SCARS - 3rd Prize - Emily Makere Broadmore
Huge congratulations to Emily for winning 3rd prize with her beautifully crafted, and powerful second-person narrative, A Reclamation of Life:
A RECLAMATION OF LIFE
by Emily Makere Broadmore
You are six weeks post-partum and you’ve just had a Brazilian wax.
Between your legs you are swollen, not by baby, but by arousal. It begins deep in your groin and spirals through your belly, your heart. Thrashing its way out from between your swollen leaking breasts.
You are wearing a tampon. Because sometimes there is still some blood. But not much.
Mostly, it’s arousal.
You still can’t sit up easily, so you roll your way off the beautician's table, stagger upright and look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the room. Your arse is more rounded than it used to be, but your stomach is flatter. Flatter than it’s ever been. Despite the thin line across your abdomen.
Motherhood suits you. It’s filled out the parts that used to be coltish, and flattened the parts that were once soft with alcohol and youthful living.
For the first time in your life, you feel sexy.
You stop at the bottle store on your way home. Champagne, you decide. A little Death in the Afternoon perhaps. An old favourite. Hemmingway. The surrealist movement. Something about these things attracts you to the liquor and makes up for the fact it tastes like cough syrup. You wander into the chilled aisle for sparkling water. The coolness hits you between your thighs, and you press your legs together under your dress.
The house is quiet when you arrive home. It smells of milk. Always of milk. You had carpet cleaners through last week and still the smell lingers. Motherhood seeping from the carpet. No one else seems to mind. Your mother-in-law even purchased a room diffuser for you. A fancy reed one.
Powered musk. Just like a baby’s bottom.
You threw it in the rubbish bin.
You find Adrian lying topless on the white linen couch in the sunroom. He is handsome, your husband. Everyone says so. Everyone also said white would be a silly colour when you are expecting a child. But you wanted a white couch. White everything. Except when you wanted a small amount of grey.
You pad softly over the carpet and sink down onto your husband. His arms catch you, position you. His lips brush your cheek. You feel safe and loved. Underneath the long cotton folds of your sundress your bare legs rub together. You feel wet.
You run a hand down his front.
The baby, you ask.
Asleep, he says. 120ml of formula. A new record. Two burps and fast asleep.
Your heart burns with love. With desire. For you have fallen in love with your husband all over again. Watching him tend to the small bundle as the doctors stitched you up while you vomited green bile into a small plastic tub.
It reminded you of absinthe, that vomit. Intoxicating and dangerous. Just like awe and love.
You run a hand enquiringly down Adrian’s front. The hairs across his chest are short, grey and curly. You like the grey. He is your wizened owl. You would trust your life with no one else. You nuzzle into his chest, sniffing deeply.
His scent is masked by the musk of milk.
That night you wait for him in bed. Naked. Hoping he will come. For he hasn’t touched you, not in that way, in months. That’s why you are spending too much time in your hot pants, pushing the pram through Brooklyn park at 7am on weekday mornings.
There was one moment when you were heavily pregnant, maybe seven months, when Adrian came into your room late one night and knelt between your legs. Your orgasm began before he’d even sunk his entire mouth on to you. So intensely, so deeply, did you want him. But that was all. That was it. His final gift to you as a woman before you became a mother.
And now he murmurs at your touch.
Love, he says, I am so tired.
You meet your friend Katie for coffee at your local café the next morning. Sam, the barista, is barely out of university and flirts with you. You like to think this is because you’re hot, not because he thinks you are so old you won’t take him seriously. If that’s the case, he’s wrong. You have a regular fantasy where he bends you over the café counter after hours and licks you from your pussy to your arse.
You sit at an outside table and survey the passers-by enjoying east River views. It’s all upmarket activewear and sneakers. You’re wearing pink bike shorts and a slouchy top, epitome of athleisure mother wear. When Katie arrives you wish you’d made more effort. She already has two children but dresses as though she has none. But she has it worse than you. An emotionally absent husband. She smokes weed every night then lets him fuck her from behind. That way, she said once, it’s all over within a few minutes and I can stop pretending.
That’s nice, you said when she told you this. That he wants you every night.
She’d given you that look then, that you’ve since come to know well. This was at the cusp of your friendship, back when you both danced around the edges of your unhappiness to avoid honesty.
But it isn’t me he wants, she’d said. It’s all about him. He needs the sex. I am just the vessel.
At this point you would happily accept emotionally absent sex.
Lost your virginity yet, she asks.
You roll your eyes and act like you don’t care. But she knows you do.
Honestly, she says. Don’t envy me. It’s like MacDonalds. Scratches the itch but afterwards, I’m just left feeling bad about myself.
You watch Sam frothing the milk through the window. He catches your eye and winks at you. Play it again, Sam, you think.
Adrian presents you with a diamond bracelet that evening in bed. Small black stones circle your wrist. You enjoy the glitter of the jewels and the obvious cost.
