Skulls line the far wall, and I suggest we start there. Each skull has a card with a name and ethnicity.
Many of the skulls are gypsies and it reminds me of a conversation earlier in the day when we talked about cultural differences. Jess told me gypsy borders on offensive, unacceptably demeaning to traveling communities. The skulls of the gypsies tell a history we all seem to know, and ignore. I say a prayer for the unknown gypsy, touch the labradorite around my neck as a talisman.
I take babylost friends here now among the bones and flesh. I don't know why. I cannot think of anything more morbid and fascinating as the Mutter Museum. It is the home of the stillborn baby. Before I had a stillborn child, this is what I thought when I thought of the stillborn. Babies in formaldehyde and dissected. Perhaps mothers who have held dead babies don't want to see other dead babies in jars, or skeletons from every gestational period articulated into little standing skeletons. Little (two month gestation) to bigger (postpartum). I stare at the one that would have been the size of the miscarriage, if we could have found her body in the bloody mess that poured out of me.
She should have been big enough to find, I whisper.
Earlier in the day, a psychic tells me my miscarried baby was a girl. It is what I thought, I reply. And then I realize in all his readings, the children are girls, even after he is told they are not. Feminine energy. Feminine energy, he repeats.
We see the jars of the stillborn. There is a perfectly normal, beautiful baby with the note, 48 twists in an umbilical cord, the most ever recorded. The baby is still attached. Jess says she is quite jealous of the mother of this baby. She can come here anytime and see her child. Me too, I say. And I am quite jealous, even though this baby has long outlived her mother.
A man the size of my husband says to his wife as she beckons him into a room of body parts, "No. There is a limit to what I am willing to see." And I wonder what disgusts him after the giant colon, and the brains with cancer. The babies? Or the mummified penis, desiccated at the ball sack, darkened into a leather along the shaft? It stands disembodied, next to a vagina in liquid with little wisps of reddish brown hair, and I blush that I notice. What would she look like? Her vagina on display without a uterus even.
We head into the gift shop filled with morbid, clever little gifts, like stuffed microbes with eyes, or hand drawn skeletons. I buy a deck of cards labeled Portable Fortitude, days later, sitting in front of my computer, I pick the three of clubs--protection from narcissism, then I laugh and laugh and laugh until the tears fill a jar. I pluck a strand of grief and watch it settle to the bottom, eyes closed and mouth open slightly. It is like a baby in a jar, terribly beautiful only to those who know terrible grief.
When there is a new moon, I bleed. It falls out of me in a humiliating pool, and I hide it in the darkness of midnight. You know you have a good friend when you talk of menses and sex and you lack self-consciousness about wearing a bra. I am not wearing a bra right now.
We walk by a wall in the city that reads MEDUSA BAR inside a white arrow, and I point to it and ask if she recognizes the wall. I walk these streets with the babylost. I feel like a drink with grief. The Medusa Bar is boarded up with a condemned sign from the city. I pretend it isn't, and there is a secret knock, and a bird call, which opens the window from the inside.
You may enter.
We all have dead babies here, and I sip on a seltzer. The drink of the alcoholic, and I eye the bourbon. I miss grief drinking sometimes. It was so pathetic and grueling and horrible. So fucking bloody horrible. But it made sense. The jukebox plays no music. It is too hard to listen to music. We watch silent pictures from the 20s. A baby carriage rolls down the stairs, and I know the maggots are coming.
There is no secret bar of the babylost. I made that part up. It is a fantasy universe where we band together in a grief gypsy caravan traveling to the pilgrimages of the babylost. The statue of a grieving mother, the painting of a stillborn child from the 19th century, a museum devoted to medical oddity.In various large metropolitan areas, there are safe houses for people like us. They are marked Medusa Bar.
Jess says to the tattoo artist. "I am here visiting Angie. We both have dead babies." And the painted lady stammers, I suppose, mutters an apology or condolence. It is not hard to see or talk about dead babies if you held a dead baby, or pushed one out of your vagina. It is what happened. Let us call things by their proper name. Lucia was not lost, or gone, or passed away. She was dead, and I wished for a jar to take her home. Every day, I would wake and wish her a "Good morning, darling," on the shelf while I made eggs and toast.
I pull another card. It is protection from divine indifference, and I smirk again.
heh heh heh.