The cab smelled of body odor and vaguely, fennel. The driver was eating something. Something wrapped in foil that he held in his hands.
Paul was already inside the cab and was pulling Tamara across the seat until she slumped against his shoulder. The other guy, Brad, she remembered, shoved in her feet and slammed the door.
Paul leaned forward and said softly, "We need an emergency room. Whatever's closest. And decent."
They lurched into traffic.
The sky was dark gray, striped pink along the horizon.
"What time is it?" Tamara mumbled. She was dizzy. Dizzier than she ever remembered being.
"Hell if I know. Five?"
The cab driver was horrible and typical. He sped forward, slammed his brakes for red lights, sped forward again like it was all open country and miles of empty road, then, inevitably hit the brakes hard another 2 blocks down. He smacked his horn liberally, jarring Tamara.
She felt like shit. A large mass was between her legs. It took her several blocks of zooming and stopping before she realized it was one of Brad's scratchy towels.
It came to her in fragments, but she was so tired she wasn't sure what was real and what was mirage summoned by her drifting brain. She'd been sleeping, on the couch in the apartment. She'd been dreaming wild, crazy things. She heard the door close, then bottles clanking in the kitchen, then, what seemed like several hours later, "Dude, it's like a fucking murder scene." Paul said her name. She roused a little. She managed to ask, "Did I ruin the sofa? Oh God." She found the energy to scoot away and look. The blood, though, seemed contained to her towelly nest.
She breathed, relieved, sure all was well as long as she hadn't wrecked some poor stranger's sofa.
Paul seemed to understand what was going on. "Okay," he said. "I need to get her to a hospital. This is bad. This is bad."
It was bad. But it could've been worse. Tamara had to wait less than a half hour in the waiting room, leaning against Paul, filling out paperwork, remembering her insurance numbers from all the times she took the kids to the pediatrician. She wrote with one hand while she clutched her abdomen with the other.
She wondered if she should call Dave. She wanted him right then. His familiar presence. She wanted home. She wanted to be lying in her bedroom with the windows open, hearing the kids play in the yard, at a safe distance, but knowing they were okay. That they were still hers.
When the nurses and doctors took her, they gave her sedatives. Something good in an IV drip that almost made her groan with pleasure. Finally, some relief.
She was wheeled into an operating room where they suctioned her uterus. The sound was horrible and liquidy and as soon as they finished, she turned her head and vomited into her hair.
She was having a D & C in a New York hospital, with no one who loved her in the near vicinity. She, Tamara Marks, had taken the bus to New York. Alone. And had just lost a baby she never should've had to begin with.
For the first time since going out there, she thought, This was a mistake.
A short while later, after an orderly wiped her hair with a steaming hot wash cloth and handed her a plastic bag of maxi pads, she was released.
She and Paul stepped out into the sunlight, blinking. She wanted to speak, to convey her gratitude and her dismay and her sadness. But, for once, she couldn't say anything.
Paul ran a palm over his face. He looked profoundly tired too.
On the subway ride back to Brad's, she started crying. Tears that streaked her cheeks and splotched her cuffs as she swiped at them. She felt like some sixteen-year-old girl who'd just aborted her first pregnancy, not a seasoned mom in her thirties who'd been cheating on her husband.
She leaned her head against the hard plastic of her seat and let Paul hold her shoulders and call her Baby and tell her it was okay. The thought flashed through Tamara's mind: Why was he being so nice to her anyway? What was in it for him? But she didn't have the energy to explore it right then. He was there. He was human and warm. He was nice.
She'd ask herself those questions again later. Some other day.
Back at the apartment, Brad's bed was waiting for her. "Go ahead," he said. "I'm up for the day."
Before Tamara fell into a deep, dead sleep, she called Dave. But she could only cry into the phone as he, in a panicky crescendo that slid quickly into annoyance, asked, "What? What is it? Jesus, Tamara, I wish you'd talk to me."