An accident brought me here, sitting on plastic legs and a worn cushion that squeaks when I shift, in a waiting room filled with the sick and injured, and the worried relatives of the sick and injured. I could have avoided the whole mess with a single manoeuvre. Pull out. But I did not. I stayed in. Warm and wet. And here I am.

I hate hospitals. Who doesn’t? It’s hard not to think about death in a place that stinks of it. Even in the Labor and Delivery unit where I’m sure more lives are saved daily than lost. If only saved lives smelled. But death’s stink reigns. Antiseptic. Like a child’s ball pit at a fast food joint or a retirement home sauna. And tears, tears, tears. Everyone crying. Tears of joy and devastation. So much drama. Tragedy everywhere, except for where it’s not. Then only boredom. Terrible boredom. Old magazines with crappy pictures, pop culture magazines. Televisions in every corner. The news in all its many shapes and guises. Red news, blue news, white news, black news. All bad news. I watch the news. Concerned with terror and fighting terror, spying on terrorists, spying on citizens, spying on allies, spying through computers, phones, and televisions, all to fight terror, all to protect freedom. Freedom to speak with money, or words. Freedom to fly. Freedom to mock. Freedom to protest, “Methane in my water!” Rising water, so much news of water, toxic water, acidic water, carbon-filled water, oil-slicked water, bottled water, thirsty Detroiters with signs: Water is a Human Right! I hate the news. It’s too entertaining. Always depressing. I hate the news more than I hate hospitals.

  “You have to find me attractive for the rest of your life,” she said. “How are you going to do that after watching me shit myself and split in two?”.

What a world… It is a world. An overcrowded waning world. I wonder if the Romans knew they were falling before everyone agreed they smelled fire? I wonder if like me, some poor schmuck in a toga sat awaiting the birth of his first child, certain of the mistake he’d made. Walls crumbling around him. Resources running dry. Wishing he’d only pulled out. Crying, “Damn! Damn! Damn! Why didn’t I pull out?”  

I listen for my wife’s screams.  Any sign that the process is in motion. She didn’t want me with her. I told her I wanted to be. I said, “It’s not fair for me to miss the birth of my (our) first child.” She held her position. She’s funny that way. “You have to find me attractive for the rest of your life,” she said. “How are you going to do that after watching me shit myself and split in two?” She has a point. But still, I would have preferred to be with her—rather than out here waiting. A man should be in the room. “It’s my body and my decision,” she said. And she’s right. That’s why I’m out here waiting. Equality is a beautiful thing. Equality is a waiting room, listening for screams, waiting for news.

There’s no denying it. I will be a crap dad. I don’t like kids. Sticky little fingers crying for an iPad. They don’t stand a chance. I’ve seen other children. Dead-eyed automatons using apps for the simplest activities. And the porn! There is porn everywhere. That’s not good. You know they’ll look. Everybody looks. Curiosity is a beautiful thing. Until it delivers you bedside a pockmarked runaway with dirty feet and a fist up her snatch. The sad truth is that by the time any kid hits ten, he’s seen acts performed most whores refuse. Imagine the worldview that forms. It’s a dark world streaming free.

I have nothing to teach but apathy. “Son, I know life hurts, but it doesn’t matter.” What a dad I’ll be. Fathers should be strong. I am weak. I’ve never won a fight in my life. I’m a coward, a recovering addict. A closeted depressive lacking any social grace. I am not a leader, nor am I team player. Never lead, never follow, that’s my motto. I am a loner. And not a cool, dressed in black, artsy loner, but a strange, sucks the life out of the room loner. The type of guy nobody wants to sit next to on the bus. My son will be weird. His life will be hard. He will be sad. I hope my wife’s all right.

I wish I knew how others do it. A child’s birth should be a joyful experience. Don’t they watch the news? Don’t they know that things are bad? Don’t they look around? How could new life seem like a good idea? The population bubble’s bound to burst. But maybe they are like me? Maybe they didn’t pull out. Or maybe I’m crazy. History may offer some support for this. There have always been those who felt the end was near. Loonies, wack jobs, bunker builders, survivalists— eccentrics all of them. But that’s not me. I wear collared shirts and live in the suburbs. I eat at fine restaurants and fit in perfectly. I’m not nuts. I’m just a weak-boned neurotic. Nothing shocking about it.

“Equality is a beautiful thing. Equality is a waiting room, listening for screams, waiting for news.”

