She Didn’t Come Home

She Didn't Come Home

I watched her for the better part of six months. Ever since I saw her in the elevator on that spring day and realized she was pregnant, I started paying attention. She lived on the same floor of my apartment building, two doors down. Yet we never spoke beyond the occasional head bob or mumbled hello. Nevertheless, like a fly on the wall, I watched.

I watched as her tummy grew round and husband doted over her. I listened to her chatter to our neighbors about how excited she was to be having her first child. I watched her family haul the abundance of a baby-shower blessing onto said elevator and up to our third-floor landing. I even rode that elevator to the ground with her, during her first moments of labor, as she fluttered around her husband and best friend in a freak-out of nerve-riddled happiness.

And then everything sat silent. I didn’t see a single one of them for weeks. Eventually I saw her husband. He looked pale and withdrawn. A while later I saw a woman entering their apartment. Like a grandmother who’d been dealt a blow she couldn’t quite comprehend, her face was forlorn and sad. Clueless as to what happened, but possessing no license to inquire, I was only left to surmise.

Then one day I saw her. My neighbor. She came home, broken and disheveled, without her baby. I went into my apartment and wept. How could I imagine anything but the worst? Yet slowly her world started to come to life again. People were coming and going from her domicile, and a smile seemed to have found her guest’s faces.

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Eventually the baby came home. He was tiny and beautiful. Ultimately the sound of a wailing child met my ears every time I passed by her threshold. I didn’t know what she was dealing with concerning the health of her child. But to me, nobody more important than the stranger down the hall, those cries sounded like the joyful proclamation of faith answered: baby and mama had both come home.

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She moved shortly thereafter, or I did, thereby severing my ability to Peeping Tom her life. Yet I still think about her every so often. I wonder how things turned out, how the child is doing. How did the story end for her? Was the trauma of early motherhood a temporary experience, or did it leave her life forever changed?

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