• Stoned Fruits

    Stephanie Danler

    Winter 2019

    The first thing I lost was my desire to die. A refuge of mine since childhood, private and voluptuous, akin to eating cold leftover noodles with my fingers in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Decadent.

    I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to a blanched gray room and said, I don’t feel well. Matt said strangely, You dreamed you were pregnant. I couldn’t tell if he was asleep. Had I dreamed that? Had I said that out loud? He said again, You’re pregnant. The drugstore opened at 7:00 a.m. We stood outside at 6:55, waiting for them to unlock the doors.

    I peed on a stick, saw two blue lines, and I was pregnant. A formula with the unfriendly bluntness of a math equation. I dislike math, and anything you can’t get out of. I stared at the pregnancy test. Disbelief hedged in my mouth. How?  Isn’t this what we wanted and planned for? There were the receipts for acupuncture. There were the prenatal vitamins. All the hard bargaining and wishing. I had been told it wouldn’t happen like this for me—quickly, or easily.

    An hour later, the initial shock fading, I felt a loss. It came in the form of, I can’t kill myself. It wasn’t a longing for death in that moment, but a longing for a longing, which is equal parts nostalgia and grief. Those interminable drives, fogged with depression or mania, where my breathing matched the mantra, I can die, I can die. An assurance passed down to me from an alcoholic, depressive mother who believed in verbalizing her desire for death even when I was a child. Surprisingly, I have not become a depressive or an alcoholic like her, but upon losing the ability to fantasize about dying, I saw for the first time that there had been something tender in my attachment to it—it was something that was ours. I understood that when she said it, she’d meant only kindness.

    It was gone. No exit on my own terms. None of my elaborate escapes. Behind me were a mess of plane tickets and sublets, affairs that ejected me from relationships, the severing of communication with people who hurt me, namely my parents. Ahead of me a child. I would just have to take it all, whatever the gods saw fit to give me. I am thirty-four years old and for the first time, bound to my life.

    Stephanie Danler is a novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter. She is the author of Sweetbitter and Stray. She is based in Los Angeles and currently at work on a novel.

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