Intersections – Cry
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I believe that we are all the same even though the world insists that we are different. We have minor differences. Gender. Skin. One called orientation. Because I’m Southern, I’m exceptionally good at navigating backroads and finding my way without getting lost. So when I hear orientation, as in race, gender, and orientation I think, yes! That’s me. I know where I’m going.
When I see differences – either obvious or obscure—I still think, we are all the same. So I’m going to take you on a little journey. I’m going to take you back to the moment of your birth. For my qualifications, I have four kids. You might think, “Eww! A mom.” But you should really be thinking, “Ohh! A mom.”
I am notoriously MILFy, and I take great pride in deflecting the advances of young men while shopping at Whole Foods.
In the womb, darkness isn’t perfect and silence isn’t complete. I found this out when my firstborn was breech inside of me, and we needed to turn the baby.
One way, involved rotating the fetus in my belly. Hands on the outside moving around the life inside of me. They neglected to mention the layers of muscle and organs or the pain I might experience.
Another way was reaching into my vagina, with the hopefully small hands and skinny arms of a doctor, to do the same painful turning exercise. But through my vagina.
I’m woman who has looked at my body critically for the past forty years. I know what’s wrong with my body, and I know what’s right. I know a lot about my vagina. It is perfect. No need to mess with it. It is a beautiful dark gateway depending on the direction. He is looking for paradise on the inside. Babies, of course, enjoy a brief stay and then are looking to get out.
The third option for turning my baby was a light. The doctor said, “The baby can see light and will swim toward it.” Simple as that. They suggested a flashlight placed near my pubic bone at the bottom of my pregnant belly. The womb is like outer space, not much gravity.
This alien creature lived inside of me. With eyes that can see and body that can swim. Just like you did inside your mother. Do you remember? The flashlight sounded less creepy and less invasive. So we went with that.
The doctor added, “You can even talk to her in that spot. She’ll move toward the sound.” My husband enjoyed using my vagina as a microphone. Every night we shone a light on my belly, and he whispered words to the fish inside of me. Eventually she did as we hoped and moved toward the light.
From our earliest moments, darkness and silence elude us. Silence is nearly impossible. Do you remember being in the womb? Even then your body was percussion. Can you remember hearing a heartbeat and breathing in the distance? There was no silence. The darkness wasn’t complete. In these moments, we were all exactly the same.
At first you cannot imagine the alien incubation period where the fetus, a kind of fish, lived inside of me. But you can imagine. Just me saying it reminds you of the moments when you lived inside another.
It was dark, but light was present. A red light. Blood, a beacon, a warning. There was sound— voices, breathing. There were angry words and crashing dishes. It could have been a hiccup or your mother’s sudden laughter. Sound had no meaning except to draw us closer to transition. Light had no meaning except to guide us. I’ve always been good at orienting myself, so like you, I eventually found which way to go.
You cannot tell me that we are different because of our skin or gender or because of who we love. Some days like that child in the womb, I love no one. If you think back, you can remember those moments of complete isolation.
I’ve seen eternity. That fish inside of me came from sperm and egg and cells and atoms going back to the beginning of time. If you are here, you are eternity. We all started in the same dark ocean.
Then the moment came when the ocean broke away from us. Every person you hate, every person who does not meet your standard of worth was somehow worthy of that moment when the light became too bright and made our differences visible.
It wasn’t the light or sound that startled us, but the wet warmth of the womb being erased with the first dry human hands that cradled our backs. You can almost remember. The coldness and brightness and the noise. We have all rested on a breast. We have all yearned for milk— even if it was moments before we were taken away. We were all the same in that darkness. Then we opened our eyes. Do you remember your first cry?
Try to remember. Icy air burning your lungs. It felt like dying— that first cry. It was the same for all of us. Maybe you can remember your scream, which was a breath, and the absence of tears.
We try to forget that your first cry was the last moment we were all the same.
This piece was first performed live as part of the WRITE CLUB Atlanta. They are celebrating five years of pitting Atlanta’s finest wordsmiths against each other in timed bouts on opposing concepts. It happens the second Wednesday of each month at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge in Atlanta. Happy Birthday, WRITE CLUB Atlanta!
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.