A Sunday Story inspired by . . . I can't quite recall.
My phone pings and I look down, see Daron’s name on a text message.
“What’s this shit-head want?” I laugh out loud.
I open the message.
Carlin had the baby. A girl.
I don’t breathe.
The phone rings.
I don’t answer.
It’s Daron, and I don’t want to talk about this.
I don’t want to talk about a baby girl whose life I’m not planning to be part of.
I listen to the voicemail.
Dude, you gotta call me. I know you don’t wanna hear this but I think you’ve gotta reconsider man. Jess just went to the hospital. She sent me pictures of the baby. Carlin named her Amelia. I won’t send the pics unless you ask, but I hope you ask, man because this shit just got real. I’m not calling you for Carlin either. She’d never want that. I’m calling you because I love you dude and I think you’re making a mistake and I don’t want to…..
And then I hang up and don’t listen the the rest of the message and I hit delete just to make sure.
But then despite the beer in my hand and the game turned up louder, I can’t stop thinking that a baby was just born and I’m the father. That fucks up my whole head and I put the beer down and pace the living room.
Goddammit. I told her. The day she said she was pregnant I told her I didn’t want this and I could not be part of it. I fucking told her. I told her even when we started dating, that the whole thing was nothing serious. I said I enjoyed her company and I enjoyed having sex with her, but I didn't want anything else.
I’m only twenty six. I make forty thousand dollars a year and am currently taking a bus to work. I don’t know for sure what my health insurance covers, but I don’t think it’s much. I eat mostly fast food and only have ketchup and beer in my fridge at all times and I don’t even know why the ketchup is there.
My phone rings again.
I don’t answer.
A text message from Daron comes up again.
I don’t open it.
I grab the remote and turn off the television and grab my keys from the top of the dirty laundry basket I was going to take to the shared apartment building laundry room when I realized I had no detergent.
Babies have a lot of clothes and I don’t even have detergent.
On my way out the door I text Steve. I ask if he wants to meet me at McFinny’s for the rest of the game and some beer.
Before I am even to the sidewalk he replies yes, that he’ll see me in a half hour.
I told her. The day she said she was pregnant. I said the whole thing was nothing serious. She said she understood. She said she didn’t want a baby either. Then I didn’t see her again for six months and I missed her every day of that time, thought maybe I cared more for her than I had intended, but when I saw her, clearly close to seven months pregnant, I was only pissed off. She said she’d changed her mind. She said she just wanted to give me a chance to change mine too, and that if I didn’t she’d never ask anything from me.
And I didn’t. And she hasn’t.
And today a baby girl named Amelia was born and I’m at a bar on my third beer with a dickhead named Steve who is good for little more than beer and football, while Daron texts and calls and acts like the friend I don’t even deserve.
“Dude, I gotta piss,” Steve tells me, then throws down a twenty and tells me to order us two more.
I watch him walk away. I look around the bar. And then suddenly I wonder if this is why I don’t have laundry detergent and there’s nothing in my fridge and I take the bus to work. I wonder if it’s not those things that make me incapable of having a baby.
It’s being here. In this bar.
And then, just like that, I get up and I walk out. It’s almost ten o’clock at night and I flag a cab and tell the driver to take me to Methodist Hospital on Broad.
At nearly ten thirty in the evening I sneak with Bud Light on my breath onto the maternity floor of Methodist with two coffees in my hands that I got from the convenient store on the corner and that Carlin would never actually drink, but that I think will make me look like someone who is supposed to be here, a man delivering coffee to his wife after she gave birth to their daughter.
My heart beats quickly. I’m a guy with no retirement plan, but brand new sneakers every six months. I’m nobody’s father. I don’t even know why I’m here.
I just know I can’t sit in that bar with Steve anymore tonight.
There are two nurses behind the big round counter and I do not look at them as I move around it, pretending I know exactly where I’m going, and I don’t know if they look up at me, but they don’t say anything and so I keep moving until I come to the first room and see that there are conveniently names on the doors.
I pass seven doors before I find her name on door number eight.
I have known her for only a little more than a year and here I am outside of the hospital room where she is on the day she gave birth to a baby that is mine.
I don’t even know why I’m here. I just know I can’t sit in that bar with Steve anymore tonight.
And so I tap the lid of a coffee cup softly on the door and move with hesitation into the room where I can see legs under blankets, and where the space is small enough that I take only a few steps before I am beyond the wall that hides her upper body, and I see her sleeping face. Her head is tilted toward the left, the way it would often fall as she sat on the couch in those few months together, not able to stay awake beyond the opening monologue for Saturday Night Live.
And my heart seems to get snagged on how stunning she looks right now, a hospital gown resting just under her collar bones, a slight part in those red, forever-chapped lips. Some sort of strange longing and sorrow seems to get me in its grip then, and I can only stare at her, unsure what to do as my heart begins to race and I feel tears springing to my eyes.
I don’t understand this. I really don’t understand.
So I do what I always do when I’m confused and unsure. I turn away. I set the coffees down on a ledge and I start moving back toward the door, but I take only one long step before I hear a sudden whimper and my eyes go wide and I hold my breath, turning back toward the bed where I see on the other side of it a clear glass container that seems to have a blanket moving inside its walls.
And then that same sudden whimper happens again and I’m confused and unsure.
But I don't turn away.
I do not turn away.
As if drawn by some force that is not my own, I walk to the end of the bed and around to the other side as the blanket continues to move and the whimper comes again and I’m really afraid.
I am so afraid.
But I am in awe too.
I know what I’m going to find and yet I have no idea, cannot possibly understand what rests inside that clear glass container.