In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • What Waiting Looks Like
  • Katie Karnehm-Esh (bio)

I hold out my fingers and count forward to nine. I land on July, when I will scan the Indiana sky for signs of rain, then hang my sheets and towels on a line between two crooked trees. The heat will draw my dogs out like hyphens across the floor and the cat will roll over, white belly turned up to me when I check the mail—nothing there. Tiger lilies will brushstroke towards the blue-white sky and the hosta will burn brown, curling in on itself in the afternoon sun.

The November rain begins again. I put my hands back in my pockets and shiver. Inside, the dogs curl their bodies like commas and the cat tucks his feet under him like a black and white chicken. The neighborhood’s Christmas lights glow watery under the rain, and the hostas and sunflowers have decayed to brown clumps. When we walk the dark, sodden lengths of campus, my golden retriever drifts behind us, sniffing the grass for a sign.


Two days after the 2016 election, I am sure I am pregnant. For one, I cannot stop crying. A family member refers to me as bigoted when I express my devastation, and students cry in my classes or do not attend at all. It seems that America, like an alcoholic almost off the bottle, has decided to go on one last, self-annihilating bender. I routinely tear up in class, after class, in downward dog during yoga class. And when I wonder what is wrong with me, I make myself not count forward nine months. But I do let myself count backwards twenty-eight days. When I come up with two extra days, I consider unwrapping the year-old pregnancy test on my bathroom shelf. My husband and I make [End Page 135] a solitary joke about finally painting the last bedroom in the house. This is a dangerous conversation; if I am wrong, again, it will finally be too much.

Three days after the election, I was not pregnant. Like the last 14 times, I was surprised to find I was OK.


This is what waiting looks like: a gray waiting room and paperwork—name, family history, emergency contact. The waiting room shivers under its pattern of gray scrollwork and shiny wood. Outside, the August sky is gray too. I try to read a book, but all I do is swipe through my phone, recycling the same stories and messages.

I am waiting for an HSG—a hysterosalpingogram, commonly called a dye test—despite knowing my insurance probably won’t cover the procedure. But after a few people tell me the dye test has helped all their friends get pregnant, I check my HSA and schedule it anyway. Eventually, someone will lead me down a corridor to a changing room, then a cold x-ray room. Later, when I have this procedure redone in Indianapolis, I will learn it takes about seven minutes. Today it takes 45 minutes, three catheters, two radiologists, three unclear bills, and a diagnosis of “Um, I think you’ve got some blockage up in there” before they let me go. But I find this surprisingly hopeful. My doctors had been telling me for a year that nothing was wrong; I simply needed to wait.

The Indianapolis doctor later says the blockage is no more than a twist in my body’s channels; my empty uterus is textbook perfect. He shows me the inside of my body on the screen, this black cavern outlined in gray, like a chalk drawing on a black, pulsing sidewalk. A new HSG, a vaginal ultrasound, and several rounds of blood tests confirm that there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with us.


This is what waiting looks like: In April, my friend and I drive south to the next major city, where the closest Planned Parenthood distributes contraceptive services. We hold our breath when we drive around the corner into the shopping center, then release it when we see the white Planned Parenthood sign, no protestors below it. Not that there would be much to...


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pp. 135-137
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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