As people, we tend not to understand just how dark and sinister our thoughts and actions really are. Painting ourselves in the most favorable of light, the rest of the world tends to come in a distant second to our perception. Sometimes you are presented with a situation where you can’t show that dark side to anyone. Ever. You push it deep inside you hoping it will never resurface, hoping you’ve taken away all it’s power and trapped it inside another dimension where it will never creep back into your reality. The realization comes with a deafening roar that accepting these dark thoughts and releasing them is by far the greater course. However, it doesn’t come without it’s consequences, but it’s far better than letting it rot you from the inside out.
I had plans and dreams running through my head as I tried to fall into a slumber on that particular night. Failing to flip the off switch for my brain, I shuffled over to my new bride’s side of the bed to watch her breathing, trying to interpret how deep of a sleep she was in. My hands found their way to her side and my fingers began to trace patterns across the small bump of her stomach. It was a classic movie moment, newly wedded couple, a bright looking future, and a soon to be pint sized junior. The Kodak moment was ruined by the elbow shot to my ribs. Pregnant women apparently don’t appreciate being ripped out of a sound sleep by a day dreaming, insomniac, soon to be dad.
I make it sound like a perfect situation. Two lovers striving for the very best out of each other, creating a new life to teach and mold into the best of both. The reality, well, to be honest the reality was far too unsettling to come to terms with. The make believe was a far easier pill to swallow.
The fairy tale started even before I met her. I was 5 minutes into a 4 hour train ride with my current…something, and we were already arguing over mindless nonsense. Something about a Cosmo relationship quiz got the comments started. I label the girl as my current something as there is no descriptor to really describe what we were to each other. We had gone from potential lovers to bitter enemies a year before and it seemed as if we were destined to slip into those roles once again. As the train pulled into the station, I was more then pleased to see there were two cars waiting to pick us up. I reached to help her with her bag, trying to remain at least partially interested and civil. I let go of the corded ties, I wasn’t about to deal with rug burn of the hands as she violently ripped the bag towards her.
As I got settled into the college dorm I would be making my home the next few days, I hatched some thoughts of getting even once and for all with my soon to be twice jilted train companion. I had a college campus full of pawns I could use in my chess game.
Carrie caught my eye right off the bat. Her panties did at least. There was a jazz concert away from the school and she happened to be dressed in an ankle length white crocheted dress. See-thru white crocheted dress. I couldn’t help but strike up conversation while stealing glances here and there. If she was even aware of my wandering eyes, she didn’t make notice.
Our flirting took over the talk of the group of friends I had come to visit and after the concert our dry humping in the back seat of a car on the ride home set the gossip ablaze. Somehow the play by play of the blow job in the stairwell of the christian college main dormitory had gotten back to my original traveling partner and we again resumed our roles as legitimate enemies.
The entirety of the trip was less than a moon cycle, yet there were promises and words that were passed between Carrie and I that should never have been uttered. Love, weddings, marriage, soul mates. The stuff that is poured upon the youth of the nation as what should be expected, what everyone does. I won’t say I didn’t possess those feelings, they just were misplaced, phantoms of a mind brought up to think one way and shoehorning those feelings into that mold. It would take me years to undo some of the mental and psychological damage I did to myself in those days.
Our whirlwind relationship sped right through spring, summer and fall and before I knew what had hit me, we were sharing an adult conversation for 2 barely post-pubescent people.
“So, I’m late…”
“Late for what, it’s 10:30 at night, where do you have to be at this time at night. You don’t have to go home, my parents have given up at making you stay over at your apartment.”
“No I mean I’m late, as in missed my period, as in…I think I’m pregnant.”
I’d always heard jokes about these conversations, but here I was having it myself. Surprisingly, I felt proud. For what I’m not exactly sure, it’s not as if I had done something that hasn’t been done a million or so times already. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t fallen into any type of peer pressure situations. Smoking, drinking, drugs, I’d avoided all of these vices as a young high-schooler and my christian upbringing kept me sheltered from most other things. It was my first cannonball across the bow of rebellion. Bringing a new life into a world where even the most advantaged people have difficulties, let alone a teenage couple, I sure could pick my poison very effectively.
