The Relapse 

Page 2 of 13

When Claudia figured out she was pregnant, she started picturing the fetus and how much liquor it had been swimming in for months. It was getting made of her blood and flesh, its little fin-feet and its cauliflower hands. It was a little not-yet-baby built of gin. Claudia knew that babies had gills in embryo, until they didn't—and she pictured the clear sweet booze passing through her fetus' tiny flaps of wet skin.

She found photos of kids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, their flat faces and puffy slit eyes. It looked like booze had kept the dough of them from getting fully sculpted. They were perfect visual expressions of how it felt to crave alcohol like she did, physical incarnations of her deforming need, its taunting constancy. These kids looked like little ghouls, to her. They looked like monsters. She couldn't imagine loving one.

When she gazed wistfully at babies on the street—just barely starting to walk, hands held by some adult for balance—she feared her desire for a child, when she had it, was not to care for it but to be needed by it.

She drank herself to sleep the night before the procedure, because what the fuck, right? She'd given up on this one anyway. My life had become unmanageable. That's what meetings would teach her to say. But she wasn't sure if it was true, quite. It was more like her life didn't seem worth managing.

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