by Eleanor Stern
After the news came my thighs shook even in my sleep so that I could not walk alone to the bathroom. Showering was out of the question. Finally Jonah pulled off the pajamas I’d worn for days and undressed himself too. We lay in the bathtub like two fat seals, turning and turning. “Jonah,” I whispered under the faucet’s gush, “When we have a kid we’ll name it after her.” We soaked until soft. No shampoo, no soap, since to lift our arms to lather would have wrong. To remember that we had arms and had bodies, bloody living and round. This would have been a kind of gloating. Friends do not brag to friends when they are down.
When even I could smell myself I finally soaped, not wanting to stink up the shiva. Punished my living skin until it reddened under bubbles. But that same smell slunk from between my legs. Friends told me kindly as if I had not noticed how I stunk like a moldy sponge. No scrubbing would suppress it. Maybe if I go and name this stink after her, the friend who is gone from us, I might push it out of me: bloody round alive. It will cry. It will grow ten chubby fingers with those rings that I’d know anywhere. She and I always swore we looked alike, even if it wasn’t true. And I will say to her, “there you are—we’ve been worried sick.”