In the Beginning | Kelsey Pinckney

I always sat next to R in church. The always is relative, I guess, as in always since we met, which was in the sixth grade, and since then we always sat together. We went to church and when we met and sat together for the first time, it felt like always. B was always with R, which was more like usually, since nothing was quite like our always. This particular time, B wasn’t with R.

B was with R, actually. R was next to me and B was next to R. And this particular time was just like every particular time in church. There was a man on stage and all he ever said was, Hell, Hell, Hell, we’re all sinners, we’re all going to die but mercy. R and I usually laughed at the way the man said mercy, except for the times we felt like we needed it, which was sometimes. We never knew what mercy was and we didn’t care much. Well, we must have cared. We weren’t sure what we cared about.

This particular time R and I left church together, and that’s when we got in the car. B must have been there too, in the car. I was driving and we were on Main Street. We must have been discussing something. B and R were talking about getting some pot so we could all forget about mercy when I accidentally cut off the guy in front of us. He pulled up next to me and rolled down his window. Hey, bitch, he said. I looked at him and burst into tears. R started to laugh, which was a different laugh than the one we shared in church. He laughed this other way only while being chided by his mother, or when he felt his toes sizzle as he used them to poke the bonfire we built out in the desert.

But R must have been angry. He grabbed the wheel because I was crying and I couldn’t hold it straight anymore. B must have been laughing. B wanted some pot. Someone was yelling, Hey, bitch.

But R was driving. Yes, R drove, and I grabbed the wheel because we were fighting—not about the pot, there was nothing to fight about there. We were fighting about something else, but not the way we fought in church, which was mostly me nudging his elbow with mine, him nudging my stomach with his elbow, sometimes missing my stomach and knocking into my swollen chest, which hurt a little, but I would laugh because he would laugh.

Hey, bitch, R said it angry, and I grabbed the wheel. He cut off the guy in front of us, and I started to cry because the jolt of the car when R hit the brakes scared me. B was laughing because he thought it was funny when we fought and the jolt didn’t scare him.

I said, I’m pregnant. And I must have said it through my teeth.

No she’s not, she’s a virgin, B said.

No she’s not, I would know, B said.

Yeah she is, and it’s mine, B said.

R said, Shut up. And he looked at me.

I must have been driving, because my hands gripped the wheel tight and my whole body ached. I didn’t look back at R, but I heard him ask, Are you sure?

Yes, I said.

No, I said, I still have to go to the doctor, but I’m pretty sure.

And R yelled, Hey, bitch.

But R just started to cry, really. And it was a deep cry, not the kind of cry he would have wanted B to hear. And then B said, We should really go get that pot.

The sound of R crying shook me deep and made me wish I knew what mercy was, so I swerved in the road. Then I cut off the guy in front of us and no one hit their brakes in time. We all died on impact.

No. R and I were fine. We both started crying and R kept coughing out the same words, Is the baby okay, is the baby okay?

I don’t know, I had to yell back because I didn’t know. But I did know. I could feel the blood pooling under me, but R’s eyes were swollen shut. B must have been fine too—he pulled R and I out of the smashed, smoking car.

The cop asked, Who was driving? And I could hear sirens all around me, I knew I must have been driving.

We were in the hospital and all three of us were in one big room, but it wasn’t like the room we were usually in, which had couches and dogs and beer that B stole from his brother and pot that B stole from his brother. This room had beds and tubes and nurses that called me Sweetie. The nurse told me the baby was going to be okay and I’m far enough along now, do I want to know the gender?

No, I said.

Yes, I said. But I wanted to wait for R so he could know too. The nurse wouldn’t wait for R. The nurse said, Girl, girl, girl over and over and I said, You have to wait, R has to know. And someone cried in the deep way that felt like all their organs and bones and veins collapsed into a pile inside their feet, below their ankles, a big, throbbing pile of blood and marrow that couldn’t figure how to fit together anymore.

It was a girl. And I was glad.

But B must have been there too. B kept saying, Hell, Hell, Hell, we’re all going to die but mercy and I didn’t know, I couldn’t know, what he meant.

Kelsey Pinckney lives, works, and writes in Phoenix, Arizona. She served as the Assistant Director and Managing Editor of Four Chambers Press for four years. She spends most of her time reading, working for a literacy nonprofit called Read Better Be Better, yelling at her cat, and loving her partner (sometimes yelling at her partner and loving her cat, depending on the day).