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My First Weeks by Sharon Olds


My First Weeks

by Sharon Olds


Sometimes, when I wonder what I’m like, underneath, I think of my first two weeks, I was drenched with happiness. The wall opened like liquid, my head slid through, my legs, I pushed off, from the side, soared gently, turned, squeezed out neatly into the cold illuminated air and breathed it. Washed off, wrapped, I slept, and when I woke there was the breast the size of my head, hard and full, the springy drupelets of the nipple. Sleep. Milk. Heat. Every day she held me up to the window and wagged my fist at my sister, down in the street, who waved her cone back at me so hard the ice cream flew through the air like a butter-brickle cannonball, otherwise it was sleep and milk, by day my mother’s, by night the nurses would prop me with the bottle. Paradise had its laws--every four hours and not a minute sooner I could drink, but every four hours I could have the world in my mouth. Two weeks, and then home, to the end of the hall, where at night a nurse would give me four ounces of water every four hours, and in the meantime I shrieked for it. They knew it would build my character, to learn to give up, and I learned it--dawn and the satiny breast, the burp, the boiled sheet to be placed on where my sister couldn’t touch me, I lay and moved my arms and legs like feelers in the light. Glorious life! And it would always be there, behind those nights of tap water, the whole way back, that fortnight of unlimited ration, every four hours--clock of cream and flame, I have known heaven.



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