“Eggs” by Dana Foley

I’ve loved eggs since before I even knew how to say, “over easy, please.” I remember going to the market with my mom, where every Sunday she bought a carton of fresh eggs from a local farmer.

One Sunday, after saying thank you to the vendor, she gently placed the carton with me in the stroller. Curiosity got the better of me and I lifted the soft cardboard lid. They were beautiful. Pastel blues, light browns, delicate yellows. I felt the smooth coldness of their surface under my tiny baby fingers.

This is my earliest memory of eggs.

It wasn’t long before I was stealing eggs from the fridge and hiding them around the house in nests I would create from dead leaves and grass. They would be my best friends until mom would find them weeks later, hidden under the bed or behind the couch and toss them in the trash with a sigh.

“That’s where last week’s breakfast went,” she probably thought.

Around the same time, my love of eggs was replaced with baby dolls. Mom, hoping to distract me from the egg obsession, had first pushed one into my uneager arms when I was three years old.

I had looked at her nervously.

“Don’t want this, Mum.”

“This is what little girls play with, sweetie! She’s your baby now. Hold her like she’s your baby.”

I evaluated her genuine and hopeful smile, then looked at the hard, plastic thing with confusion. It’s jewel-like blue eyes stared at me, lifeless but pleading. I squeezed its soft belly.

“Mama,” it said.

Every girl at daycare, whether she was four, seven, or 12, was “mama” to some baby doll. We stuffed our shirts with pillows and induced our own labours. Later we’d push our babies in little play strollers and blush with pride when the teachers asked if we’d had a boy or a girl.

We were good mothers. We would be good mothers.

***

The egg obsession made its reappearance when I was 17.

Ms. Avery, our grade 11 women’s health teacher, had given us one of those assignments where we had to look after an egg like it was an actual baby. We were put into partners and given an egg-child to take care of for the duration of the week.

“Remember,” she said as she placed eggs into our palms, “this assignment is meant to prepare you for the real world – for your future.”

I looked over to see the face of my partner, Lizzo. I didn’t know if this was her real name, but I knew some kids called her Lizzo the Lezzo. Her eyes appeared uninterested under her heavy makeup and she chewed a black nail on her chubby finger.

“You wanna name it or something?” she asked.

I gave a half smile. “How about Egg-atha?”

Lizzo rolled her eyes.

We ended up alternating days with our egg. Lizzo was in charge of bringing Egg-atha back to class on Friday so we could get marked complete for the assignment. To my surprise, she wasn’t in her seat when the class bell rang on Friday afternoon.

When Ms. Avery asked me where Lizzo was, I said she was probably sick. She seemed satisfied with this response and continued labeling various parts of a vagina diagram on the blackboard.

Halfway through class, Lizzo lumbered through the door and took her seat.

“Nice to see you’ve finally joined us,” said Ms. Avery with hands on hips. “Let me check off your name for the assignment. Where’s your egg?”

Lizzo stared at her, face unemotive. “I ate it,” she said matter-of-factly. 

Our classmates nervously twittered and giggled. Ms. Avery’s face darkened. “Excuse me?”

Lizzo just smiled, arms across her chest.

We failed the assignment. 

Later, I walked home in silence. When I got there, I opened the fridge door and peered inside. I moved aside a half-eaten jar of pickles and last night’s roast beef leftovers to find a carton of eggs sitting on the bottom shelf. My stomach moaned with hunger.

I pulled out the carton, boiled some water, and dropped in a single egg. 

When the egg was cooked and cooled, I lightly tapped it with a spoon until little spider cracks emerged in the smooth, white shell. I slipped a fingernail into a crack and slowly, delicately pulled the membrane away. A chill went down my spine as I heard the soft, wet squeak of my teeth gliding through the rubbery white. The chalky, crumbly texture of the yolk stuck to my lips, so I had to lick them once, twice to get clean. 

When I was done, I stared at the tiny flecks of eggshell littering the counter. I was suddenly very tired and went upstairs to bed. 

The next morning I came downstairs to find the table set with cereal and milk. Mom was already sitting at the table, thumbing through a newspaper with a headline that read: New Study Finds Children of Stay-at-Home Moms are Happiest.

She eyed me over her paper. “Orange juice, sweetie?”

I didn’t respond and walked to the fridge to pull out a carton of eggs. 

***

I got my first boyfriend when I was in my sophomore year of university. 

Derrick was on the basketball team and always wore a gold crucifix around his neck, though I’d never once heard of him going to church. 

