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Conception | StoryPoem | Light-Years in the Dark


At the time of her conception she was floating on a ship in the arctic waters. Her parents had consumed far too much champagne the night of their fiftieth anniversary party and they let this tidbit of information slip out about their amorous meeting on a cruise to Alaska. It happened so unexpectedly, innocently, they pleaded laughingly. They had both been traveling solo after failed marriages and had met by chance on the promenade deck. A premature honeymoon, as it turned out, since they eloped shortly thereafter to the surprise of family and friends. Which was surprising news to their only child who laughed to hide her embarrassment upon realizing she had been conceived out of wedlock. On the night she heard this story she kept her husband up late into the morning trying to comprehend the significance the news had on her existence. He sighed, urging her to go to sleep, insisting nothing had changed, but she would not let the matter rest.  Her mind was flooded with doubts. Was she a bastard, technically? Or was it applicable only when the conceiving pair were unwed at the time of a child’s birth? She didn’t know what to tell her children. Did they need to know? How long before all her friends and the neighbors knew? She stayed awake googling for answers on the Internet while her husband buried his agitated head beneath the pillows. Which was when the episode of his near death experience at the age of seven came up as a topic. All this talk about preconception and ocean voyages and her search for the meaning of life stirred his subconscious, causing this memory bubble to resurface. Naturally, she pressed him for details. He had to ask his parents who lived on the other side of the continent and who thought it strange he should be phoning them at six in the morning (given the three-hour time zone difference) but were glad he called nonetheless. They had almost forgotten the near fatal incident. Their marital bickering ignited and he almost hung up on them but he held on long enough to hear them retell the tale. He had fallen off an air mattress and, though he could swim, had sunk to the bottom of the pool. The verbal assault resumed between his parents, inflamed (by a matter of guilt, he suspected) over the fact neither of them had rescued him. Truth be told, it was a stranger who dove in the pool and saved his life. His parents had arrived at an impasse of silence and were in need of levity so he pardoned them and said he loved them regardless and began to hang up. But at his wife’s insistence he hung on to ask them one last thing while rolling his eyes at her. She had to stand and began pacing the bedroom when he informed her that, yes, as incredible as it was, the incident had occurred while on a cruise to Alaska and, assuming the year and month the same, it was possible – though improbable – it could have been the same ship. She was compelled to call her parents, who were not overjoyed to hear from her. Both their brains suffering from hangovers when she woke them. Yes, they told her, there had been a boy who almost drowned. The  recollection produced a belated rush of giddy laughter from her parents. For this was how they inadvertently met. Her father had leapt into the pool, followed by others, her mother included, and they all lifted out the boy who they resuscitated. Later her father had noticed her mother recuperating under an umbrella, asked if she would like a drink, which turned into dinner, dancing and, nine months later, their daughter. Whose mouth fell open upon hearing this, was unable to utter a sound as she clutched the wireless phone pressed against her head like a magnet,  shocked by the implausible serendipitous rendezvous which literally caused her to be, saved her husband to be, and made it possible for her three children to be too. She flung the bedroom door open to walk outside in her nightgown and screamed as she jumped into their swimming pool. She was never the same after that. The network of neural connections threading her sense of self together had unraveled – spinning apart at meltdown speed like a computer shutting off. In the aftermath she felt dazed. Renewed. Also emphatic that her family take a cruise to Alaska. She booked a vacation that corresponded to the exact month and date she had been conceived. Their berth was starboard, near the bow, on the top upper deck – same location her parents consummated their love. Her husband worried she had lost her mind. She insisted she had not. She held his hand and strolled the decks. She swam in the pools with her children. She sipped banana daiquiris and watched the melting glaciers as they passed. For she had found peace in these ice walls, this miraculous waterfall, by accepting she had no control over the ebb and flow.

Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)
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photo-art design by todd crawshaw
photo credit (model): Kladyk

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