Iowa Writes

LUCIA NEVAI
from Salvation


With abject, slavish desire, with offhand, sloppy curiosity, with gratitude, with sedation, I was accidentally engendered. Never say the word rid around me. My mother tried to get rid of me. My face to this day is deformed, my forehead bumpy, puffy, and white as mold. Her attempt was halfhearted; her method unknown. Where do I feel it? In the lungs. It comes back in winter when I wheeze. It comes back when I feel cowardly. There's pressure, slight at first, and frontal, then heavier and from all sides, as if I'm in a crushing machine that will reduce my mass to a minus number. Through it all, I'm hyperventilating, sucking oxygen as hard as I can, turning and twisting in my close, red space, inhaling all the Os I can find. Oxygen, that cool, sweet, slender thread of life I love. Oooooooooooooooo.

She failed. She let me live. With my big head softened up like that, I tried to go easy on her when I was born. Now, I failed. She pushed me out to the tune of a thousand and one blue curses. Given a choice, I would have stayed inside. She was glad I was out of her life and on my own. She put on lipstick and left the hospital.

With abject, slavish desire, with offhand, sloppy curiosity, with gratitude, with sedation, I was accidentally engendered. Never say the word rid around me. My mother tried to get rid of me. My face to this day is deformed, my forehead bumpy, puffy, and white as mold. Her attempt was halfhearted; her method unknown. Where do I feel it? In the lungs. It comes back in winter when I wheeze. It comes back when I feel cowardly. There's pressure, slight at first, and frontal, then heavier and from all sides, as if I'm in a crushing machine that will reduce my mass to a minus number. Through it all, I'm hyperventilating, sucking oxygen as hard as I can, turning and twisting in my close, red space, inhaling all the Os I can find. Oxygen, that cool, sweet, slender thread of life I love. Oooooooooooooooo.

She failed. She let me live. With my big head softened up like that, I tried to go easy on her when I was born. Now, I failed. She pushed me out to the tune of a thousand and one blue curses. Given a choice, I would have stayed inside. She was glad I was out of her life and on my own. She put on lipstick and left the hospital.

It was an unpleasant interval. Where was her smell? I missed the sound of her voice echoing down through her innards to me. I'd grown used to its tone, its twang. Sometimes she sang. I missed our drugs, whatever they were. The rubber nipple held begrudgingly by the nurse delivered squeaky-clean nutrition. I refused it at first, looking for whatever it was I was used to. The nurse felt miffed and cut me off. Lacking our tranquilizers, disgusted by formula, I could have used a cigarette. No luck there either. People to the right and left of me were bawling. I gave it a try. Out came half a coo. I didn't have the lungs for bellowing, thanks to you-know-who. I gave up wanting anything. That seemed to work. My first successful approach to life! I would remember it always.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


LUCIA NEVAI

A native of Des Moines, Lucia Nevai now lives in upstate New York. She is author of the novel Seriously and two story collections, Star Game and Normal. This month, Tin House Books published her new novel, Salvation. Tin House Books is an offshoot of the award-winning literary magazine Tin House.

Tin House site

This page was first displayed
on September 11, 2008

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