What the hell am I doing here?
This is a person. This is a real person.
"Go kill that woman," says my wife. She's huffing and puffing like a freight train at full throttle. Her face is red and my heart is in my throat. Since when was it supposed to be this bad?
I don't like these pipes in her. I don't like her in hospital white. I don't like this machine that beeps when she screams. I don't like this place where everything is sharp and hurts in deep places you can't touch with your hands.
This whole situation is screwed up and I just want both of us out. Let's go back to the honeymoon. Let's go back to those quiet dinners by the shore--me and you in candlelight with a bottle of wine. Let's go back to making love in weird places when nobody's looking.
Why did I do it? What the hell was going through our minds?
This is a person. This is a real person.
Down the hall is a woman who sounds like all the evolution has been squeezed out of her DNA and she's mutated back to our aboriginal ancestors. That can be the only excuse for someone sounding that way. Those aren't human screams.
"Get out there and KILL her," my wife commands between her puffing. She swats at me with the hand that doesn't have the IV in it.
I walk out of the room staring at the square black and gray tiles on the floor. Outside the room is the ape woman's husband. He's staring at his hands.
"She's only four centimeters," he says to me as if I'm a lost brother suddenly returned. He grabs my biceps and then realizing his error in familiarity, pulls his hands away quickly and paces in circles.
"They say this can go on for ten more HOURS. We've been here for six hours already."
His nails are bleeding from his biting them.
From inside the modern, comfort-engineered room comes the sound of cro-magnon woman tearing the throat out of a sabre toothed tiger. It reminds me of my mission.
"I have to kill your wife," I say. "My wife wants her dead."
"Everybody wants Pumpkin dead," he says. He grabs my shoulders and shouts into my face, spitting on my nose. "The nurses came in with 5ccs of Demerol and insisted, but Pumpkin wants NATURAL childbirth."
Pumpkin lets loose with another blood curdling scream. The maternity nurses at the main station look up and shake their heads. One of them slams a palm onto the desk, grabs a small package with a hypodermic needle and a tiny bottle and marches into the room mumbling that it's man's treachery that drives women to endure the pain of childbirth in a world full of medication.
In the room I hear her say, "Are you sure, honey?" and Pumpkin screams as if her liver is being torn out through her ear holes.
"No no no no NO!"
I turn and slug back to the labor room where my own poor wife suffers. I won't be killing Pumpkin today. The nurses won't give me a scalpel to slit my carotid artery, but say they appreciate my predicament. Many guys stop by and ask for an implement of self-destruction at one point in the delivery process. They note my request, assure me that life is worth living, and send me on my way, snickering they're glad they're not me. So I have to admit to my wife that I've failed.
"If you don't kill that bitch I'm going to kill you," she screams, the words punctuated by gasps of agony.
"You tell 'um, sister," one of the nurses says under her breath.
Now I'm sure it's a conspiracy.
And I've never felt as inept as I do that moment. What the hell was I put on earth for if at the end of it, all I'd done was put the one person I'd committed to die for into more pain than I'd ever witnessed anyone endure? We'd been to Lamaze. We were full of the Coach and Coachee spiel. We knew where to position the pillows, watched videos that almost made us sick and stopped having sex weeks ago.
I had my stopwatch. That ceased to provide useful function when the pain started. We did the back rubs and the pant breathing. I hyperventilated along with her until I fell backward with my eyes fuzzing to gray and my ears ringing.
But here I am at the glorious moment, the contraction monitors go from green to yellow to red, accompanied by my wife's cries of pain. All that happens to me is I see lights and graphs that attempt to turn her clawing into a television series designed by the Marquis de Sade. I feel nothing. I don't belong here. I don't belong in this world anymore.
I had been built to kill. My function was to eliminate the world of predators, and to annilihate anyone who caused my family harm. Now I was completely impotent, my muscles tensed, my heart racing, my blood full of useless adrenaline.
There is no doubt--I will never do this to anyone again.
A real person with real eyes. A future. Before was just us, and now is someone with blue eyes who wasn't here only a second ago.
My wife's gynecologist comes in. He pulls on a rubber glove, unceremoniously flips her heels into the stirrups, points a finger, and shoves it in and I swear it is only the nurse in front of me who stops me from burying my teeth in his neck. I want him to scream the way my wife does. I want him to hurt, even though he smiles and says, "Oh, she's past crowning. Let's get this show on the road."
The ob-gyn comes by. She's a she and is only slightly more gentle about probing my baby. She apologizes as my wife winces. I'll kill her quickly. She won't suffer long.
They say words I don't understand. Start wheeling my wife's bed toward the delivery room.
"I thought we were supposed to do this here," I say, now confused.
My wife calls me, afraid, and spikes of raw anger rip through me and turn me to a monster.
The nurses see it. The docs look to them to cover up their messes. One nurse, and older, more experienced woman takes my forearm in a tight grip and stops me from following.
Now my wife is screaming for me. The distance makes her yell louder and I pull away from the nurse and tear after my wife.
