December 1, 2021

My Father’s a Psychologist

by Talya Jankovits

I.
After I had a baby
I sank deep into a tub
murky with leaking milk.
Daniel had to help me in and out—
my limbs too heavy. 
She, too heavy.
The small apartment fills with 
our weeping. The tub drains.

II.
Oh no, I said, I can’t take that medication.
The last time, it really messed with my head.
With his eyes on the script pad he tells me:
that was probably just postpartum depression. 
She is in my arms. My feet hang over the 
examination table, wax paper sticks to skin.
That word:
Just. 

III.
The room went spinning one day
when I got up to go to her. 
The swing propelling her wails
back 
         and
forth.
         Back 
                   and 
forth. 
A pendulum swinging. 
My head swinging. 
The room spinning. 
I can’t remember which medication, but I remember 
            Swinging. 
                         Spinning. 
            Swinging.

IV.
Do you have thoughts of harming the baby?
My father asks me this. 
He sits across from me in the room I grew up in. 
No, I say. And I mean it. 
Do you ever wish you weren’t alive?
I don’t want to answer this. 
Instead I assure him I will never act on it.
Later, I will hear him speaking behind 
a closed door. A child again. I hear those words:
Post. Partum. Depression. 
He doesn’t say: just.
I never tell him thank you.  

V.
I tell a woman in a small office with very curly hair
that we tried a long time to get pregnant. 
I tell her about plastic vaginas, needles, hormones. 
I tell her about petri dishes, insemination,
Internships, moving to Texas and not knowing 
a soul. And having a baby.
Finally.
I tell her: I’m sad.
She tells me: That’s a lot. 
I don’t go back to see her again.

VI.
I leave early. I go back to LA, 
to the house where my father asked me questions.
We don’t like being apart from each other
but I can’t snap out of it and I blamed
Houston. The bayous, the humidity, the sudden
torrential rains. I put little white sunglasses on her
round face and we walk together on Beverly Boulevard.

My father never asks me questions again.

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