Image by Yasaman Shayangogani
My baby is newborn and white, plump; luscious in an innocent way like white off a new-painted wall. Like if I pasted it to the wall its new baby-fat skin would stick and peel to the wall.
I’m thinking I could never let go of something so precious. My baby so beautiful; my baby so pure, so white, so perfectly portrait. I’m thinking everyone should have a baby.
But then that remembrance feeling washes up all over me and I’m breathing something awful, something terrible; something like that feeling you get when you remember you’ve lost something. Like you’ve forgotten about something. Something fierce like a rot infesting my skin; a stink reeking; a rank taste seeping through the pores of my tongue…
Rachael walks into the living room and sees the baby, sees me. What’s wrong she says but I’m panicking and I can’t think.
Why have I seen this picture painted before? Why is it so pure, so quiet, and so wrong? Why does it feel like I’ve lost a baby.
And then it hits me like a bad metaphor. How could I forget? Two years ago or last month or last year or three weeks ago or sometime I remember a baby; a baby in my life, in my arms. Perfect and sweet, just like the one here, now. Its naked skin on my naked skin in the only way that skin can be on skin without being sexual or pedophilic or whatever; just love, pure and untouched; innocent and cradled. The remembrance so vivid, so overwhelming. So real.
The memoir so clear…
Rachel senses my panic, sees the cold sweat running down my temple. She says Brian don’t worry. What’s happened, she asks.
I tell her I lost something. I say, I’ve lost something bad. Or maybe something good.
Rachel says what? a baby?
I say, yeah I think I lost a baby.
She says everyone loses a baby. Every now and then it happens.
I’m thinking it shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t lose babies.
I lay the perfection in my arms down on the living room sofa and scramble towards my room. The mess of my room. The total chaos of my room where everything is lost or found; but mostly lost.
How could I – where could I possibly lose a baby? I hear Rachel’s voice in the living room saying it happens. Everyone loses a baby, somehow, somewhere. It happens. These things happen. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
I’m thinking how much a new baby – lying on the couch in my living room – can possibly mean to me if I’ve lost a baby before. People shouldn’t lose a baby, let alone babies. People who lose babies shouldn’t have babies.
And then I’m looking under my table, down the sides of my bed. I’m looking in drawers. I’m throwing papers everywhere. I’m opening books. I’m breaking lamps and crashing cupboards. I’m throwing clothes all over the place, making an already bad mess a really bad mess.
I mean, people are supposed to take care of baby’s right? Take care of those fragile, little, plump blobs that promise us mighty futures and all the other rhetoric of beauty and perfect and cradle. It is supposed to be important; like a duty.
And I’ve lost one.
Rachel’s voice is everpresent now, telling me it happens all the time. It’s normal.
People shouldn’t lose babies should be rule number one. Rule number two should be if you break rule number one you don’t get a rule number two.
But that rot. That stink. That infest-ite life-like rife spilling all over me…
The laundry basket.
Slowly I begin shifting through week-old shirts, cum-stained socks, pants and sweaters torn and tattered, stained and staining, permeating with rot, stink, now slowly, one by one, out and onto the floor, out and away. And there it is, like no surprise anymore. A dead baby; my baby before my baby. Black and rotted and decaying and rank and stinking. A dead baby in my laundry basket. A forgotten baby.
Like everything forgotten but so much worse.
Rachel’s behind me now. She says, put it away. She says, it’s dead. She says people forget all the time.
I say, people shouldn’t forget. I’m trying not to hate myself, trying not to cry. Life’s little squeal breaks through my soul from the living room. I lay down the black cold rock of a baby corpse back into the basket and rush back to my baby-breathing drop of perfection.
I grab life, cradling my little baby tight to my body, its skin on my skin. I step out of my house now so full, so tainted with the reminders of death’s forgotten lore. I need air like my baby needs air.
Outside a little girl is beating a paralyzed dog. Somewhere inside glass shatters in the eye of a thief. Around the corner a child is ripping apart a butterfly. Somewhere lovers are tearing through their souls. A group of teenagers rush past on all kind of wheels, smashing mailboxes and tipping trashcans. A man coughs in an alley crying. Somewhere close something is dying horribly…
If I could forget a baby how can I possibly think of caring for another. Mistakes should only be made once. And some should never be made.
I am thinking: life is too precious to be touched.
A trashcan on its side, trash everywhere and I neglected newborn life; forgot it completely. I forgot to feed it, muffling its dying screams with dirty laundry…
I stare down at the life lying in my trembling arms; cradled silent; sleeping.
But there is nothing I can offer you, baby. I can’t even give you a name. And if I could I would forget.
People forget so many things that we might as well have all lost babies; but it shouldn’t be like that. Pictures are the only reminders of our futility while we cradle around stories like it’s the only thing justifying this worthless life. Remembrance a ballad increasingly hard to recall… like something pressing us down… breaking ourselves backwards… remembering nothing… children dying under all the shit we can’t take care of… and I’m losing myself here like I can’t think… life in my hands… death in my room… like begging everyone to remember something meaningful… I’m begging us all to find something worth forgetting… or worth remembering… anything…
But I think – and I’m pretty sure – I’ve lost everything. Everything in my life I’ve lost. I just forgot until now.
You think of our fast-churned mess-warranted ways and it’s no wonder we forget our baby’s, our children, our lives; like a newborn experience but really it’s just a stillborn existence. Like stealing from beggars, then asking for understanding; lying, raping, stealing, breaking, making headlines. Then fall like we all fall…
I listen in silence. Rachel’s mouth is moving like a pink-floyd lyric but I can’t hear her. Numb and comfortable.
And maybe you’ll ask: how far are we ready to take this?
I roll the trashcan up with my foot and start to pick up some of the softer, scattered trash. I look down into the baby’s eyes. There is nothing I can offer you. I kiss it gently on the forehead, the eyes, the mouth.
It’s so beautiful and perfect. Forgotten already.
I lay it down in the bed of trash. I calmly walk back into the house, through the living room, past Rachel’s muted words, to my laundry basket, pick up the dead child, walk back past Rachel, back through the living room, out to the street, to the trashcan, and place death next to life.
I have failed you both; so rest together. I have failed everything and everyone. And most likely I’ll forget to apologize.
I walk away and think to myself: people forget. Sometime soon life will awaken next to death and maybe cry but no one will hear; and if they do they’ll forget soon enough.
Because everything real is fake and all we do is pretend to remember all the things we can’t accept forgetting.
There is no end. Just an ending.