That particular Tuesday night didn't seem to be any different than any other. A young woman, a fairly regular customer who typically comes in with her boyfriend, came in instead with a girlfriend and ordered drinks at the bar. Noting my bowl of food and a notepad set up in front of the two nearest barstools, the girls elected instead to occupy a booth just behind me. They were joined shortly by two guys, who crammed into the booth with them. Nothing illicit appeared to be happening. They were just a group of friends, out for a middle-of-the-week cocktail. My only qualm was regarding one of the guys, who didn't have money for drinks and kept going back to his friend for cash for drinks and for the jukebox.
I was standing at the other end of the room chatting with a group of friends when I heard yelling coming from the booth. I looked up to see a woman standing before the "U" shaped booth, her back to me while the two girls in the booth stared in shock and the two guys looked simply dumbstruck. The subject of her rage was clearly the penniless patron. Before I could act I saw her fling her arm across the table, knocking the collection of glasses the group had been building for an hour or so into their laps, then she lifted the table and whatever was left fell on them as well. I started to dash across the bar when I heard her say, "Leave me alone! I'm six months pregnant!" Sure enough as I approached I could see her rounded belly resting above the waistband of her sweatpants and protruding from her tight black tank top.
The memory came flooding swiftly back to me:
I was probably about seven months pregnant, waiting at my parents' house for Ben to let me know he was coming home. There was no response to my messages. He couldn't be working that late. The kitchen was closed, and besides, he'd been there since early in the morning. I excused myself and walked back to my house, where I promptly climbed into my car and drove down the street to Amestoy's. Ben's truck was parked out back.
I walked into the bar, and the voices ceased immediately. A collective breath was held by everyone in the bar as they burned me with their stare. It was like a scene from a Kenny Rogers song. Ben was sitting next to the daytime bartender, Jessica, and they appeared to be sharing a pizza.
By then, the news of Gabriel's condition was well-known. We were carrying a terminally ill child. And my husband had lied to me about where he was, leaving me at home to mourn my child's impending fate. I walked over to him, shaking. I could feel the sympathetic eyes of Jaron, the night shift bartender, on me. No one tried to stop me as I quietly but firmly spoke the cruelest words I have ever said to anyone: "You're a terrible father, and I wish you were dying instead of my son." I turned, and left.
I gave the pregnant girl a minute to speak so I could assess the scene.
"You lied to me! We had a fight, and I find you at the bar with two girls I've never seen?" I approached and put my hand on her wrist and her boyfriend said to her, "You have glass in your neck." I looked at the glistening pieces and began to pick them off of her. She glanced at me and her face began to crumple. She held strong. "Who are you?" she demanded of the girls.
The regular was quick to speak. "We're friends. I've known him since high school. He was just showing me your ultrasound picture." I grasped her wrist and said softly, "You need to take this outside."
I turned to her boyfriend with blazing eyes. "Take her outside and fix this." Blood was leaking from his hand, but I didn't care. I hated him in that moment. Besides, three other innocent bystanders were sitting under shards of glass that wouldn't have been smashed to bits, but for his lies.
We began putting the shattered pieces of the night back together. Shane helped me clean up the glass. The girls picked the pieces off of themselves, and Shane pulled the table back so they could stand and shake off whatever remained.
"She was crazy," one of them said.
"Yes. But he shouldn't have lied. Not right now." The expectant mother had my unwavering sympathy that night.
"No. He shouldn't have. But we weren't doing anything wrong."
"I know. I know. But she doesn't know. She's pregnant, and she feels unattractive, and she feels alone, and he lied to her, and you can imagine how that looks, right?" The girls nodded.
I reflect often on that night at Amestoy's. I regret my cruelty. I regret allowing myself to momentarily jump to conclusions about Jessica and Ben. I regret indulging in "If I could change things. . ." kinds of games, because I couldn't do a damn thing to change any of it. The path had been set many months before and we were on course and there could be no going back, no do-overs. Whether I was alone at home, in a crowd at the bar, in the aisles of the grocery store, behind the bar or in a courtroom at work, everywhere I went with my son tucked safely in my pregnant belly, Gabriel's condition and the result of that condition were inevitable.
The pregnancy was so public. Gabriel's condition was so well-known and my blog entries were being closely followed. I think people must think that they knew exactly what I was feeling. The thing is, I can say it, or write it as much as I want, but none of us can really begin to imagine what goes on in others' lives and minds when we're not watching. The grief that weighed on me throughout that pregnancy was greater than I ever let on. What went on behind the closed doors of my home and my heart was unimaginable, and I'm still trying every day to put the pieces of my shattered life back together.