The context could always be worse. Jews had babies in concentration camps. Soldiers spawned in Vietnam. Hell, my mother was hatched during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But these were instances of social ills. Easily remedied with time. The boomer’s parents believed things would get better. Things always got better. After WWII, they couldn’t get worse. But the present ills are of a new breed. For the first time, science agrees with the crazies. The crazies aren’t the crazies. The crazies are the ones who think things are fine. There are studies. There are graphs. I can read them. You don’t have to be a scientist to read scientist’s writing. The forecast calls for death and it will stink. Just like this hospital.

But of course, I only half-believe any of this. Less than half. I’m a bit stressed. Waiting for the baby. Odds are people will adapt to whatever disaster strikes. Plus I’m white. And so is my wife. We are both white and our son will be white. Famine will affect us last. Our son will be fine. As long as he comes out mechanically sound. Which is no certainty. So much can go wrong. Four limbs, twenty digits, forty-six chromosomes per cell… I can only imagine the toxicity of my sperm. Growing up on GMO’s and Oxycontin. Plastic in the water. Plastic in our blood. Roundup soaked lettuce washed off in migrant piss and drenched in Hidden Valley Ranch.

Autism’s the new obese. Every family’s got one. What the hell would I do? Leave him on a hill like the Chinese? (Or is that the Russians?) Could I love him? A neuro-typical like me? Would I ever be able to take a vacation again? I would rather have him die at birth. Honesty is unflattering. But this is me. I should have pulled out.

Photo via Wiki

Let’s say I get lucky and he plops out strong and sporty. What joys then wait? A childhood of happy lies and a troubled adolescence? Followed by a reluctant acceptance of life’s hard truths and eventual disillusionment? How does an atheist teach their child hope? Do I lie about Christ? Do I cut out the chapters in his history book about Indians, blacks, child labour, and internment camps? Do I pretend that rhinos, mountain gorillas, and polar bears still exist? Do I punish him for taking drugs when happiness is nowhere else to be found? I should not have a child. I have no hope to give. I am not a teacher. I’m a comedian for the short of breath. An opiate for the poisoned hearts of spite-filled gimps raging alone behind closed doors. Fearful of prying eyes and neighbours.

I will resent my son. All of his aspirations and naive hopes. I will hate him. How dare he dream, I will say. How dare he? I will crush his wishful thinking, cloaking him like a wool blanket soaked in water. He will never shake me off. I will drift over him far after I am gone, like a dank fart on a crowded bus. Weighty and nauseating. Coating his follicles and infesting his spirit. He will hate me forever and feel freedom only in the absence of my oppression.

The first time I held a baby, as a boy, I remember feeling an overwhelming compulsion to pinch the soft skin. To harm the helpless. Offended by the helplessness. I remember feeling the same way during youthful encounters with kittens and puppies. These urges troubled me. I was an otherwise peaceful boy. A good person, I thought. Yet the existence of those impulses could not be ignored. Maybe I was evil? I wondered. I never gave in to these thoughts. I never harmed anyone. I have self-restraint. But the ghost of those impulses remains. Even after they have long faded. I’ve held children since without any wish to pinch them. Only the basic level of annoyance filled my heart from their presence. But what if my son resurrects these compulsions? What if I give in and pinch him? Pinch him daily, nightly, yearly… What would a childhood of pinches do to a boy?

Mr. Akers!” says a deep voice, disrupting my thoughts. A doctor. My wife’s doctor. Doctor Morris. I jump out of my seat. My back is drenched. I leave an ass-stain on the chair. I shake his hand. My hands are clammy.

“Congratulations Mr. Akers, everything went smoothly. You have a beautiful healthy baby boy.”

“How is my wife?” I ask

“She did amazing and is doing fine. The nurses are just finishing cleaning her up.”

I deflate with relief, sinking a good two inches closer to the ground.

“Well c’mon then Pops,” says Doctor Morris. He taps me on the back with his clipboard and smiles.

I follow him down a white hallway. My shoes echo off the tile floor. White coats run by. Lives to save. The air smells horrible. Three doors. Four doors. My wife’s door. She looks exhausted and magnificent. Her cheek rests against a white bundle, my son’s face poking out. Without a word, she lifts the bundle towards me. I take him in my arms.

I look upon him—my heir to all that is me and my world. I do feel love. The strongest love I’ve ever felt. I love him so much my heart palpitates. My legs shake like a first time performer. His beauty is boundless and exists in stark contrast to the world around him. He breathes against me. His heart beats against mine. He doesn’t stand a chance.

“Forgive me,” I whisper into his little ear. “I should have pulled out.”


Jack Gasper

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