One Egg or Two?
First published by Scrittura Magazine, December 2018
‘One egg or two?’ you ask.
‘Two please,’ she replies.
You listen to the crack and fizzle as each egg is released from its shell and into the hot butter.
You eat breakfast, savouring the moment of not knowing. You are both silent. Not because you don’t want to talk to. Not because there is nothing to say. Not even because you’re nervous. You don’t speak because there is too much hope in the air and each of you know precisely how easily hope is agitated. The slightest whiff of expectation and bang it’s out there. You can’t help it sometimes. You didn’t get through three years of this without triggering a couple of hope bombs.
So this morning, you both remain within yourselves, where you have been since you kissed goodnight. There is a plan for today, for whether you are, or whether you aren’t, so there is no need to talk. You clear away breakfast, collect your coats and meet by the car.
You sit side by side in the front and make your slow way through the morning traffic. You listen to the news, hearing how life could be worse. You park the car at the clinic. Later, you will go your separate ways. You by car. Her by foot. Each to work, no matter what. Life goes on.
You’re buzzed in and instructed to go upstairs. You walk along the top floor corridor. You’ve never made it this far before. You pass an empty waiting room.
‘Perhaps it’s just us here,’ she says.
‘Just us,’ you said last night, ‘is enough.’
‘Just us,’ she says.
She leans in for a brief moment before the door, and you press yourself to her as if to pass through her skin.
Inside the room, you sit very still in the pale pink not-quite-an-arm-chair chair.
She lies very still on the pale pink not-quite-a-bed bed.
Still you don’t talk. You are too solitary in your hope for the shambles of language. The thing you hope for too singular to say. Just one thing.
You hear the door open and watch the nurse come in.
‘Okay, let’s take a look,’ she says, pulling on latex gloves. You dimly acknowledge that in another universe, this is funny. But nothing is funny in here.
You stare at the not-quite-white ceiling tiles and don’t look at the nurse or the screen at her feet.
You close your eyes for a moment, and an involuntary image erupts in your mind. The two of you, pushing a... It threatens to obliterate you and suddenly the space between yourself and her is too wide. You are two singular bodies, disconnected from the future, adrift. Your hand shoots across the space between you, an anchor to hold you together.
Out of the corner of your eye you notice her chest rising and falling. Her breathing is loud in the silence of the small space.
In. Out. In. Out.
There is life in here already, it reminds you, never mind what next.
You join up your breathing with hers.
‘You got any others?’ the nurse asks her.
‘No, it’s just us,’ she says.
‘Mmm hmm,’ the nurse nods. ‘And did you have one egg or two?’
For a moment, you think she means breakfast and cannot fathom the relevance of such a question.
‘Two,’ she answers, clearing her throat. ‘We had two.’
You look to her, then follow her gaze to the crackle and fizzle of the black and white screen, scanning a tiny universe for life. You watch in silence. Not because you don’t want to talk. Not because there is nothing to say. Not even because you’re nervous. But because even you can clearly see there are two beings on the screen. Two. Twice as much, yet infinitely more than you could ever have hoped for. And you can’t speak because the hope in the room has already exploded, silent and joyous and utterly intoxicating.
And all you want to do is savour it.