Christine Stoddard | Lakshmy Mathur
Gabriela put the phone down and looked me in the face. She was my mother’s age and, despite no relation, had my grandmother’s hazel eyes, more green than chestnut. The magazine’s cramped office meant that our desks were so close to each other that I almost ate my lunch in her lap every day.
“That was my friend,” she finally said, stunned.
I nodded and continued typing my email to the priest/dentist I needed to interview for my article on Catholic service organizations in Central America.
Gabriela kept staring at me. I kept typing. Then I clicked ‘send.’ I turned back to her. Her mouth hung open but no words came out.
“A friend at my old job. Our other friend gave birth four months into her pregnancy.”
I straightened up as Gabriela sunk into her hands for a few moments and then rose again.
“The baby was born alive,” she said. “But he was so small. He lived for fifteen minutes. They named him Isaiah. Then he died.”
I sucked in my breath. “God.”
“Fifteen minutes. And he died,” Gabriela repeated as she fell back into her hands. “Why would God do that?”
I screwed up my face and lifted my palms.
Gabriela sighed. “My old co-workers want me to write the sympathy card.”
“I think this sort of thing affects us women most,” she said.
Biting my lip, I nodded. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon refreshing my inbox and pretending to the read the pope’s new encyclical on the environment. Gabriela didn’t touch her lunch.
When I got off work that evening, it was pouring. I ran out of the building and into the warm rain, splashing through the parking lot. My leather sandals almost slipped off. At the crackle of thunder, my heart skipped. I gulped and galloped toward my car.
I spent the fifteen-minute drive home gripping the steering wheel, trying to enjoy the summer hits on the radio. Somehow I pushed through seven inches of water and parked my car farther from my apartment than I would’ve liked. I gathered up my bags and tried running to the main door, but there was so much rain now that I tripped and lost my sandal to the flood gathering in the lot. Another crackle of thunder stopped me from chasing it. I hopped the rest of the way to the door.
When I reached the lobby, I shook myself dry and smiled a sad smile at the children playing by the front desk. My evening battle with the rain had lasted longer than Isaiah’s whole life.