The Secret the Darkness had Completely Concealed
Mark L Berry
“I'm pregnant.” Her eyes stared at me for my reaction, and my reply. I still wasn’t used to looking at her with hair she had deliberately cropped short, vindictively because I had told her that I loved her long, full, dark auburn lochs that I could run my fingers through, and that made a curtain around us when she kissed me from above. Anything I said recently seemed to be used as a way to punish me. I was starting to guess that she was trying to get me to break up with her so she wouldn’t have to be the one to do it. To say that our relationship wasn’t going well would be putting it politely. And now this happens.
What other statement in life puts a man in such a strong spotlight? This is the single moment a woman is going to use to evaluate him for the rest of his life: will he support the family she’s making? Many men pass this test with their partner of many years. They welcome the family plan they made together. I just got that bomb dropped on me by a girlfriend of six-months, who’d become stubborn and difficult, and those were only the beginning of problems that were starting to show. These words had a different impact on me. When I heard them, let me say that my reaction was not overwhelming joy. In fact, pick an antonym for ‘extremely elated’ and that was the expression on my face. I think I need to back up a little to give this moment perspective. Our relationship was short and intense, beginning with her entrance into my close circle of friends that wasn’t just another day at the beach.
It's a little-known fact that a woman can go topless anywhere it's appropriate for a man to take his shirt off. The day a New York State judge made this ruling was the best day imaginable on Long Beach, Long Island. That is, if you’re a red-blooded American male in his late twenties as I was. Breasts were blooming everywhere along the beach, and throughout the town. Bright white skin was reflecting the midday sun, some for the first time, and their owners kept generously massaging SPF 50 lotion where bikini tops used to be in order to prevent sunburn. This only added to the natural beauty of the ocean shoreline. Natural being the key word. Our little beach town suddenly felt like an exotic Greek Island.
At my local deli the owners even took down their sign
“No Shirt” and “No Shoes” was suddenly fine
And they gave free cream cheese bagels to topless girls standing in line
I was sandwiched between them and gladly paid for mine
I took my screaming testosterone-driven aggression out on our homemade volleyball court. Several crafty flight attendant friends had made support poles out of PVC, complete with tension ropes attached to scoops that we buried in the sand to keep the net taught. We even had a perimeter rope. Those of us on reserve, which was most of us back then, would clip our beepers to the net. The game would pause with a concert of groans whenever one of them sounded its chirping wail. We knew that meant that crew scheduling was looking for one of us to work an aluminum tube to some far away city. But as we counted the 767s climbing out over the Atlantic from JFK, full of our fellow employees that had thankfully not called in sick for work, we killed endless summer days in the sand underneath the New York air traffic departure corridor.
I ran with a tight group in my Long Beach, Long Island days and we all spent a lot of time together. The core was made of pilots of flight attendants living in crash pads, houses holding more people than they were made for, except that we rarely were all in town at the same time. Whoever wasn’t out flying, all got together on the beach at the end of Michigan Avenue in the section known as The State Streets. Our volleyball court attracted the locals and was the primary catalyst for making new friends outside of the airline industry.
“Do you mind if I play in the next game?”
We’d get that question a lot, and sometimes we’d welcome a stranger to fill out a team that was missing a player. Beeper attrition was a common condition. The Body was one of those newcomers. She had a pair of the most perfect breasts that bounced as she bumped or set the ball for our spikes. I mean seriously, would you deny her the opportunity to play if she asked? As attractive as what Mother Nature gave her in the front, it was the muscle bands that stretched over her rear and accented her bikini bottom that drove us all wild. This gorgeous creature became the worst dating experience of my life.