I met him in the meal hall. I’d just gotten my regular lunch of an omelette from the all-day-breakfast station and was crumbling a hardboiled egg over top, like I always did. Derrick saw what I was doing from the next table over and picked up his tray to move it beside mine. 

“You sure like eggs,” he said as he watched me take my first bite.

I smiled and looked at him through my eyelashes. 

I’d gotten birth control pills from the school clinic a couple of months later. Things had started to get serious with Derrick. A nurse peered at me over the glasses sitting on the tip of her nose as she made notes on a clipboard. 

“And how many sexual partners have you had?” she asked without looking up from her notes. Her pen moved through the air creating spiraled blue waves across the page. I wished I could have swam away in them. 

“Well, none…” I explained, “but my boyfriend and I would like to —”

“How long have the two of you been dating?” She interrupted.

“Just about six weeks,” I said weakly.

She shrugged her shoulders to her ears and widened her eyes as she read her notes over. “That seems like an honourable amount of time,” she said. “Let me see what I’ve got for you.”

Later in the week, I’d sat with Derrick on my dorm room bed as both of us stared down at a pack of pills the nurse had prescribed me. They came in a pink package with a tiny blue lotus flower on the front. 

“They look so…unthreatening for medication,” Derrick said with eyebrows raised. “Almost like candy.”

“Oh, they may look cute and friendly,” I teased, “but this is a pack of lethal soldiers prepared to protect my body from pregnancy at any cost.”

I laughed at my own joke. Derrick met my eyes and frowned. He leaned back on the bed and stretched out, covering his eyes with his baseball cap.

“I still don’t get why you think you have to do this,” he complained. “Why can’t you just be okay with condoms? Why bother messing with your hormones and shit?”

I asked Derrick if he’d ever learned about protection or birth control in sex-ed. He just pointed to his crucifix, indicating his Catholic school education. 

Right, I remembered. No comprehensive sex-ed.

***

The next day, I was making the walk across campus to psych when I saw a crowd of people gathered in the courtyard. Some held picketing signs and almost everyone was shouting words I couldn’t make out. I moved closer to get a better look and read a woman’s sign that said, “Babies’ Lives Matter! Choose Adoption”.

I stood at the back of the crowd, trying not to make eye-contact with anyone in my immediate vicinity, and listened to a woman speaking into a megaphone at the front.

“I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive a child for nine years. I have paid thousands of dollars and gone through years of grief and suffering to try and conceive a baby. How am I supposed to feel when these women so readily destroy and throw away a life that I would literally die to have?” 

At this, the crowd began to roar and cheer. The woman wiped a tear away from her eyes and mouthed a ‘thank you’. 

I accidentally made eye-contact with a middle-aged man in a plaid shirt and glasses and he started towards me. I tried to slip away, but some other curious students had moved in behind me and I was trapped. I saw him pulling something out of a shopping bag as he approached me. He smiled with kind eyes as he pushed a cold, white egg into my hand. 

“Did you know that at 14 weeks in the uterus, your baby is already the size of this egg?”

I tried to say something but couldn’t form any words. Panic rose in my chest. I spun around and pushed my way out of the crowd. 

He called after me, “At 15 weeks, your baby would already have taste buds!” 

I started to run. I only stopped when I reached the alley between the residences and science building. Alone, I finally felt like I could breathe. I didn’t know why I was so angry and scared. I wanted to hit someone, but I didn’t know who or why. I wanted to scream, to throw my head back and laugh, to bury my face in my hands and sob. 

Instead, I rested my forehead against alley’s brick wall and quietly asked to no one, to everyone, “what do you think I owe you?” 

It was only after I calmed down that I realized I was still holding the egg. 

I stared down at it as I took deep breaths in and out through my nose. I could feel my hand tightening around it. I didn’t stop myself.

With a sudden burst of rage, I contracted my fist and felt the shell violently split apart with a sickening crack. The wet, gooey insides ran over my trembling fingers, down my arm and dripped onto the pavement. Though it was already broken, I kept squeezing what was left of the egg until I felt a sharp piece of shell dig into my palm. I opened my hand to see the runny yolk reddened with my blood. I smiled.

I never ate another egg. 


DANA FOLEY grew up in the small town of Perth, Ontario and now lives in Ottawa where she studies English Literatures at Carleton University. Creative writing is one of her newest passions. She is an avid writer, reader, and cupcake-eater who believes in writing as a process of giving, growing, and healing.