J’LYN CHAPMAN

SENTIMENTAL GIFTS

After the miscarriage, I harbored the thought that the supplements my friend sold me might have poisoned the baby. I did not heed the note that directed expecting mothers to consult a physician. I had only just discovered I was pregnant and so was not at all thinking like a pregnant person. In general, I felt that I was in some kind of slippery in-between space out of which I could easily slide and so resisted identifying myself as pregnant, although the idea was growing on me.
     It had been years since we spoke, but I had seen lots of pictures of her children and frankly lackluster husband in my newsfeed. Unexpectedly, she sent me a message telling me she owned a business that was part of a larger company and now she was ready to take it to the next level with the promotion to Regional Vice President at which time she would earn her white Mercedes. She promised our meeting would be a fun time learning about how my body works. This sounded like one of those economic cults, which it was, but I didn’t see the harm in healthy things and also wanted to do something nice for my friend. We met at a café where we sat outside near a fountain, and she told me all about health, and at the end I bought some green powders and sulfur-colored capsules. And then, just a couple of weeks later, I slid for the most part uneventfully out of this new state and back into the person I had been my entire life, not pregnant.
     My husband assured me that it could happen again. That all in all it’s quite easy in the end.
     Then my friend sent me another message to remind me that it was time for a re-up. Had I lost weight, was I noticing a difference in my energy, she wanted to know. I had not continued taking the first batch and did not plan to, but when I saw the bottles in the refrigerator where I kept them fresh, I thought of my friend as if they were mementoes of our friendship that spanned back to middle school. I really didn’t want to tell her no.
     We had lost touch in the first place because she was mad at me. I had not known she was mad at me until she apologized. Her apology hurt my feelings, but I forgave her because I valued something about our relationship. After that we were aloof with one another, and my buying the supplements was a way of saying that I could be a good friend.
     We had last spent substantial time with one another when she flew out to visit me and my ex-husband in Miami. We had moved there for my husband’s work, and I was depressed. For three days, we went to the beach and then to nightclubs. She confided in me about the man who would become her husband, and I took her to the hotspots. Then a year later, I flew back home to visit her and told her that I was having an affair. I felt terrible about it, but I was desperate for the other man. In fact, I was so sad to leave him that I could not keep from crying. The guilt and the yearning became indistinguishable, at least from the outside. Profuse tears and all. It must have been very confusing for my friend whose idea of me had to change and yet she also needed to like me for the time being. It seemed she took pity because I had been unhappy, she knew that, but she also advised me to break it off with the other guy. There was no need to break it off because all affairs fizzle out eventually and ours did.
   I try to convince my husband to take the supplements. I reason that if he likes them, I can buy more and my friend can get her promotion. And when she drives her white Mercedes, she can think of me. But he says the supplements produce a strange odor that he can smell on himself all day. He’s disgusted by them, and I see that on the horizon something drastic must change because I can’t keep going on this way.

 

 

J’Lyn Chapman’s essays and prose poems have been published in Conjunctions, Fence, Sentence, and American Letters & Commentary, among other journals. Calamari Archive published the chapbook, Bear Stories, and in April 2016, they will publish the full-length collection, Beastlife. Essay Press recently published her pedagogy of conversation chapbook, The Form Our Curiosity Takes. Later this year, they will publish A Thing of Shreds and Tatters, an essay on W.G. Sebald. She is Core Candidate Assistant Professor in the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and edits the online poetics journal Something on Paper.

 

GestureJ’LYN CHAPMAN