This is a story about gal not worth mentioning by name
But it’s a lesson in life worth remembering all the same
Somehow we got together. I don’t even remember our first date as it’s been overshadowed by later events. We all cooked or ate out together, walked in to each other’s houses without knocking, and we even had a pair of often-stolen artifacts that continually changed hands. It was the highest honor to posses Wimpy, a 250-pound lawn jockey, and paint him in your own theme colors. The all-girl’s house decorated him in panties and garters and displayed him from their roof. No telling how they got it up there. Kevin, a former Marine Honor Guard, had him colored in the style of his full military dress uniform for a while.
Stealing and painting Wimpy was our version of a fraternity prank, like redecorating the rival school’s mascot statue in your own school’s colors. The tradition lasted until one day when Wimpy got taken out of bounds for a while. Whoever kidnapped him was keeping him deep under cover. As a substitution, Doug Slater’s RCA porcelain dog became the object of interest. His initial abduction included a ransom note cut from magazines and newspapers demanding a case of Corona for his safe return. P.S. Don’t forget the lime. Like Wimpy, Petey stood almost 3 feet tall, but was much lighter. Once officially in play, Petey got taken on boat trips, posed with passed-out comrades in their bed as pseudo incriminating evidence, and even sent to Paris on overnights. Imagine working a trip across the pond and receiving a note from a fellow crewmember that Petey is in your cargo compartment and now you have to bring him home—after carrying him around the city of love and taking pictures with him, of course.
Somewhere there is still a photo album of Wimpy and Petey in all of their various colors displayed and paraded around the world. This was the camaraderie of our group. Somehow The Body was indoctrinated into our clan and then she and I just slid together. I think the first time I gave her a buddy pass to travel with me, someone called her my girlfriend, and from then on she was.
Life was carefree and easy and fun. One of my long lost friends from high school caught wind of the good life and came to visit just when The Body needed a new roommate. I didn't know it then, but the only two pathological liars that I’ve ever really met in person just began sharing a common roof.
She’s a girl that I’ve tried very hard to forget
One of two true psychotics that I’ve ever met
I'm changing my friend's name here because underneath his aversion to the truth, I know he really does have a good heart and an honest interest in being a good friend. But the rest of his title is real. My Long Beach friends called him Gary-If-That-Really-Is-His-Name and they used that full title with every reference to him. Never shortened.
His first lie that he got wrapped up in was when Missy, a gate agent, told me she liked him. He then told her he was a year older than me. Privately, I asked him, “Why? She already likes you. You don't need to lie about your age or try to impress her.”
He swore to me that he really was a year my senior.
“Dude, then you must really be dumb, because when I met you I was a senior in high school and you were still a sophomore. I had to drive your ass all around town because you were too young for a driver’s license. It's bad enough that you want to lie to my friend, but now you're going to lie to me?”
“I swear on my mother’s life. I’ll bet you $20.”
Sucker bet. I shook his hand and then asked to see his driver’s license. It seemed like an easy way to teach him a lesson, and make enough for the first round of margaritas that evening. I remember that he had a habit of lying in high school, but I figured an additional ten years of growing up should have helped him grow out of it. He wouldn’t pull it out of his wallet. Clearly another lie, he said, “The date on it is wrong.”
“Dude, back in high school you might have lied to the DMV to be older so you could drink underage, but then you’d at least have the license to show me. So let’s see it.”
He still refused, so I asked, “How about we call your mother? It would be good to talk to her again and I bet she remembers when she pushed you out into this world.”
He immediately replied, “She's not at home,” as if he could know.
“I think I still remember your parents’ home number in Connecticut. Before cell phones I had to memorize them like everyone else.” I started pushing imaginary buttons in the air because I’m a visual learner and seeing the keypad helped me remember. “Two-zero-three, six-six-one, nine…”
He threw $20 at me and walked away. That’s when I started to realize that some rare people don’t outgrow their lying—they perfect it.
When I asked The Body what color the sky was; she would say green, her favorite color. I should have taken this as a warning sign, but youth and a steady state of arousal clouded my judgment. Plus I was getting this lesson about liars both barrels at a time, and my education had just begun.