A push present, he says.
He looks like a Labrador wanting a pat. Which you would gladly give him.
Your flutter your lashes.
Do you require payment, you enquire.
Both a joke and an invitation. For you are losing your nerve. Being turned down sexually as a woman does that over time. Small cuts, until a hard layer forms over the scar.
And he knows what you want. But he pretends not to.
He kisses your cheek lovingly, paternally, and retreats to the lounge.
It wasn’t always like this. Once he used to devour you like a chocolate cake. Spreading your cheeks widely as he bent you over the couch in front of a roaring fire.
This is, he would moan, the most delicious treat of all.
What, you’d giggle.
You, he’d say.
His mouth muffled by your skin. He’d look up at you and laugh, saying, I feel like a small boy being presented a giant chocolate cake and being told eat as much as you like. Really, all for me?
Yes, you say, all for you.
You are, you’ve decided, in the market for a lover, an intelligent hippy. Someone whose mind doesn’t race at lightning speed, calculating cryptocurrency fluctuations as their fingers paw at your breasts and rub you too hard, too quickly, between your legs. You’ve been there and you want more. You’ve read The Passionate Marriage. Left it lying around the house, pages bookmarked, and sentences underlined. Enthralled, weren’t you, by the descriptions of transcendent sex. The type where time stops and reality blurs.
You need someone spiritual.
Someone who has presence.
Someone who may have dabbled in tantra.
But they must be intelligent.
For you want more than a fuck. You want the philosophy and the erotic intellectualised pillow talk that stretches throughout the foreplay, exists alongside the sex – whispered into your ear as you cum - and afterwards as you both wallow in the hormonal afterglow of lovemaking sharing your deepest thoughts and desires.
It’s a certain type of man who will flirt with a woman pushing a pram. That you have learnt. The young men look right through you. A former colleague walked right past you in the East Village that morning as you stood outside Shake Shack with the pram. You waved in his face and shouted, hey, as he walked down the pavement. But he didn’t see you. As if you needed more reason to doubt yourself. But then again, he probably never saw you in yoga pants. Back then, back in your late twenties, when you worked together for the Washington Post, you were always immaculate. You had a thing for red lipstick back then. It wasn’t all that long ago, and yet it feels like an entire life has passed. As it has. A life. It passed literally through you into the world. And as you gave birth to this new life, a part of you died.
Anyway, the young man. All young men.
To them you are invisible.
Your mother once said, of Adrian, does he like the idea of you as a mother?
You’d laughed. I don’t even like the idea of me as a mother, you’d replied.
But now you understand. Too late you understand.
You’ve found one.
His name is Christian and he has a European accent. You think his accent is Italian, but it could be Spanish. You’ve never been very good at picking accents. If Adrian met him, he would interrogate him thoroughly about his nation’s politics. Adrian is good at picking up accents. He speaks three languages and often teases your linguistic incompetence. But you don’t particularly care about the provenance of Christians accent right now. You aren’t your husband. All you care about is the fact that this beautiful man, for he is beautiful with his long dark hair and sinewy body, ticks the boxes.
And you didn’t find him, he found you.
You were braless, with a ketchup smear on your top from the evening before and skin bereft of make-up. The knee-deep in nappy stage, as Katie would say.
He’d looked at you quizzically as you charged over the road to Brooklyn Park, pushing the pram ahead of you as though you are charging off a cliff.
For you were.
The baby had been howling since 4am.
You had noted him, but not noticed him as he strolled along the walkway with headphones over his ears. His pace, so much slower than yours. You wondered what he was listening too. It wasn’t the same frequency as the constant buzz of sleep deprivation within your mind. But his steps fell into time with yours, and you continued forward determinedly towards the lake. When he finally spoke, you pushed your sunglasses onto your head to see him more clearly. Suspicious and confronted. Bristling from the forced social interaction at that Godawful time of the morning.
Was it normal to be hit on while dishevelled, pushing a baby in a pram and at 7.45am?
And you aren’t wearing a bra.
That is your next thought.
Closely followed by the fact that your pink onesie could easily pass as sleepwear.
You add him on FaceBook, and send him a short message.
Hey, nice to meet you! I was really dishevelled...don’t always look like that!
You regret it the instant you hit send, but you can’t undo what you’ve done.
You know that he knows you have done the detective work. And not just for the purposes of apologising for your filthy skimpy onesie and lack of a bra.
Hello there, he replies within minutes. You didn’t look dishevelled at all. You are beautiful.
Your chest. Heaving. But this time, fuelled by lightness. You stare at the trees overhead, your grin huge and transparent. Hopefulness.
A coo from the front of the pram. A gurgle. You lean forward and gently pat the bare little head of your son. For the first time in weeks, months even, you are filled with joy.
Adrian takes his phone with him everywhere. You start to suspect he’s having an affair. But you can’t understand with who, or even when he’d find the time.
And for the first time, you don’t particularly care.
