a cold white wing | Kate Zambreno | Granta

a cold white wing

Kate Zambreno

The first meal was breakfast, as it must have been morning by then. I ate the doughy pancake with one hand, using my plastic fork to shovel in the spongy eggs with the other. I heard the woman on the other side of the curtain complain that she didn’t get a meal. She had an Eastern European accent. The nurse checked her clipboard. She was not on the list for solid meals. Why, she had not had anesthesia. I felt solidarity with her irritation. We must have delivered around the same time. There was that scream down the hall, awful in its velocity. It sounded like someone being murdered. I wonder what I sounded like, whether my voice was recognizable as the animal I had been. Sometime in the night my roommate had asked a nurse in low tones to have the baby taken to the nursery. The babies kept on squawking. I drifted in and out, listening for cries. Mine slept most of the time, and I let her. There was no one there, like last time, to wake me up every hour to nurse. They were understaffed or keeping away. I spoke to the baby out loud, as I leaned over the transparent bassinet, ineptly wrapping her in the soft hospital blanket, creamy with pink and blue stripes, not as expert as the nurse’s swaddle. A reassuring patter, to keep myself awake, so as not to drop her. I wasn’t terrified this time around to be alone with the baby. I liked looking at her, the funny striped hat covering dark tufts of hair, her red chubby cheeks mottled with white, like wax, her eyes closed, the purse of her mouth which I positioned against my deep brown aureole, my breast the size of her face, her tummy with the yellowing umbilical cord like latex clamped with plastic, pressed against my hard swollen belly. I stroked her skinny bird legs. My husband must have left by then to go pick up our child from the house where she was staying, friends willing to risk possible contagion. Perhaps I was speaking to the baby out loud to remind myself that I was a person. The effect was getting to me, not seeing any other faces.


Kate Zambreno

Kate Zambreno is the author, most recently, of Drifts and To Write As If Already Dead, a study of Hervé Guibert. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, and is at work on a non-fiction book, The Light Room, and a story collection, The Missing Person.

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