We went through the various free channels gaining information and insurance before letting anyone else onto the secret we shared. Planned Parenthood, an ironic name for an organization whereby 99% of the people who visit are definitely not planning anything about parenthood, helped us with the preliminary information. Medicaid paid for the doctor visits. Forms upon forms for this state service or that. It was a never ending line of handouts which we gladly accepted. I know first hand how easy it is to make a decision and not have to live up to any of the consequences of one’s actions. My parents pushed me towards a more grounded in reality world view. At least I think that’s what they tried to do.
Each set of parents found out eventually. Hers were by far the more excited party. Truth be told, an accurate assessment would be that mine were rather unimpressed. They were neither pleased nor angry, neither disowning my relation or welcoming in the soon to be new member of the family. They almost seemed resolved to the fate that their son had done something they didn’t have an answer nor a fix for. They simply accepted the reality of the situation as one they had no control over and played the part of Switzerland. Their non-committal to public displays of emotion were something that angered my lover, but looking back, they played their hand superbly. Either edge they shifted to, they were sure to lose the respect of their son down the road. Staying neutral left the heat of the actions squarely placed on my shoulders.
We trudged through the winter snow and got a dog. Living on Medicaid, sharing a bedroom in my parents house and we go out and drop almost a grand on a dog. I can’t stress enough the mindset of two people who have completely lost their grip on sanity, yet are living their lives as if everything is moving along a time line that is very real and fantasy is just Disney movies and Saturday morning cartoons. Granted, that dog would become the glue that would hold us together during some of our most painful of moments, but at the time, it’s was an unprecedented act of foolishness.
My dad didn’t like the idea of the dog. The conversation soon turned into his not liking the idea of us living under his roof. It literally happened in minutes. Escalating from a simple yes or no question into an epic event of screaming, tears, pleas. The conversation ended with a packed car of black garbage bags and some terse goodbyes. Again my parents played the Swiss like Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. It was my first look at what parenting was about. I remember the feeling in my stomach that day, one I would revisit months later.
It was a February wedding. I had scraped enough together after our dog purchase to afford a sliver of a precious stone. I popped the question in the most awkward of circumstances, asking my seconds later fiance if she could play hide and seek in the front pocket of my jeans cause I had a surprise for her. A newly minted soon to be bride, a little pea pod of a kid inside her stomach, and the world swirling around a million miles a second.
The wedding ended up being a chapter straight out of a Worst Case Scenario handbook. The head of the church gave a not so subtle delivered sermon during our wedding vows against the demon seed that was formed to push this marriage together much quicker than it would have organically taken place. The Western New York winter weather gave it’s blessing by dumping a blizzard on most the the traveling attendees. The reception, food, and DJ were straight out of a Federline/Spears affair. 125 people who suspended their own internal compass of reality to give blessings to a couple that had no idea what it was they were doing. My best man gave me a toast and a speech that I’ve now completely forgotten, but we did talk the night before the wedding. He said he was glad that I was happy and that he looked up to me for what I was doing. I still have never asked him why it was he used those exact words.
A few weeks after my bride bruised a bone or two in my ribcage, we had our 50,000 mile baby checkup at the doctors office. We’d be getting to see all sorts of things this week. Sacs and gender and fingers and toes. It was exciting!
The usual pre-gaming was done. The gallon and a half of water the mother to be had to drink and my constant “you can do its” that always seemed to follow her complaints of not being a camel. The battery of questions as to diet and exercise. The warning of the cold gel and the slight pressure. The poking and prodding here and there. Measurements and pictures taken. More measurements followed by more pictures. Finally they lead us upstairs into a private room for the grand unveiling of our newborn’s future as either male or female of the species. They were really going above board keeping it a secret from us and giving us the royal treatment.
