No White Light


October 2, 2017 by The Citron Review

By Susan Segal


No tunnel, no grandparents opening their arms, no Tipper joyously barking, no Anna—childhood best friend, thrown from a careening car driven by her coke-addled boyfriend back in the nineties—waving her on. Just dizziness, the edges of the room blurring, the sense of departing the controlled panic of the OR for someplace less dangerous, less frantic, the baby, who was taking too long to cry, possibly coming with her, fear dissolving, her husband’s strangled voice—both now and before, when he said he would wait till after the baby to decide if he would stay—becoming no more than a memory, the doctors crying More blood, working working so hard on what, for what, it’s all so pointless isn’t it, she was thinking, with a sense of…not peace, why did people say that’s what you felt…more with indifference, as in, Really folks, I’m outta here, and then, as abruptly as whiplash, the baby’s cry, the room recovering its acute edges, relieved laughing and high-fiving behind where she lay strapped to the table, the voice of the anesthesiologist in her ear, “If this were twenty years ago you’d be dead now,” and her reply, “I know,” instead of “I was.” Someone said “My God”—a whispered cry, and she realized it was her husband—awed perhaps, by the proximity of disaster—he of the charmed life, the “joie de vivre,” that she, he claimed, so sorely lacked. He laid his hand on her head as if in benediction and let out a sigh, and her heart fluttered with hope and she felt the dryness of his touch long after his hand was gone. She asked for the baby and a nurse leaned down to her and said, “The baby is all right. The placenta abrupted—separated from the uterus— and you were bleeding out, but the baby’s fine, he’s fine, and now you’re fine too,” and she could hear the tremor of relief in the nurse’s voice. “Do you want to be with him,” the nurse said, and she started to say Of course, more than anything, but I’m held down here, can’t you see, but then she realized the nurse had been talking to her husband and he moved quickly away from her; she watched him recede from her sideways view and she thought of the placenta in its bloody fragments, torn from its source, lethal when it should be nourishing, and she asked again for the baby but they had already taken him to the NICU, and she saw then that it was to be the first, but by no means the most painful of the many separations he and she would have to endure.


Susan Segal’s novel, Aria, was chosen by Barnes and Noble for its Nook First: Compelling Reads from Emerging Writers feature. Her short stories have been published in Redbook, The Evansville Review, Juked, The Ilanot Review, Shantih Journal and more. She has an MFA in fiction from UC Irvine and is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California, where she teaches fiction writing, editing, and literature. She lives in Orange County, CA.

3 thoughts on “No White Light

  1. Amazing writing, … so vivid and real, of a near death experience. I loved every word.

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