Silence, Screams, Serenades

One evening, sitting, as usual, on the couch in her living room, Ariel spotted the blind woman coming to the usual intersection. But instead of crossing Serenade, as she always did, she appeared to lose her balance. A moment later, she was stumbling, almost comically, as if having slipped on a banana peel, into the intersection. There were cars coming from either side of Division, and Ariel heard the horrible sound of screaming tires as a pain in her belly made her keel over as if she’d been punched. Water poured in a swift torrent from between her legs. “Summit!” she shouted. “Summit!” When he didn’t appear, she shouted his name again, in the same pitch as an ambulance siren. After what felt like half a century, he appeared, flushed, as if he’d run miles.

“My water broke,” she said.

There was an extended pause, a pause they had never rehearsed. It wasn’t, Ariel realized, a transitional pause, a pause Summit understandably needed to bring him from the world he knew before his wife was in labor to the world of labor. Rather, it was a pause she might have received in response to a question she had asked of someone who didn’t speak English, who didn’t speak any of the world’s 6,712 known languages, and is, besides, mute. It was a pause, Ariel was realizing, that might expand to allow her time to grow a garden or write a Russian novel.

“The hospital?” Ariel suggested as clearly as her groaning would allow.

Summit smiled. “Great idea.”


Between wild visions of giving birth in the front seat—“We named her Camry, after our Japanese midwife”—Ariel tried to tell Summit the story about the blind woman. But because she had never told him about the blind woman, or because he had forgotten, he didn’t have any context.

“Did you see this on television?” he asked.

“No,” Ariel said. “I saw it—oooh, oooh, ouch!” And: “Shit, Summit, drive faster!”

“I’m at a red light.”

“I don’t care!”

“All right.” Summit inched into the intersection. The sound of horns filled the air. “Stop!” Ariel screamed.

Summit stopped.

A century later, the light turned green. A century after this, Ariel was in the hospital entrance, where she was sure she would give birth. A century after this, she was in a bed in the maternity ward, where she thought she would deliver immediately.

When she hadn’t delivered after five and-a-half hours of pushing and screaming (Summit was her target—she called him every insult she had ever called him and debuted a new accusation: “You got me pregnant so you could see me die!”), her doctor, Sarah Perkins, who had graduated from the Tufts School of Medicine thirteen years before Ariel, suggested an episiotomy. And so she was ripped open like a watermelon. More liquid left her, but her baby remained stubbornly in her womb.

“Summit,” Ariel said. He looked at her, wincing in advance either of what insult she might shout at him or what pain might shake her body. “If I die and our baby lives, will you tell her about me? Will you tell her I would have sung to her every night? Lullabies? Summit? Will you?”

When tears streaked down Summit’s cheeks, Ariel thought, He knows something I don’t know. He knows I’m going to die.

“You goddamn bastard!” she shouted. “I’m dying and all you can do is cry?”

A millennium later, their baby made her way into the world, howling as if she’d entered a ring of the Inferno. Ariel felt a rush of bliss, like a tremendous drug she would never be able to quit, followed by a fall to a place she had never been and feared had no exit.