While many might argue 3:09 is as unremarkable as 2:45 or 6:15, 3:09 p.m. was significant for two people in particular. On the third month of the ninth day at exactly 3:09 p.m. life changed for two souls. For one because it was the hour at which she was expulsed from the womb into the harsh, sterile hospital room, and the other because it signified blessed relief as the last of the contractions rippled like waves across her lower abdomen ending nine months of worry and wait. For both, it was a new beginning.
At 3:10 p.m. when the doctor handed the mother her new child, a baby girl with a thick thatch of strawberry-blonde curls, and squinty blue eyes, mother and daughter looked at each other in wonder. At 3:11 p.m. she whispered a fervent prayer into her child’s ear that nothing or no one would ever harm her, a hopeful, yet unrealistic promise, for life’s journey is an unknown road with few guarantees.
Over the years, the child grew, secure in her mother’s love and her own importance. They lived in a drafty old house, 309 Chester Street, until she reached the age of 3 when her mother’s boyfriend, an unemployed alcoholic with a mean streak, backhanded the little girl into a wall. Thirty-nine stitches later, mother and daughter were on the run, leaving behind the relative security of their old home for a life of constant, gnawing fear.
The little girl grew into a quiet, watchful young woman, always aware of her own vulnerability. Her mother, who had once promised to protect her daughter from all harm, could not keep a steady job, or a steady boyfriend. If the little girl replayed the scenes of her childhood, a flickering parade of men, old and young, would feature prominently in her recollections. Some were nice. Most were not, and as the young girl blossomed into womanhood, she learned to protect herself from their niceness and their winsome smiles, those smiles who fooled no one but her mother.
If her mother knew how often she had been abused, she never let on. The young woman had counted but stopped once her estimation surpassed thirty-nine.
Yet it came as some surprise to her mother when on the ninth day of the third month eighteen years after her cold welcome into this world, the young woman packed her bags and left her mother behind. She traveled 3009 miles across country to attend school. Her dorm room, coincidentally, was on the third floor, number nine.
The girl was smart and had studied hard despite her unstable upbringing, and looked forward to the advantages a good education might afford her. She vowed to never be in a situation like her mother, single and alone with no marketable skills save for those found between her legs. Yet near the end of her fourth year at university after her boyfriend of three years left her, alone and pregnant, she found herself in a most desperate situation.
Life, which had done nothing but throw up one obstacle after another, was too difficult to continue. Broken promises, unreliable adults and a constant uphill struggle had quite simply robbed her will to live. She knew what lay beyond life’s great journey, and decided to speed along the inevitable conclusion of life’s great farce.
On the third day of the ninth month at 3:09 p.m. she stood at the top of the stairs and looked down the yawning staircase, imagining her crumpled body at the bottom. She was currently four months with child, and knew her actions would end both their lives, perhaps a kinder service to her unborn child than the life of insecurity and heartache the toll of living required.
She stood decided at the top of the stairs, her foot hanging over the first step, the ballast of her weight hanging over the emptiness of space. Sweat beaded on her forehead and she screwed her eyes tight, willing her weak arms to let go the baluster and end it all. Her foot wobbled and her body tensed when a stirring in her lower abdomen alerted her to another presence. She paused when it happened again, stronger this time, and the force of the stirring pushed her back to the safety of the landing.
She released her hold on the railing and rested a hand on her abdomen, grunting as the child within her kicked. Smoothing her shirt over her belly, she turned from the stairs and walked back to her room, taking keen note of the time.
It was 3:10 p.m., a more significant time than 3:09 had ever been, for while she had no choice but to be born when she did, she had chosen the exact moment she decided to live.
(C) Sara Ackerman, 2018