You bump into Christian again. It’s almost as if he’s been waiting for you. You open the door to the café and turn, dragging the pushchair after you. It’s busy, the door thuds shut on the wheel of the pram. You need to pee and feel like crying. It’s a Wednesday and you’ve just seen Katie. She’s having sex with her tennis instructor, and you both know this is cliché. So together you allowed the tears of laughter to roll down your cheeks and enjoyed the excuse to cry. You can hide your tears of sorrow within humour. Of course, the line is so thin.
And this feeling is still with you as a man’s strong arm reaches over your shoulder to hold open the door. You mutter thanks, sighing and pulling the wheel free. When you look up, it’s him, over you, smiling down at you. Your chest stills. You don’t breathe. But you smile. His eyes look so deep into yours you glance down, embarrassed. He isn’t just looking at you, he’s looking deep into your soul. His eyes a light brown, deep and penetrating. Intense, Katie would say. He is really intense.
You begin chattering away too fast, saying too much. Waving your hand toward the base of the pram to where a stack of magazines lie. You couldn’t choose between the Vogue US or Vogue UK, so you bought both.
He dips his head and takes a half step back to peek into the pram. His smile is enquiring and soft.
Do you have children, you ask.
Two he says. Twin boys. They live with their mother.
And there is the next subtle hint.
You imagine ever referring to Adrian in that way
And so it begins.
It’s been ten weeks. Ten weeks where you wake with a smile on your face, every alert on your phone sends your heart racing. You say his name over and over. Christian. Christian. Christian. You’ve even found yourself lighting incense and walking around your house chanting his name. Recalling your last encounter.
You, slipping off your shoes at the foot of his stairs.
Him, whispering: Can I take you straight to bed, please?
You, nodding as you step backwards up the stairs, guided by his hands around your arms.
Both of you, staring at each other, unable to break away. His eyes say everything. They scream of passion and love. You drink in their amber glow. The sense of cherishment. For the first time in your life.
At home you will the universe to send him your way somehow. A text. A text would be enough. You’ve spent the morning in the window seat in case he walks past your house. He hasn’t today.
But then, a chime.
And how are you today, beautiful?
You heart explodes.
I was just thinking of you, you say
Oh my beauty, he says. I think of you about every thirty seconds.
And so. You fall.
You have sex with two men in one day. This is something you can’t even tell Katie. It wasn’t meant to happen, of course. God, given your record with Adrian the possibilities are miniscule. You begin to wonder about scent. Whether the scent of sex on you is arousing your husband, subconsciously. You certainly ooze sex. You think of sex more than you ever have. You can bring yourself to climax within thirty seconds with your vibrator, and in under two minutes manually.
Your orgasms with Christian?
Christian messages you at 8pm.
I need you. Come over?
Adrian is in the lounge, watching YouTube and scrolling his phone.
You bite your lip and loiter in the doorway. He doesn’t look up.
All OK love, he says.
It’s Katie, you say. She wants a wine.
He looks up now.
He looks down at his phone again and back to you.
Bit late isn’t it, he says.
It’s Friday night, we’ve just forgotten what normality is, you say.
He nods. You kiss his cheek, and race downstairs in relief. In anticipation. Wash yourself, quickly, with a face cloth. Long skirt, heels. No underwear.
You run down the road. The lights of the street emanating a glow that seems brighter, fuller than usual. Just as you feel. Brighter, fuller, ecstatic with life.
And there he is, walking toward you. Handsome, tall, elegant.
You’ve never thought a man elegant before. But this man defies all stereotypes. Not textbook handsome, but so handsome. His aura, Katie would say. It’s something to do with the aura. He strides towards you, both of you staring at each other, grinning. Like idiots, you think. He doesn’t say anything as he reaches you, but places one hand heavily on either shoulder and looks into your eyes.
Hello, you say.
Hello, he smiles. I had to see you.
I love seeing you.
You swallow, breathe.
He clasps the collar of your coat and pulls it tighter around your neck. You aren’t cold, but this gesture warms you. Your hands run down his front and you lean onto him, breathing in the scent of him. So sweet, laundry powder and musk. Not powdered musk, a manly musk.
He takes your arm in the nook of his and turns you down the street.
You don’t care who sees you. You don’t care for the consequences. Your heart, as scarred as it is, is open to a reclamation of the passion your once enjoyed. In that moment you want nothing more than the few precious hours you have ahead of you with this man.
Copyright. Emily Makere Broadmore.
Emily is a Director of a public relations and communications agency in Wellington, New Zealand. She spent of her twenties working in parliament as a political staffer and press secretary, an experience which finds its way into much of her writing.
Emily writes fiction that frequently hinges on satire, cutting close to the bone of human eccentricities and relationships. She is currently working on her second novel-length manuscript. She lives between Wellington city and the beautiful Kapiti coast with her husband. When in town she fulfils the inner-city mum stereotype by transporting her five-year-old twins on a cargo e-bike.