When the percolator's light came on I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the table. The cup was part of a big dinnerware set we got at McKelveys after our honeymoon in New York. Shiny, bone white cups, saucers, plates. A sugar bowl.
All pale white...like Roberta's skin. At the hospital she looked like a china doll. She'd been struggling, trying to breathe. I sat by her bed and tried to soothe her but she coughed and gagged and I heard the rattle of phlegm in her throat. Then she got real quiet, and I thought she would finally get some rest. But then I heard her breathe out a long sigh. I guess I was dozing off at that point, and that sigh just jerked my head right up, and I looked at my baby and saw she wasn't moving at all, and I got up and pushed open the door of the room and yelled down the corridor for the nurse. A couple of them came in and looked at her, but they shook their heads. There was nothing they could do, they said. My baby's curly hair was damp and stuck to the side of her head, and her skin was perfectly white like a porcelain mask. So white. That sweet baby who smiled...wrinkled her nose at me, made me laugh so often.
I tried not to think of those things, but just about everything I ran into reminded me of my baby. Just the color white, which was the color of that tiny coffin they put her in. Or pink. Or anything knit. I'd be at McKelveys. There always was a young mother pushing a perambulator, or carrying a baby in her arms. Or I'd be at the grocery store, next to the canned soups, and see all the Gerber's baby food. Strained carrots. Reminders everywhere--at the magazine stand, walking on the sidewalk, riding a bus, or listening to the radio. No matter what I'd do or where I'd go I'd see something that would trigger the memories.
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