Gary-If-That-Really-Is-His-Name told The Body that he ordered furniture for their apartment, but it never arrived. Still, he insisted that it was coming. This added to his credibility issues. He got a job at a new pizza joint, and told everyone he had been given part ownership. Hmmm, it should be no big surprise that this wasn’t the case. But I was used to an honest group, full of camaraderie and without ulterior motives or complicated social issues.
Meanwhile, The Body quit or got fired from her job in Manhattan—I was never quite sure which. Her next position was an easier commute, but to an entry level position on Long Island. It was less than a lateral move. But my issue with her wasn’t with what she did for a living; we all have our own course to set. The problem was her insistent claim to my friends that she was now an art director, when the closest she got to that title was shining the name on the outside of the door she was stationed in front of. We were an easy-going, friendly beach crowd that appreciated lifestyle over wealth and power. There was no need to try and impress us and this job title fabrication didn’t sit well with me. It was as if they were competing to tell the biggest whopper.
One day, Gary-If-That-Really-Is-His-Name confided that The Body was cheating on me—something she denied without even being asked. Probably she suspected his loyalty as my friend might trump his ability to keep internal roommate activities confidential. But whom should I believe? What should I do when having to choose between two friends, both of whose honesty and integrity were beginning to be questioned?
After agonizing over this dilemma, I went with the American legal standard—innocent until proven guilty. So far I had a questionable witness, but no hard evidence. Plus I didn’t want to disrupt the fringe benefits I was getting. It’s true; sometimes a man’s little head does the thinking, and I wasn’t the suspicious type.
One night when horseplay began on the couch, her knee slipped between the pillows and she twisted it. There was no tear, but it swelled for a while. Her workouts and sports participation was put on indefinite hold. The doctor prescribed more movies and less volleyball—none actually. It was surprising how quickly she started putting on weight, but I didn’t want to upset her by saying anything. She became moody too, but I figured she was depressed from being sidelined from the outdoor fun. Once her knee healed we’d be back on the beach regularly and burning up the calories on the volleyball court. But in the meantime, she covered up more and the sex stopped. My buddies counseled me that women want it less when they’re feeling self-conscious of themselves, but I’m sure you can see what’s coming.
She had a six-month rule, I only learned later
That was how long that she’d let someone date her
Before she moved on, because her lies would unravel
She hated to be dumped, so she’d pack up and travel
But this time was different; she had another plan
Only later I learned, that she’d slept with another man
Without protection of course, and nature kicked in
She insisted it was mine and we were living in sin
And now we’re back where I started—her finally telling me what she’d known for some time. She played it off as a new revelation though. It’s amazing how religious someone can become when it suits her. The gal who never went to church in nearly a year that I’d known her, dating her more than half of that time, suddenly became a devout Catholic with a pro-life platform. What a smoke screen. The truth came out later in a hospital bed that she’d had an abortion at seventeen, and promised herself never to repeat it. This didn’t come up during the decision-time immediately following the post-pregnancy announcement either. She claimed newfound religious principles and declared she was taking this full term with or without me. My opinion didn’t matter at all. She only wanted to know if I’d be involved with raising her child.
And suddenly she found God; suddenly she’s pro life
She didn’t ask, she demanded, to become my wife
I attempted to discuss the options remaining
But her mind was made up, she ignored my campaigning
This required some serious soul searching on my part. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to bring any children into this world, especially with a gal whose integrity was in question. But she wasn’t giving me a choice. We had practiced safe sex, but was this one of those only 98% effective situations? I didn’t get to ponder that for long because a baby I wasn’t ready for was already on its way.
I went to visit my dad, who I could always count on to see things objectively. He pointed out that there was no way to fight this situation. I’d made my appeal to abort, and it had been rejected. Adoption was no option because she planned to keep it. Dad gave me focus on the remaining choices. He also confided that he knew I wasn’t planning on procreating but he was still happy he was becoming a grandfather. Under his guidance, I made the decision to try and be the best father I could. That meant growing up quickly as I felt totally unprepared. Dad pointed out with a wink, “Nobody’s ever really ready, even those who think they are.”
