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DollbUy RHONDA COLLISnder the water, something changed in the baby’s expression, a kind of fight registered on its face, a kind of confusion, and thena stillness. The bathroom was quiet now, except for dappled drips from a leaking faucet, sounds that soothed Destiny as she pulled a waterlogged cloth across the baby’s belly.A perfect ‘o’ formed where the umbilical cord had fallen off a month ago. She remembered how the cord had been pinned in a loop and had to be cleaned every day to prevent infection. Destiny collected herself back into herself and out of the corners of the room where she had flown during the crying and flailing. Now, everything would be all right.The baby was a doll with a stubby nose and pink round lips. She would phone her father – not the baby’s father, her own father – and he would come and get her, and thenurse, Vanessa, during her home visit, that there were times she wanted to release the head into the water; but when she started to speak, Vanessa steamrolled over her. She was the sort of person who asked and answereda question all at once: ‘Everything copacetic then?’ Destiny counted three beats of her heart and half a drawn breath before Vanessa continued with a hearty, ‘Good to know. You’ll make a good mom, Destiny’.Most days she knew these feelings weren’t normal, that to be careless withthe baby wasn’t right. Terrible quiet things might happen. The baby’s neck muscles weren’t strong in the beginning, they had told her at the Center. But Destiny was convinced this baby was different; Destiny’s baby was so strong it could cry all night, demand the life from her, make her smash glasses, pound an open palm against the wall until it ached. It had power over her, made her weak, unable to run fast on the fields. They said she should nurse it, but the baby never latched on properly. And it wasn’t right, this thing sucking the life out of her.It was the kind of pain she wanted to throw across a room, or shake, to make it stop. Instead, she resolved to never pick the baby up and she started it on formula.It would be a good mother’s tough love that would make the both of them stronger, build a resilient well-adjusted child. Every decision she would make, from the moment her baby was born, would go toward this end goal. She would become the best mother.People around her began to notice how attentive she was, how well she monitored its dirty diapers, its hunger, and other such vital things. They complimented her resolve – when the baby cried – not to over-soothe it. They seemed amazed by her maturity, with so much responsibility suddenly thrust on would behave now, and stay quiet; and she would change into her red soccer shorts and shirt, cleats and knee pads, and play soccer in the rain until the rest of her body was warm like her hands were now. And she would run off the shaking.Cats fought on the other side of her apartment window, their rasping reminding her of five minutes ago, reaching paws, a throat raw from crying. Both of them had been crying. Tears had run down Destiny’s wide face, dripped off her elfin chin andinto the baby’s bath water, where someone’s hands — they must have been her own — gripped the tiny arms tightly just above the elbows and let go of the head. You weren’t supposed to let go of the head.She’d tried to share with the public health‘Aeyes anymore, always focused on the most forward spot of her belly. ‘You’re going to have to give things up, like I did.’They were on even ground now, sitting on opposite arms of Granny’s sofa. There were no springs left in the middle part and when Granny returned from the kitchen she would need to sit there. Only one person couldsit on the couch at a time, otherwise there would be a falling together like pool balls, a knocking of heads, a disappearance into the valley between the two sofa cushions. Even without Granny physically present, there was a trace of her energy, like a star playerdoption’s not an option,’ her father Peter said three months before the birth. He wouldn’t look her in theshowcasemslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 29PHOTO: GARSYA / SHUTTERSTOCK

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