“I’m so sorry, Ben! I’m so sorry! I don’t understand how this could have happened! It’s not . . . I did exactly what I was supposed to! I don’t know how it would have just fallen out! I don’t! I don’t!”

Ben grabbed me. By this time he had put his underwear back on. I was still naked as he clutched me.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “We have plenty of options.” to me, when a man tells you that you have options, he means you can get an abortion.

“No, Ben,” I said. “I can’t do that. I can’t. not . . . not when it’s yours.”

Ben started laughing. Which was weird because there was nothing funny about it.

“That’s not what I meant. at all. and I agree. We won’t do that.”

“Oh,” I said. “then what are you talking about?”

“Well, we don’t know how long it’s been gone, right?”

I shook my head, embarrassed. this was completely my fault. How could I be so incredibly careless?

“So, we can get the morning after pill for this one. But we might not be out of the woods for anything days ago.”

“Right. right.”

“So, if it ends up that next month, your period is late and you are pregnant, then I’m going to grab your hand and take you with me to the courthouse right across the street from your office. We’re getting a marriage license and I will marry you right then and there in front of the judge.that doesn’t scare me. diapers scare me. But spending my life with you doesn’t scare me. not one bit.and trust me, I do not want a baby right now. We can’t afford it. We don’t have a lot of time. We don’t have the resources. But you bet your f**king ass that if you’re pregnant, we will figure out a way to make it work and we’ll look back on it and say that you losing that nuvaring was the smartest thing we ever did. so don’t cry. don’t stress. Whatever happens happens. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. We are in this together and we will be fine.”

No one had ever said that to me before. I didn’t know what to say.

“Does that work for you? I want to make sure you feel the same way,” he said.

I nodded.

“Okay. Just for the record, I hope you’re not pregnant because—” He started laughing. “I am not ready to be a dad.”

“Me neither,” I said and then corrected myself. “to be a mom, I mean.” It was quiet for a while. “When is your lease up?” I asked.

“It’s month to month.” He smiled.

“I think you should move in.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

And then, for some masochistic and stupid reason, we had sex again.

June

I am sitting in the bathroom, not sure what to do. My period is nowhere to be found. and for the first time since Ben died, I find myself excited about something. scared, for sure. nervous, most definitely. I am anxious in every conceivable interpretation of the word.

What if I’m pregnant? Maybe my life with Ben isn’t over. Maybe

Ben is here. Ben could be living inside me. Maybe our relationship isn’t a ghost. What if my relationship with Ben is a tangible piece of the world? What if Ben is soon to be living and breathing again?

I run to the pharmacy down the street, the very same one that Ben biked to when he was getting my cereal. normally, I avoid this street, I avoid this store, but I have to know. I have to know as soon as possible whether this is real. I know that having a baby won’t solve anything, but it could make this better. It could make this easier. It will mean that Ben will never truly leave my life. I yearn for that feeling so badly that I can’t take my usual detour. I take the most direct route.

I run past the intersection where I lost him, the intersection that fractured my life from one long joyride to a series of days, hours, and minutes that are insufferable. as I fly through the crosswalk, I hear a small crunch under my feet and I am too scared to look down. If I see a Fruity pebble, I might just drop to the middle of the road, willing cars to run me over, and I can’t do that now. I might have a baby inside me.

I get into the pharmacy and I run right past the food section. I know that it was the last place Ben did anything. I know he stood in that aisle and he picked a box of cereal. I can’t look at it. I head to the family planning aisle and I buy four boxes of pregnancy tests. I rush to the cashier and tap my foot impatiently as the line moves slowly and inconsistently.

When it is finally my turn, I pay for them, and I know the cashier thinks he knows what’s going on, a woman my age buying boxes of pregnancy tests. He probably thinks he gets me. He doesn’t. no one could ever understand this.

I run home and race into the bathroom. I’m nervous and I don’t have to pee, so it takes me quite a while to finally pee on a stick. I do two just to be sure. I figure I have the other two left over if I need them.

I set them down on the counter and look at the time. I have two minutes.two minutes until I know what the rest of my life is going to look like.

Then I start to realize, I have to be pregnant. What are the chances I’m not? I must be. I messed up my birth control, I had unprotected sex multiple times, and it’s just a coincidence that my period, which is never late, is now late? that doesn’t make any sense. My period is days late. that can only mean one thing.

It means I’m not alone in this. It means Ben is here with me. It means my life, that felt empty and miserable, now feels difficult but manageable. I can be a single mother. I can raise this child by myself. I can tell this child all about his father. about how his father was a gentle man, a kind man, a funny man, a good man. If it’s a girl, I can tell her to find a man like her father. If it’s a boy, I can tell him to be a man like his father. I can tell him his father would have been so proud of him. If he’s g*y, I can tell him to be like his father and find a man like his father—which would be the best of all worlds. If she grows up to be a lesbian, she won’t need to be or find anyone like her father, but she’ll still love him. she’ll know that she came from a man that would have loved her. she’ll know she came from two people that loved each other fiercely. she’ll know not to settle for anything less than a love that changes her life.

I can tell her about the time we met. she’ll want to know. she’ll ask over and over as a child. she’ll want to keep pictures of him framed around the house. she’ll have his nose or his eyes, and just when I least suspect it, she’ll say something that sounds like him. she’ll move her hands in a way that he did. He’ll live on in her and I won’t be alone. I won’t be without him. He’s here. He didn’t leave me. this isn’t over. My life isn’t over. Ben and I are not over. We have this. We have this child. I will dedicate my life to raising this child, to letting Ben’s body and soul live on through this child.

I grab the sticks, already knowing what they say, and then I drop to my knees.

I am wrong.

There is no child.

No matter how many sticks I use, they keep saying the same thing. they keep telling me Ben is gone forever and that I am alone.

I don’t move from the bathroom floor for hours. I don’t move until I feel it. I am bleeding.

I know it’s a sign that my body is fully functioning, that I am physically fine. But it feels like a betrayal.

I call ana. I say I need her and I’m sorry. I tell her she is all I have left.

Part Two

½

August

Are things easier with time? Maybe. Maybe not. the days are easier to get through because I have a pattern to follow. I’m back at work. I have projects to occupy my mind. I can almost sleep through the night now. In my dreams, Ben and I are together. We are free. We are wild. We are what we were. In the mornings, I ache for my dreams to be real, but it’s a familiar ache, and while it feels like it might kill me, I know from having felt it the day before that it won’t. and maybe that’s how some of my strength comes back.

I rarely cry in public anymore. I’ve become a person about which people probably say, “she’s really bounced back quite nicely.” I am lying to them. I have not bounced back nicely. I’ve just learned to impersonate the living. I have lost almost ten pounds. It’s that dreaded last ten that magazines say every woman wants to lose. I suppose I have the body I’ve always wanted. It doesn’t do me much good.

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