"Woah. Woah woah woah. Let's calm down here." It's the anesthesiologist we met yesterday, this morning, whatever day that was we got here. He puts himself in front of me and the rolling gurney.
He must see it, the flames from my eyes. In ten seconds he's hamburger. Yeah, I know they can call an army of orderlies to control me, but I'm taking a couple of them out first.
"Sir sir, Bob, is it?"
Can't you even remember my fucking name? "Will," I tell him, trying not to growl.
He says it's just procedure. Everything is fine. Go get my gown on. They'll let me in. She's going to be fine. Really.
The gurney with Charlene disappears behind a set of double doors.
The nurse who had taken me first leads me to a store room. She hands me a gown, a mask, a cap for my hair and some booties for my feet. She tells me I can go into the labor room to get changed but I don't give a fuck. I tear my clothes off in front of her and get dressed right there.
She leads me into what seems to be an operating room. Charlene is calm, but wimpering. She's the only one whose face I can see. The rest of us are masked blue-green monsters.
They have her legs splayed at an unnatural angle. She's in pain, crying. Begging me to get them to stop.
I'm helpless again. This is stupidity. I can't do anything. They've warned me--if I make trouble I'm out. Misbehave and they'll eject me from delivery and we'll go back to the 50's where Dads hung out in the waiting room while all the unpleasant biology happened off camera like one big episode of "Ozzie and Harriett".
I put my arm around Charlene's shoulders. A doc takes out a scalpel and before I can wonder what they're doing with it, he cuts Charlene and she cries out. I'm making promises to myself: each one dies in turn. Bullet between the eyes for you. Knife across the throat for you--I want you to know it's me who killed you. You I run over in the parking lot on the way home tonight.
They tell her to push. Push baby push.
She pushes and screams and the doctors green clothes are splattered in thick violet blood that turns black against their gowns. Charlene blanches. Pushes, tears rolling down her face.
This is not what we signed up for. If we knew it was going to be like this--holy shit.
Suddenly, I see a person.
This is not blood or a scab or a fingernail that turned black and blue and fell off while you were skiing--but a living breathing person.
Charlene stops crying. She lies back panting as if she just finished a marathon. Her face relaxes but I can't move. Can't speak.
The doc hands the person to a nurse. Hello. What's the deal? Where did that come from?
I follow the nurse to the corner. Tiny blue bulbs to suction out the nose and mouth. Wipe off the blood and chunks of yellow-white matter. This thing breathes. This thing has bright blue eyes and it stares at the world, beautiful light shining from her eyes like water on the top of a new aquarium.
This is a person. This is my daughter. They weigh her and put goop in her eyes, swaddle her in a blue blanket and hand the package to me and now I know someone's entire future is in my hands. I feel her growing up and going to school. I feel her seeing the ducks in the park and Mickey Mouse for the first time.
"What's her name, Daddy?" a nurse says to me, eyes in a glistening squint from the smile I know is under her mask. Is that me? Is she talking to me? Damn, I must really look silly to make her smile like that.
I try to talk but the little girl stares into my eyes and sucks all the words out of me. She opens her mouth and breaths the same air I'm breathing. We live in the same time. This is not like it was when we got our new puppy. Oh this is so so different. The feeling in my arms--the energy of human life attaches itself to me and makes me warm the way no other living creature has ever done.
I can look into her eyes and see the beginning of time. I can look into her eyes and see my own father reflected back, his unabashed joy and terror of holding my life in his hands for the first time. And his father before him. I am this person. She is me. This is forever.
Oh sweetie, I have so much to tell you. We have so many things to do. I hope I can do it right. I hope you like me. I'll try to be a good father but all I've ever been is me and I don't know how to do it right. I hope you'll love me as much as I love you.
The nurses lead me to my wife and I give her the baby. She's not just my wife anymore, she's someone's mother and the transition is seamless. I stand and stare at them both. My beautiful wife who made my life so bright, and now this. This is a person. Before there was just us and now someone else is here. I know how it happened, but I don't know how it happened.
This isn't a thing. This is somebody.
The doctors shake my hands. I want to tell them how sorry I am for wanting them dead, but they don't stick around. They congratulate me, tell me to enjoy my family.
I can't even tell them I will. There are knots in my chest and fuzz in my eyes and I wish the world to forgive how stupid I am.
"Look what we did," I say to Charlene, but she's crying and mumbles something about loving me. "Oh my, look what we did."
Charlene is so tired: they take her away to rest. I have the baby in my arms. I have to sit in a wheelchair while I'm holding the baby and it makes me feel like an invalid for a second, but I don't mind when I see those eyes.
Those eyes. This is someone. Someone with a future. She looks at me and makes a sound that sounds like a coo, but the nurse tells me she's just hungry.
I have so many things to tell you, oh lovely Michelle, my beautiful daughter. There's a whole life waiting for us. Captain Crunch and Saturday morning cartoons, rocket ships and cars and hamsters and cats and those Ray Bradbury stories I love so much. I can't wait to show it to you. I have a whole world for you. All these years I've been learning stuff just so I could tell you about it when you got here.
I never realized it until now. I must have waited all my life for you.