I refused to get married on account of the baby
But I didn’t rule it out—after it’s born, well just maybe
We’ll see how we’re doing, and if our relationship grows
We’re not ready now, but in the future, who knows?
The fact that I planned to be involved seemed to appease The Body, but our relationship had a long way to go. Without a wedding, we planned that the baby would get her last name instead of mine. I think she hoped I’d propose for that reason alone. But I didn’t, and she maintained control of the baby’s first name as well. I think she had some relative’s names in mind, but again, she didn’t want my opinion. I’d agreed to participate, but she didn’t treat me as a partner. She dictated everything. This isn’t an arrangement that made me feel our relationship was improving. The more demanding she got, the less interest I had in making our relationship official. I’d accepted the approaching baby, but the baby maker was still doing everything to drive me away. I think she finally realized this, and that’s when we started having sex again.
Growing up, I once overheard my parents’ conversation with a lady from down the street. It was no secret that she and her husband weren’t getting along and my dad asked if they were trying to work things out. I still remember her reply, “Well, we still fit together.”
I told The Body this story and maybe we needed to start over. I asked her on a date and took her to dinner. In spite of the obvious, we tried to keep the conversation light. The evening should have ended with a good night kiss, but it ignited something. We both realized we’d have to find a way to make this work, and she invited me in.
She put on some tea and got undressed for bed. I realized I hadn’t been informed as early as she knew because her bump was now starting to show. It hit me that the weight gain was not because of her knee injury. Our fighting had kept us apart, and nature hadn’t waited for us to work things out. She saw me looking and told me, “The doctor said it was ok through my eighth month, and towards the end you’ll have to position yourself from behind.”
This was the kind of cooperation I’d been looking for.
She loved tea with honey so I made some and we shared a single, big cup. The evening had an awkward intimacy, almost like our first time together. When the cup was empty, I slid out of my clothes, and climbed under the covers.
Mending our relationship was back on the table
We weren’t getting along, but some how we were able
To be civil at night, after we turned out the light
And do something together, instead of fight
We kissed for a long time and I caressed her belly. Finally, she’d had enough attention for the baby and moved my hands to her breasts. Her nipples greeted me at attention. She was giving me the green light and the heavy foreplay began. I traced almost every part of her with my tongue before rolling on top.
These are life’s special moments. Stress, squabbles, and serious decisions slipped away as I slipped inside of her. I thought about making this last, rather than racing for the explosive finish. She rose up to meet each thrust as our fingers are locked together on either side of the pillow—my arms holding me up and hers pinned to the bed. I kissed her forehead as she buried her lips in my neck. Against my best effort at restraint, our energy grew and our pace began racing.
We worked our way up to the rhythm we’d known
My abs rocked her belly that barely had grown
And she received every thrust with a passionate moan
Until suddenly they stopped, like she’d hung up the phone
And wet, I felt wet, more than any orgasm yet
But something was wrong, that I couldn’t interpret
So I asked her to tell me if she was alright
But all that I heard was the silence of the night
We were soaked in more fluid than I’m capable of producing in a year. This wasn’t a mutual climax, something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was.
I asked her again and still got no reply
So, I gently got up and set out to try
To turn on a light, and see what was wrong
It was then that I wished that my stomach was strong
I was totally unprepared for this. As the light switch by the door snapped on, the darkness blew away.