We settled into a darker room, a much bigger and sophisticated machine and a dead quiet that was broken only in my head by the racing of my heartbeat.
The doctor came in and examined my wife in near silence. He took measurements again with the much larger ultrasound equipment, moving the gelled wand this way and that. Wielding the tracking ball like a level 15 game of Missile Command, whisking it this way and that, depressing levers, pushing buttons. The silence was deafening, the two heartbeats in the room were rapidly moving toward their own stoppage.
It took another five minutes of careful talk and well worded pronouns to get to the truth of the matter.
“I’m sorry…but…I’ve tried for the past 15 minutes and your baby has no heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
In that moment a part of me rotted away forever. My morality was pushed face first against a brick wall and shot through the back of the head, execution style.
I looked over at my bride’s face streaming with tears, the machine that displayed a muddled black and white capture, the doctor’s face that was grim and remorseful, the ceiling tiles anything to keep my eyes off what I didn’t want to see. It was only a matter of time before it happened, before I was subjected to an apparition of myself standing in the corner of the room with a sadistic devilish grin.
I stuffed that sight into a place I hoped it would never rear it’s ugly head and went back to the tears of my bride’s face which began to match the intensity of my own. The doctor passed off our out patient care to the nurse who informed us that a full birth would be taking place the next day before shuffling us out into the obnoxiously halogen hallways. The devil stalked me to the elevator door, whispering into my ear as I tried to comfort my bride who was crumbling with each step we took. The door shut with a cackle that was audible only to me, my wife and I feeling the rush of reality slamming through our once perfect atmosphere, tearing us apart.
That night as my wife sat in bed crying and I dozed in and out of slumber, my dreams helped rearranged the steadfast notions of my life into easily digestible compartments for my subconscious to file away for a later date. My conscious self would take quite a while to decipher the coded messages that had flashed behind my closed eyelids.
The next day brought upon the most disgusting display of science and technology and the impact it has on the human life. A day normally reserved for the most joyous of moments, the introduction of a new, living, breathing, person into this world, reduced to a mockery of birth. Everything happened much quicker than I was prepared for, before I could resolve the situation in my head the doctor was wrapping my offspring in a towel and ever so gently placing it on an exam table.
We were offered in the pre-consult if we wanted to see our baby. The idea of that question seemed completely insensitive at the time. We both had yet to come to grips with the idea that we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital carrying our own bundle of joy and being tortured with an image of a lifeless piece of you was just too much to digest. I raged at the nurse for a few seconds before regaining my composure. Now though, faced with the prospect of never knowing, never seeing what could have been, I stared over at the exam table and closed my eyes before leaving my seat.
My thoughts raced as I moved closer to the small bundle hidden underneath the downy white blanket. I pulled back the white cloth and my heart sunk. The grin, the flash of that smile was sickening, it was the burn of acid on skin. The miniature hands, the already formed feet and toes, the cleft chin that so closely resembled mine. Life was all it was missing, my eyes wanted to trick me over and over, but nothing was going to change the past. I was the parent now, dealing with an unknown situation that I had no answer for, no emotion ready to display. The feeling I had when I was packing my belongings, taking one last look at the comfort of my parent’s home, hit me again like a ton of bricks. I was spinning out of control.
I had a few moments to myself with my newborn at my side. Every emotion I had experienced in my life hit me all at once. I lost my senses for a second. I let slip out what I didn’t want to reveal to anyone, let alone an innocent who couldn’t understand what was going on. My mouth curved into that selfish devils grin, fulfilling the prophecy I saw in the exam room a day before. My thoughts centered on myself and my own preservation, it went unseen, save for the two of us.
It took a death of the greatest magnitude to separate me from a life I didn’t want to live. It took a death for me to even start living. A death I hoped for more than anything in the world. A death to this day that still hangs very heavily on my heart.
I whispered a secret to my boy before my wife joined me at my side, the only one that will stay between myself and my son Alexander.