The weather in Southern California was gray the week the image for this essay came to me. The overcast days, which are part of our “winter,” provided the sense memory of the weather on the day I saw the anesthesiologist outside of the movies. The theater had been in the news recently. It had closed during the pandemic and several residents fought to keep it open. Now, it was reopening with a new owner and I had told myself I would go. When I put the theater and the weather together in my head, the image of my anesthesiologist became vivid.
I also wanted to tell this story of a miscarriage, because people sometimes downplay how traumatic they can be, but I didn’t want to drag the reader down with gobs of harrowing and self-pitying detail. Instead, I had the anesthesiologist, a weird kind of confluence of events, to help me. I think the anesthesiologist enabled me to crystalize the loneliness of this experience. And the barren landscape of Vasquez Rocks helped echo the emptiness that followed.
For several decades, I studied fiction with the incomparable Jim Krusoe, who encouraged us to start stories with the strange moments that leave you scratching your head as a way in. He also encouraged the use of close third person (even though I use first person in my piece), as a way of further destabilizing the reader and deepening a story. I’ve transferred these lessons to nonfiction and they have been invaluable for me. With this last disclosure, I feel like a magician who has just given away most of her tricks, but so be it. They were given to me, and now you may try them.
CYNTHIA ADAM PROCHASKA was born only hours after her mother, a poet, attended a Great Books meeting. Cynthia’s work has appeared in Santa Monica Review, The Florida Review, and the Los Angeles Times. Her stories are also anthologized in LA Fiction Anthology: Southland Stories by Southland Writers and Literary Pasadena. For many years, she was a professor of English at Mount San Antonio College. Despite her occasional misgivings, she is working on a memoir. Find her on Instagram at @cynthiaprochacha.