Hurts So Good

by Sionnain Buckley

“Hurts So Good” was selected for THE BODY microprose longlist.

The woman I love saves her kidney stones in a little jar with an orange top that her doctor gave her. He told her to bring them back so he could test them, give her some sort of prognosis, but she keeps them on a bookshelf in our bedroom instead because she says they’re hers. Sometimes she takes them out to look, and poured out into her palm they look every bit like a handful of seeds, or breadcrumbs, something for the birds.

“Feel them,” she says, shoving her hand under my nose. I must make a face at her, because she shakes her head at me, grins some disappointed grin. “They’re just rocks, love. Seriously.”

I don’t put my hands out to take them, but I oblige her at least in looking at them closely. There under my nose I can make out the ridged edges, the individual crystals. She wiggles her fingers and the little stones give off pinpricks of sparkle. I curb some inexplicable urge to stick out my tongue, take them into my mouth, and bite.

“This is much more interesting than a baby,” she says.

I look up at her with what I hope is a neutral look, but it’s this baby thing again. We’ve discussed it to death and neither of us can seem to budge.

She avoids my stare and continues, “At least a baby makes logical sense, but this—” She brings her palm close to her own face now, staring bug-eyed at the little pile of stones. “How did I birth something totally inanimate? Rock and flesh are complete opposites.”

“I wouldn’t call it birth, technically.”

“Close enough,” she says, shrugging, turning her back to me and cradling her little babies close to her chest. She won’t discuss having a living thing grow inside her, but pee out a few rocks and she’s contemplating creation.

“Hey—” I say, thinking maybe this is an opening. Maybe she’s making room for the idea.

But as if she already knows where I’m going, she laughs. “Oh, give it a rest. Let me look at my rocks in peace.” She takes the medical-grade jar in one hand and tips her palm carefully over the lip. They clink loudly against the jar, against each other, until I hear her let out a short gasp.

“I dropped one,” she says, falling onto her hands and knees.

I join her on the floor, and together we comb through the carpet’s fibers with slow hands, feeling for the poke of something foreign, a small sharp edge. She doesn’t tell me if it’s a big one, one of the stones that laid her out so bad that I had to carry her to the car to take her to the hospital, or if it’s a tiny one that passed with not much more than a few long cramps. She doesn’t say anything at all in fact, but it’s okay. We both know exactly what we’re looking for.

Sionnain Buckley is a writer and visual artist based in Boston. Her work has appeared in Winter Tangerine, Wigleaf, Autostraddle, CutBank Online, and others. She serves as a prose editor for 3Elements Review, and is a 2019 Rhinebeck Resident with The Seventh Wave.

Artwork by: Anastasiya Lobanovskaya