or maybe the children just have impeccable timing, like me, since my pregnancies always happened at the most inconvenient time.
When my husband was in med school and I was in high school, I got pregnant for the first time, and it was very upsetting because we weren’t ready. After much thought and consideration, my husband (who was only my date at the time) and I decided it would be best for us and for the child if we had an abortion.
I never went through with the abortion, though, or any of the abortions my husband and I decided upon when we were first dating. After we decided on all those abortions and after I decided to keep the children secretly inside me, I never could risk giving birth, since I worried it might force them all out.
Now nearing middle age, the first child is still inside me, keeping my secret with his sisters and brothers. There are at least twelve children now, living happily inside my vagina. I don’t even bother to keep track of their names. The first child is the pack leader, keeping my secret with his sisters and brothers. Sometimes I can hear their friendly arguments and late-night giggles.
Because of them, I’m never lonely. They inhabit the land of broken toys inside me, where my devoted, clueless husband is like a kid in a candy store.
Aimee Parkison is the author of five books of fiction, including Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Parkison has been published in numerous literary journals. She is full Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University. Find out more at www.aimeeparkison.com and follow her on Twitter at @aimeeparkison.
Meg Pokrass is the author of five flash fiction collections and a book of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas, for which she received the Blue Light Book Award. Her work has been widely internationally anthologized, most recently in New Micro(W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015) and The Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019. She serves as Founding Co-Editor of Best Microfiction 2020 and teaches flash fiction online and in person. Find out more at megpokrass.com and follow her on Twitter at @megpokrass.