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Notes & Reflections
Mother's Milk I
Her first milk was like honey,
teaspoons of thin, golden syrup that Rory collected from her breasts with a pump. She refrigerated the colostrum in a glass jar. Her child was stillborn, and it occurred to Rory that a kitten might drink the milk she expressed and saved. Rory begged her husband for a kitten. Animals weren't allowed in the apartment. Theodore, of course, was ready to do whatever might comfort her. He brought home from the city shelter a long-legged boy tuxedo cat – not a baby but not yet adolescent – a wiry little creature with a white eye-patch on his black face.
Theodore presented her with the kitten. She heated the jar in a pan of hot water. She dripped the liquor onto a dish and offered it to the new cat. He sniffed, barely ruffling the skim on top, then settled on his haunches and lapped with his pink, pink tongue. What little bit he didn’t finish, she thinned with water and carried down the labyrinth of stairs and outside where she found a small plant to nourish.
Her milk came in the day of the funeral. Rory's breasts grew hard and stony and wept pale fluid. She did not wear the disposable pads inside her bra, so she became, she supposed, a spectacle in her dark dress with two damp stains on the bodice. It appeared that people did not know how to look at her, how to embrace her, with those expanding leaks down her front. Rory could tell Theodore was mortified, but he said nothing.
He drove them home and parked in the vast, interlocking chain of lots that circumscribed the complex where they lived. He said – quite tenderly Rory thought – "The pump is making this worse. About the milk, I mean.”
Rory shook her head. "Don't make me stop, Teddy. Not yet."
"I wouldn't make you."
Rory was relieved that he looked away from her.
He gazed ahead, over the steering wheel. Twice he opened his mouth, took a breath as if to speak, but stopped. Finally he asked, "Am I losing you?"
Rory thought about this. "For a while, maybe.”
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