Frigid night air insulates us from the group meeting down the street. Flurries blow furiously in the orange beams of the streetlights, disappearing into the surrounding darkness like raindrops into the ocean. Ignoring the nervous trembles, we bundle into our coats, scarves, gloves, boots. With shaking fingers, tying my laces becomes a feat in itself.
Maybe we shouldn’t go. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe it is too soon.
Persuasive anxiety grips my thoughts, sabotaging bravery.
What will others’ stories be like? Will they think we are stupid? Will they think we should just get over it?
Not unlike our previous hospital-bound journey, the daunting two block drive is oppressive; heart palpitations drum the inside of my chest walls. The ominous building summons our vehicle–and courage–eager to right the wrong it did to us. It is a place of anguish, pain, and soul crushing hurt, striving to be a place of healing. Parking in the garage, we walk through the ambient snow globe, unsuccessfully dodging dime-sized snowflakes. From within the familiar glass rotunda, the ash-streaked, hibernating fireplace extends a cold salute. Sandwich stand shuttered, water fountain dried, chairs emptied, player piano muted, the barren lobby barely takes note of our late arrival at seven pm, save for a janitor sweeping the entryway from the translucent salt crystals that litter the dark porcelain tile.
With no other employees on duty, a tripod-style easel dutifully points us in the right direction: Pregnancy Loss Support Group, Room 120.
We turn, together, staring down the hallowed corridor. Long and carpeted, the swirls of yellow dance within the deep navy fibers. I clasp Jason’s hand with a vice grip. The first tepid step is the most resistant, fighting our forward movement. My boots, filled with lead, drive both feet into the floor. Exerting enough force to move a rhinoceros, my right foot heaves forward, sliding mere inches. My left foot, afraid of advancement but more afraid to be left behind, catches up to it. With each step, the leaded footwear release their drag, molecule by molecule. Twenty strides down the hallway, we approach the lightly stained wooden door propped open by a small table.
Behind me, Jason keenly watches for my next move. The last of the weight bearing lead clings to my boots. He sucks in deeply, audibly. My breath mimics his. Simultaneously exhaling, blowing the last molecules down the hall like bowling balls tumbling to their targeted pins, I quickly cross my leadless boots over the threshold.
“Come on in!” calls a squeaky female voice. Unable to place the high pitched exclamation from within the crowded space, I scan each person. Men and women, in roughly a circular formation, are hugging and tearful. Witnessing the union of anguish, given rise by the merging of strangers, my guarded breath releases slightly. Afraid to entirely resign myself to this membership, anxiety lingers as if on standby to aid in an escape.
Two women wave, sitting side-by-side at the far end of the loosely formed ring. Donning floral patterned scrubs, exhaustion from their 12 hour nursing shift takes over their drooping eyes. “Be sure to sign the sheet!”
The register is half-filled with some neatly, some hastily, written names. Half way down the page, a blank line awaits us so it can join the rest of the inky alliance. We are couple number seven.