FRONT DESK WOMAN: Volume 2
A woman is a difficult thing to be.
Beholden to eternal body & internal anger.
Praised for ignoring hunger pains & labor pains.
Encouraged for enduring those things that no man could.
She’s a powder keg that no one sees coming.
A power player hiding in wife’s clothing.
A sheep, she is not.
She’s waiting for her moment.
Pansy had decided on a natural birth and regretted it when the contractions began coming one after another with no breathing breaks in between. Certain she was about to go into shock, she relaxed her body to welcome the painlessness. The calm.
“No stopping,” one of the nurses yelled. “You’re crowning! You have to push, right now!”
Pansy felt her husband’s rough sandpaper palm scraping her forehead for comfort.
“Good job, Dad!” someone else yelled from between her legs. “Keep that up! Encourage her to keep going.”
She rolled her eyes and stopped pushing, exhausted. But then an overpowering pulse of pain shot through her crotch. She’d read about it on Pinterest a few weeks ago – the ring of fire. An excruciating vaginal expansion that she needed to stop immediately. So she swatted her husband away and pushed a small body out of her body.
Then everybody left her -- all doctors, nurses, husband. Finally, she had a moment alone on the table to breathe. She watched them briefly, standing around the newly birthed baby, cutting cords and wiping down. Pansy shut her eyes.
“Hey, again,” her dead Nana whispered into her ear. “Baby looks a little bit like me.”
Pansy looked over her Nana. A bit hazy at the edges and unnatural in her movements, she wasn’t a full Nana. But still, it was her. Pansy smiled and reached for her wrinkled hand.
“Thank you for coming,” Pansy said through broken breaths.
“You’re welcomed, Dear,” Nana replied. “Wouldn’t miss this moment for all of heaven.”
A few calm moments passed before either spoke again. Thankfully, everyone still surrounded the newborn baby, forgetting about Pansy, the mother, completely. Many women may have been offended, but not nearly her. She’d been longing for a moment like this since her Nana died a few years ago. The warmth and wisdom of her closeness. The depth of the smile in her deep set eyes. Her mahogany red undertones, unmatched by anyone else within their lineage. They all wanted the red, but it hadn’t shown back up in anyone since. Those coveted undertones, probably gone forever. Then, Pansy remembered what her Nana had told her a few hours earlier. Something about…
“When you said I was a superhero, you meant that generic Alicia Keys type right?” Pansy blurted out too quickly. “Metaphorically? Like every-woman juggling twenty loads of laundry with a newborn on her hip and newly stitched vagina, right? Not like Ironman or Captain America literal superhero.”
Pansy laughed at the stupidity of her words and herself. She was a hormonal woman watching her independence slip through her fingers. She was grasping for youth and freedom and the body she used to have. Dear Lord, there she was, conversing with her dead grandmother in the delivery room. She laughed again at her post-partum, psychotic self. She should be checking for colostrum, not this. Again, she laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” Nana asked without judgment.
“Because,” she sighed in response. “I am a foolish woman. And maybe a crazy one, too.”
Nana placed her warm red hard on Pansy’s sweat filled forehead. “Crazy, Dear, you are not. And I in no way meant the Alicia Keys Superwoman. I meant exactly what I said and you need to be prepared for much difficulty ahead.”
Pansy laughed again, this time nervously, but her Nana held her craggy hand in the air to halt the laughter. It was the same movement she used when Pansy and her little sister were getting too rowdy as children. A signature move meaning ‘you better hush before I get a switch to your legs’.
“You will not fight crime,” Nana began, as serious as Pansy’d ever seen her. “Not that type, Dear. You will, however, be a superhero to your own kind. Our kind – women. Forgotten women whose bosses work them to near death. Under appreciated women who long for liberation from unacknowledged twenty-hour work days. Invisible women whose voices diminish around conference tables and dining tables. You, Dear, will be their representative. Their savior.”
Pansy paused in astonishment for a moment. “But, why me?”
“You’ve sat at that front desk,” Nana started. “Wasting away. Hiding yourself. Making yourself small. In that, you are not unique. Women do this even though they should not. I’ve been watching you. Lobbying those more powerful than me on your behalf. We have enough men in capes fighting crime and defending the galaxy and whatnot. We do not, however, have a crusader for the abused mother of four, stuck under the foot of an unworthy man. An advocate for the young girl confusing harsh critique for love. A representative for the front desk girl whose smarter and wiser than any man in the building yet criminally unacknowledged. And who better to represent them than you, Dear?”
Pansy could think of no reply.
“You will receive your first assignment tomorrow morning. Enjoy your baby girl tonight,” Nana leaned forward to kiss Pansy on her cheek. “Look, Dear. Finally, someone’s got my red.”
Finally, they brought the tiny bundled baby girl to her mother’s bare chest. She was indeed glowing a deep mahogany red.