By all appearances, Concepcion was not the kind of person you sat next to on a sidewalk bench. Her eyes were jaundiced and she had long, filthy nails that she used to scratch at the dirt caked to her skin and hair. Her tattered clothes stank of old sweat and urine. And yet she commanded an inexplicable trust so that, on occasion, a pregnant mother took seat next to her and listened politely as Concepcion told about her own birth—or what she could remember of it: clawing herself out from beneath the ice, her fingers bloody, her naked skin frigid, opening her eyes from the prenatal void behind her lids to the glaring white blindness of the arctic snow. “Your kid’s gonna be lucky,” she’d tell them. “They’ve got you to do most of the work. Why, I had to birth myself and, let me tell you, it gives you some perspective on the world right from early on.”
It always sounded crazy, of course, but Concepcion spoke with such sincerity that her audience was usually as enraptured as they were incredulous. She spoke of standing naked in the freezing light, no idea why she had been born, who she was or what anything around her was, and no context around which to form any sort of identity. Her first opportunity to gain any notion of herself came when, in wandering the endless white plains, she came across another person as bleary and confused as her. Oh that sight was beautiful—that other figure was her first look at beauty, standing so dark against the snow, Concepcion felt such a pull in her gut for that dark flesh, its slender waist, full breasts—that dark patch of hair that hid she couldn’t see what. It was the first time she had ever felt desire.
Adam Breckenridge is an assistant professor, teaching writing and film classes, at the New England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island. His work has previously appeared in Independent Ink, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, and the WTF!? Anthology.