I get to campus early, and sit in the courtyard between two buildings. The sun is out, pushing it's way through clouds that seem close enough to touch. I should be reading for class, but I'm not. The book sits in my lap, heavy with words I won't read today.
I see a familiar face across the courtyard. I think we had a class together last Spring. She is sitting on a bench, knees to her chest, and she's talking on her cell phone. What the hell is her name? Stephanie? Stacy? Sam? Yes, Sam.
She doesn't seem to be happy. I hear the lilt in her voice, rising up through the trees. She turns her face up towards the sun, closes her eyes, and effortlessly chunks her phone into the grass nearby. I giggle at this.
She rests her cheek on her knees, rocking back and forth. I continue to pretend to read my textbook. I've always been a people-watcher; it's one of my favorite things to do. If you ask me what I like to do when I'm alone, I'm willing to bet it will make my Top 5 list.
She stops rocking, quickly pulling up her head. Leaving her bag under the bench, she starts running towards one of the buildings, disappearing inside.
I call her name as I walk towards her abandoned bag. I pick it up and head inside after her.
The hallway is empty.
I push open the door to the first floor women's restroom. I hear primative sounds, strangled whimpers from one of the stalls. I am frozen in silence, not sure what to do.
I glance under the last stall, and see a shoe without a foot, lying on it's side. My heart is beating in my throat, and I push on the stall door. It's locked.
"Sam. Are you okay?"
I slam my shoulder against the door when I hear another strangled cry. The door pops open suprisingly easy, slamming into the pink tiled wall behind it. The latch flies off and skips like a stone across the floor, landing by the sink.
Sam is curled around the toilet bowl on the floor.
I see blood.
I drop down on my knees, and place a hand on her bare foot. There is blood everywhere. Her arms, her hands, a smudge on her left cheek, her jeans are covered. I am confused, until I actually see that there is something cradled in her hands. I stifle my own cry.
Sam is in the process of miscarrying. She looks up at me as she plunges her hands into the water of the toilet.
With tears flowing over, she reaches up and flushes the toilet, saying only "Don't" as I grasp for her sleeve.
I stay on my knees, slouched over her legs, trying to figure out what to do next. She says again: "Don't."
She pulls her shirt off, and begins to wipe herself clean, dipping it in the now-empty toilet. I take off my hoodie and place it across her shoulders, averting my eyes.
She tells me to leave.
So I do.
Outside in the sunlight, I feel as though I am dreaming. I sit back down on the bench where I left my textbook, pages fluttering in the wind. I rub my hands on the thighs of my jeans, and search my mind for a thought, a complete, rational thought. None.
The semester flies by without a hitch. Early Spring turns to early Summer, everything is in full bloom, the sun is blazing. I don't see Sam on campus again. Neither does anyone else. I say nothing.
One week into the Summer semester, Sam walks into my class late. Her skin is glowing, healthy and tan. She does not see me as she slips into a seat in the back corner. I am distracted by her presence. I want to make eye contact. I want to talk with her.
After class, I step into the hallway, turning back towards the classroom door. She sees me when she leaves the room, and averts her eyes.
"Sam? How are you?"
Sam smiles kindly, grabs my wrist, and practically drags me down the hall towards the bathroom. She pulls me into a stall with her, locking us both inside.
With a quiver in her voice, Sam says, "I can't talk about it. I won't. Did you tell anyone?"
I shake my head, slowly at first, working up speed until she grabs my chin and yanks it up, forcing eye contact.
"You can not talk about this. It is my story to tell, and I am not telling it. "
I find my voice. "But you can tell me your story. I was there, for fuck's sake."
She is taken aback by the force behind my words. "You really think you want to know this? You really think you can handle this? You really want to know how long I wanted that baby?"
Now I am taken aback. I stutter, stammer meaningless shit, but she continues on, raging.
"Do you want to know how my stupid boyfriend beat me senseless? Or how many times I thought about leaving, but forgave him instead? Or how I cried when I pissed on that damn stick and it came back with that damn word 'pregnant'? Or how I had to throw the stick out in my neighbor's trashcan so he wouldn't find it?"
"Or! OR! How about how I had the glorious idea that maybe, just maybe this baby would fix things? That by telling him I was pregnant with his child he might stop pulling my hair, punching my face, forcing me to the ground to pick up crumbs when I didn't clean good enough to suit his needs?"
"Sam...please. I'm so sorry. I had no idea."
"That's right! You didn't! I mean, seriously...what's your name? Oh fuck, it doesn't even matter. It doesn't matter because what did it get me? I told him and do you know what he did??"
I shake my head, pretty sure I do not want to know.
"He cried. And then he beat the fuck out of me. And then what did I do? I got up and finished washing his clothes. And I skipped class for a week to heal. And I didn't go see a doctor. And then the day I finally decide I am done with this bullshit, I lose the one thing I was fighting for."
With that, she opens the bathroom stall, stepping out. I stand there with my hand on my throat, mind racing, eyes full.
She turns to me as she's leaving the bathroom.
"Look, don't say anything, okay? I'm sorry you saw. I'm sorry I just went off on you. I just can't....can't deal with anyone seeing me at my worst. Please don't ever talk to me again."
She leaves the bathroom. I am left standing in the stall, absent-mindedly rubbing a sore spot on my neck. I leave the bathroom, and watch her through a window, striding across the parking lot. The sun is shining.