The Pilot Light

Last night I won $100 on a poker machine. Not a lot of money, but the most I’ve ever won. My friend Sam and I – who I haven’t seen in months – were having a good catch up, giggling and drinking and high-fiving. It was fucking cold in there but we sat at the machine and watched the numbers ticking up. It was exciting, a moment of fun in an otherwise shitty day. Shitty month, shitty year. After my two recent miscarriages, not a lot makes sense in my world anymore. It’s harder to have fun, to laugh, to escape painful feelings. Not a lot makes me smile.

But last night was fun. Fun for fun’s sake. Turns out fun is not a guaranteed thing. Just like with my miscarriages, the bottom can fall out at any moment.

We couldn’t work out how to use the stupid card thing. The money is put on a card which is then cashed out. After much fumbling about, we finally worked it out and took it to a cash-out machine. Sam put the card in the wrong slot. It really was a stupid card thing. Luckily there was a helpful lady hovering who could tell us how to work it.

“Just take it to the cashier,” she said after the card was spat out again. We left and took it to another cash-out machine. The balance was zero.

Uh oh.

We took it to the cashier and the balance on the card was still zero. I knew immediately that that helpful woman with the weird eyes had robbed us. Thinking back, I should have known the machine would spit out a ticket not cash.

We were a little tipsy. We went back to the poker machine and tracked down service. I went to get more drinks. I felt like I was gone a minute but when I got back my friends were looking for me. Sam had bad news – the staff could give us nothing but would look into it. We’d lost our winnings and there was nothing to show for it.

It struck me then that this is how it feels to miscarry. I won, but I didn’t. The evidence was all there but somehow I lost the prize. Didn’t just lose it – I was robbed of it. Right from under my nose. I was taken from the highest high to a crashing low, life once again cutting me off at the knees.

When I fell pregnant in January, I took it for granted that my baby was guaranteed. That come September I would become a mother for the second time. The pee sticks told me, the blood test told me, my body told me. I was pregnant, carrying a precious new life. How easily that spark was snuffed out. My child’s life was nothing more than a flickering pilot light, a fragile withering thing that could be taken out by the slightest breeze. Where did that breeze come from? Why couldn’t I protect it? How did I lose it? These are questions that will never have answers.

I might get my winnings. The staff might really “look into it” and resolve it. Or they might not, and my loss may never be recovered. And I will have to learn to live with that.

The parallels continue on. Life will always contain loss and injustice and theft and unfairness. There is no guarantee of fair treatment, or that our lives will be free of pain and suffering. This was never promised to us but it kind of feels like the birthright of being human. So all we can do is fight, and when we’ve fought hard enough and strong enough, know when to let go.


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