Phantom Pains

One has heard of phantom pains in people who lose limbs in accidents or amputations. They are seen reaching out, seeking the non-existent source of their ghostly agony, the pain real and tangible.

I hadn’t just lost an arm or a leg, my loss was complete. My physical form lay scattered in ashes across the Pacific Ocean. But the pain remained, an excruciating reminder of the labor pains that had started shortly after Matt suggested the Christmas Eve boat ride in Half Moon Bay.

The baby was due any day and our excitement and anxiety had peaked. The nursery was ready. Friends and family had organized a surprise baby shower the week before and her room was full of more gifts than I had seen in my entire lifetime. Matt had been extremely solicitous, he had comforted me, pampered me, kept me off my feet and had accompanied me to every check-up and ultrasound session. He had carried around the ultrasound pictures in his wallet, proudly displaying the grainy imprints to everyone he met. It was a wonderful time, our first child, the daughter we had always wanted, we had come up with the name together, she was going to be our little angel.

Matt was my high school sweetheart. We had been inseparable since the first time I saw him in the football field, the star quarterback of Fairmont High. The entire cheerleading team idolized him but his eyes always sought me. We even attended the same college, took the same classes and I didn’t have to think twice before accepting his proposal. The last ten years had been idyllic, blissful but parenthood had somehow eluded us. Until it all worked out and the testing kit finally registered a positive, eight months ago.

Christmas Eve! We were awfully close now, Angelica could come anytime. The dinner was at our place. The house was full of people, Christmas music playing, kids scurrying around opening up presents and comparing bounties. This was shaping up to be quite a memorable Christmas. The care and concern shown to me was overwhelming.

Then Matt suggested the midnight boat ride. It was a balmy night, the idea was tempting. We told our guests we wanted to spend some time alone and left. Matt helped me up the boat and revved up the engines. The night air was exhilarating. We talked, we laughed and then I leaned against the railing watching the twinkling city lights drift away. I felt a slight twinge in my belly but put it down to the baby kicking and didn’t think twice about it. I was lost in the beauty of the moonlit night, the lapping waves, the silent hum of the engine. Matt came and stood with me for sometime before retreating to the cabin. I thought I saw a humpback whale and started yelling out to Matt, “Matt come, see! Am I really seeing what I think I am?”

Then I felt another twinge, followed by yet another. They were coming faster now and with greater intensity. I kept screaming for him, “Matt, I think my water broke, please hurry! We have to go back”. I was holding my belly, buckled under in pain. These were labor pains. I heard footsteps behind me. Then suddenly the site of the pain changed. I was being garroted, I clawed at the rope around my neck, trying to speak, then my world went black. I had been pushed overboard.

I watched them dredge my body out of the bay, Angelica’s shortly thereafter, a short distance away from mine, the umbilical cord still attached. I saw my parents crying, shaking their heads, holding Angelica’s limp body in their arms and smoothing hair away from my face.

I watched the courtroom proceedings, seeking clues. I needed to know. They found the rope he had used to kill me. They talked to his mistress who told of their five year long affair and his plans to kill me, the meticulous premeditation disclosed to her in passionate moments of invincibility. The perfect murder. Through it all, the unperturbed expression on Matt’s face, still confident, still feeling invincible even as the jury announced the guilty verdict and sentenced him to death by lethal injection.

I lost my physical form that Christmas. Now I move around, cradling Angelica in my arms, in screaming agony, confused, still trying to understand, my life, my love, my final moments. The phantom pains continue, no end in sight, haunting me even now.

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