I’ll never forget what was revealed
The secret the darkness had totally concealed
There was blood, blood, and more blood literally everywhere
Her body was covered from her toes to her hair
It pooled on the mattress and dripped onto the floor
And bloody red footprints had followed me to the door
I too was naked and covered in red
And her eyes froze in shock as I returned to the bed
She’d miscarried her baby at the worst possible time
And the scene of our lovemaking now looked like a crime
The bed was a red puddle and the walls were all splattered
But she was still breathing, that’s all that really mattered
I kicked into action. I had to. I’d always been a little squeamish and if I didn’t get moving, my stomach was going to empty. I told her, “Everything is going to be ok.”
My first thought was to get her out of bed. I had to remove her from the scene of so much of her own blood if I hoped to help the shock ware off. Then I had to get her medical help.
I scooped her in my arms and took her to the shower
And rinsed us both off at this ungodly hour
I rolled up a towel and squeezed it between her thighs
She still wasn’t talking but there was a response in her eyes
It took every ounce of my strength and remaining willpower
To distract her from shock as I cleaned her in the shower
I made her close her eyes while I scrubbed us both clean
I washed away more blood than I’d ever seen
I said, “Stay in the bathroom” and handed her a receiver
Get an ambulance coming, we have to leave here
I cleaned up the room as fast as I could
Losing this much blood couldn’t be good
Sitting in the tub she hadn’t dialed 9-1-1
She said, “It’s a boy. I don’t wonna lose my son.”
“We have to go now and get you to the hospital right away.”
“No.” She said, “No. They’ll take him away.”
“You’re hemorrhaging inside, you’ll die if you stay.
Your life is at stake, you need to do as I say.”
I got her out of the shower and into her car
Even running red lights, the hospital seemed far
There was no heartbeat. The Body took the news really hard. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t relieved. I felt like I just saved her life, but she hated me for not grieving the death of her fetus. That’s where our political views about life disagreed. We don’t celebrate conception day, we count every year on our birthday. Also, counselors later told us that women feel attached to the new life as soon as there’s a heartbeat inside the mother’s belly. Men, as visual learners, don’t usually bond to the baby until after it’s born. Great for the classroom, but it didn’t help things between us. She made it her personal mission to make me suffer.
She survived the experience but her pregnancy died
And soon after that night I found out that she’d lied
There were lots of indiscretions, and the identity of the father
Will always be a mystery, but why even bother?
The worst thing she did was sleep with one of my roommates. I know; it’s inexcusable. He watched this whole situation occur and then did it anyway. It took me years before I’d even talk to him again. His excuse? “A stiff dick has no conscience.”
She blamed me for all this because six months had gone by
And I hadn’t proposed and she’d continued to lie
And she knew that I’d leave her when the truth came to light
And it’s my fault that her God took her baby that night
My roommate’s indiscretion had a bright side. It opened the door revealing many others. Apparently the odds of me actually having been the father were of the order of any one horse winning the Triple Crown. Gary-If-That-really-Is-His-Name had been right this time. It was time to sever my ties with The Body.
We parted ways, severed clean, never more to be seen
If you’ve ever been lied to then you know what I mean
But as we move forward we bring with us our past
To make better futures and look back in contrast
It’s still hard looking back at this episode in my life. The initial way I tackled it was to write this story as a poem. Something about the rhyming structure made it just distant enough for me to think about it as happening in another lifetime. I decided to include the original poetry as part of the prose since it was my initial inspiration to a very disturbing time of my life. Together they answer the challenge of writing about what really scares me.
It’s a time I now remember only as a life-lesson learned
Some sort of emergency merit badge earned
I was tested that night to deal with severe trauma
And with that lesson learned, I’d had enough of her drama
One aversion to children that I’d always had
I didn’t think that I’d be a very good dad
I was squeamish and knew it and felt a dad should be
Strong in the stomach and never get queasy
When his child gets hurt, a dad needs to be there
He needs to be able to provide urgent care
That I might not be able to handle this chore
Was my biggest fear that I felt to the core
But as bad as this experience has weighed on my soul
I know that it’s pulled me out of a very dark hole
Now I know I can handle what life throws my way
I can ignore all the blood and still perform ok