Birthday

Tapping steady at the side of my cup, the coffee ripples in time with twitching.  My spectral image housed within a picture frame would be invisible if it were between dawn and dusk. I see myself in my current state: transparent with a few new facial creases. An hour ago, I sped recklessly down the main drag. An hour ago, she and I parted ways. My time is now occupied by looking at the TV screen and wringing an August issue of Entertainment Weekly.

This place runs at an odd angle. Am I facing north? The curvature of the waiting room displays the faintest of skylines with a few aircraft warning lights. Otherwise, one would think this hospital doubles its capacity in the evenings. I rest my head on the pane, and make sure my stomach doesn’t fly out my mouth. We thought we’d cross this bridge when we’d get to it. Well, here it is in front me and my… my… what are we really?

At any rate, I suppose this room becomes a land of imagination. I can see it now, families all stuck helpless like flies on paper. The designers must have had a sense of humor, too. Cheap, mass-produced chairs set neatly side-by-side with laminate end tables and a corner full of rhododendrons. But, wait! There’s a 50″ widescreen TV with the Cubs/Cards game playing “just for the guys.” Absurd. What kind of man would gladly drift off as a spectator sucking down the crude chili dogs from the cafeteria?

Keening burst through the stainless-steel double doors again. A banshee would be jealous. I can see her as I last saw her, pushing me away as the team of physicians roll her beyond the austere threshold of the operating room. I would weave myself in and around medical staff to offer my services of nothing, provided I’d simply move. It would feel like an accomplishment in more than one way. Some accomplishments aren’t rewarded as they should be however.

My solitary confinement gives way to a new presence, the obstetrician. Yanking down her mask, its presence still remains on her cheeks. The doctor’s eyes blink and replenish the moisture on the cornea. Breathing in gives her a contrast both rooms leave on her. I keep quiet and wait for her to speak.

“Mr. Calipretti?” Her unpolished lips formed a black fish bone-like shape.

Clearing my throat, I’m able to stumble over “that’s me,” before I get caught up again.

“The baby is fine and in the nursery. The mother, on the other hand, has been through plenty. She’s resting right now and we’re going to keep an eye on her for a while in the maternity ward. Would you care to see your son?” Expressionless delivery. It’s a living, if nothing else.

She said “son.” I have a son. A thickness runs down mid-foot and curls my toes. Its tightness pulls away from the moment, pulls away from the hospital in flight. I never move. “Thank you, doctor.” Controlling my movements carefully, I follow the woman into forbidden zone. The official blessing felt like genuflecting in my presence.

The maternity ward’s humidity could be nothing less than artificial. Its florescent wash gives a utility where waiting rooms lack. Gurneys stud the hallway in case of pandemic emergency and I narrowly miss several.  I’m as graceless as its residents. Before rounding a corner to the nursery, I perchance catch her half-hidden by a curtain.

Sleeping hard on her shoulder, hair plasters her face as wet string. Femme voilée. Its once-tension-filled space now pays attention to the EKG machine in the corner, pinging away until sunrise where the day shift will do their rounds.

When I am shown the nursery, the doctor leaves without a sound. I’m left staring though a window of new arrivals. It’s loud, but he isn’t. The tiny chin tucks into his shoulder, and his fat cheeks make for a nonplussed frown. It’s a popular sentiment.

“Would you care to hold your child, Mr. Calipretti?” A ghost of a nurse appears to the right in my field of vision. I say “OK” when I very much attempt a “no,” and a mass of swaddling cloth is brought forth before I have a chance to revise my answer.

Such a dour child with the facial contortions of a court judge. This must be the wrong foot of his life. He’s out of step already. I can recall several memories to highlight that point of view.

No matter how many times I want to run, I’m immobile. No matter how many debates I have, I lose. No matter how many times I rehearse, I forget my part. I do not have the will to put him up for adoption, but one man’s cowardice is another man’s credibility.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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10 thoughts on “Birthday

  1. Joseph Nebus says:

    That’s an effective scene.

  2. nicjor79 says:

    I really enjoyed this one, though I would really like to know what makes him so cynical and why he is so callous towards his wife and his newborn son. That seems to be one of the pitfalls of flash fiction…

  3. Having just enjoyed an outing with friends who are expecting any day, I get this one more than I thought I would at the beginning. They’re in a really weird place right now, and they feel it.

  4. Rob Heckman says:

    At first knee-jerk, it seems dark and callous, but when I consider it, I suppose that if I were in the situation of actually creating a new life from two highly flawed individuals definitely expose me to an aspect of myself that was previously unknown.

  5. Jen says:

    I really like the balance between reality and surreality in this piece. You really capture how one can both my present in a moment, but not really there. Like a ghost or apparation

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