Going to Hell for This

I sat in the hospital room, choking on the stink of chlorine disinfectant and sterile rubber. The chair was uncomfortable and slick, like someone had wiped it down with an oiled cloth, and I kept having to readjust myself so I didn’t slip out of it. Berty was in the bed opposite me, staring at the ceiling. I remember the way the fluorescent light highlit just how drained she was. Skin like a caramel candy had turned dull and bloodless and her eyes were puffy from crying and no sleep.

“Look.” I said, waving my right hand vaguely toward the window, “I told you it’d let up. ‘It can’t rain all the time’, right?” I guess I thought referencing her favorite movie’d lighten the mood. It had been storming all morning but now the sky outside was cloudless. It was still muggy as hell though. The humid air blowing in the window made me sweat that kind of grimy sweat that leaves you feeling that much dirtier.

Berty kept on staring at the ceiling, right at those humming lights. I remember thinking how a body couldn’t keep up looking at something so bright without some ill effect. It was like looking at the sun, but brighter. That it was so artificial seemed to make it worse.

“Look,” I tried again, “I don’t like this situation any more’n you, but facts is facts. You shouldn’ta done what you done. ‘s unnatural.” This got a response.

“You’re an asshole, Val. Grade A certified.” She was looking at me now and high color had made a rare return to her cheeks. It was hard to glare through eyes that swollen but she did an admirable job. “You’re there all high and mighty, actin’ like you done give a good god damn about any o’ this, and you wouldn’t even’a known if they hadn’t fucked it up.”

“You can shove that kind of talk right up your ass.” She was good at pushing those buttons. “I’m not the one come up in here lookin’ to kill a miracle and ruinin’ my body. I’m not the one not tellin’ no one what I was up to. I’m not-”

“God damn you, Valentine. God damn you right to Hell. What’d you’ve done if’n I told you?”

“I’da done the right thing’s what I’da done, Roberta. I’da gone to your daddy and we’da made it right. We’da done it proper.”

“You can say that now, after all this talk of breakin’ it off? You’da loved me if I’da stayed knocked up but now I’m not you don’t want nothin’ to do with me?”

“You done an evil thing, Berty. You killed a part of me, a part of us.”

“What us?” She turned away and resumed glaring at the overhead light, not blinking, not saying a thing. Her breathing was measured and normal, and it was the calmest I’d seen her since we’d had it out in the ICU.

“God, Berty, somethin’s broke and it’s broke real bad. Where can we even go from here?”

“Don’t you know?” She looked at me again, more sad than angry. That spark I had so loved to look for when we made at being in love was so far gone I couldn’t begin to think of where to look for it. “You said it yourself, earlier.”

“Did I?”

“Yeah.” She nodded, looking at the lights again. “We’re going to Hell.”


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