Junette felt incomplete, as though there was a large piece missing right out of the center of her that had never filled in as she had formed within her mother’s womb. It was not painful, not like a cut or burn or abrasion, but it was uncomfortable, like when something’s pressing on your chest and you can’t quite take a full breath, or when your leg has been in the same position for too long, and you can’t figure out where to move it to alleviate the discomfort.
It didn’t hinder her greatly. Or, at least, it shouldn’t have. It was only a feeling. She could still walk and talk. Her body was all there, from head to toe. She could think and speak and express herself, because her mind was not lacking anything. In truth, Junette did not know what it was that she was missing. She just knew that it wasn’t there.
At first, she tried to fill her incompleteness with her family. She clung close to her mother, and, when her little sisters were born, she poured her love and affection into them. She was not a jealous or frustrated older sibling, like some of her friends. She liked to give her sisters her old toys, or help them do their hair. She liked to play with them and talk to them about the new friends they made at school.
None of this filled whatever was missing inside of her. She still felt a void. Her kinship with her mother and her siblings didn’t fill it. It was as absent as ever. At times, it made her feel oddly numb, as though there were a chunk taken out of the nerves that helped her to feel.
She tried to fill the void with friends. She made many, many friends, though middle school and high school. She forced herself to be close to each and every one of them. If one of Junette’s friends needed something that she could provide, she was there. Even if she couldn’t do what they needed, she tried to help them find someone who could.
This did not make her feel complete, either. She learned very quickly that no matter how much she gave of herself, other people didn’t give nearly as much back. For a while she dismissed this and tried to convince herself it wasn’t a problem. She didn’t need repayment for the act of being a friend. After all, she was doing it for herself, to try to find a way to make herself complete. There was no reason to expect people to do anything for her in return.
Without getting anything back that she gave away, though, Junette began to feel empty and drained, alongside that persistent incompleteness that plagued her. She grew too tired to keep up with all of the people she had insisted on establishing as friends. One by one, she stopped trying so hard. They drifted out of her life. Most of them barely seemed to notice or care, even those that Junette had thought she had actually cared about, beyond using them to try to complete herself.
In college she tried to fill the void with love. She filled herself with what she thought was the love of men and women in equal measure. At first, she dated only in turn: one person after another, each one as unsatisfying as the last. When none of them made her feel more complete, she took to dating two and three people at a time. Sometimes they were aware of each other, and accepting. Sometimes they were not.
It didn’t matter anymore, to Junette, whether what she sought ended up doing good for others along the way. All she wanted was to fill that emptiness inside her. She hated feeling like she had been born without something. She felt like, if she could just discover what it was, she could find something to fit in the hole. She reminded herself of a small child with a playset of blocks meant to fit into specific holes on a board. There was only one hole on her board, but she had no block to fit into it.
Her studies at college did nothing to complete here. There had been a hint, with each successive attempt involving other people, that maybe it would worth. This time. Maybe she would find the right person, or maybe she’d be be able to turn a person the right way, in order to fill the gap at the center of her being. They hadn’t worked, but there was a sense that she was at least close. It was like when she was thirsty, and she drank soda: it didn’t quench her thirst, but it gave her the illusion that it did.
Junette became pregnant. She was not surprised by this. She had become incautious in her relations with men. Desperation has a way of erasing the care that sensible people take. She was not surprised, but she was disappointed in herself. She was not ready for a child, and she had yet to complete her studies. Taking care of an infant would only make it harder.
She considered getting an abortion. She abandoned this idea not because it went against her morals, but because she was struck by a sudden hope: What if the child inside her was what she needed to feel complete? She couldn’t give up any chance at finally feeling whole, no matter how many times she had failed before. She found that she didn’t care what other inconveniences the child brought, so long as it offered her a chance to end her eternal discomfort.
Her mother and her sisters came to witness the birth. Junette did not know who the child’s father was, and she didn’t want to know. She had already discarded him, whoever he was. He hadn’t completed her. Having him back in her life would be of no benefit to her. There was a long list of men it might have been, anyway. Finding the right one would have taken too much effort.
Once she had extruded her child and the nurse brought him back to her to hold in her arms for the first time, Junette knew. She felt his tiny warmth pressing against her chest. She kissed the top of his head, lightly, afraid that anything firmer would damage his fragile body. She let her mother and her sisters hold him and coo at him, telling him they loved him already.
The birth had been, so the doctors said, quick and easy. Junette had nothing to compare it to. It had felt as though her baby had just slid out of her. She had been so focused on the incompleteness within her, which had seemed to swell greater with each contraction, that she had hardly paid any mind to the birth itself. She wanted to know whether her child would fill it. Now that she had seen him, she knew.
She went home with her mother that night, though she had been living on her own for quite some time now. Her youngest sister still lived there. They told her they would take care of the baby, while she slept. That pleased her. It comforted her, as she made her next decision.
Junette left. When she was sure that everyone else was asleep, even the baby, she left her mother’s house. She left the child there, because when she’d seen him, she knew: he hadn’t made up for that which was missing inside her. He never would. So she left him in the care of her family and walked away into the night, away from a life from which she had failed to tease the only satisfaction she had ever desired. She never returned.