It was almost 12:15 AM. It was snowing outside and the whole of New York was under wraps. I, Ian, flushed down a quarter in a vending machine and picked up three coke bottles. I cradled all three of them in my giant hand and walked towards the waiting room. ‘Anything yet?’ I asked, worriedly, and bent my fleshy six-foot-five structure down, as I entered the crummy room.
I heard Elaine and Neal talking intently about birth control, pregnancy and birth related issues. Some random trivia… “I read it on the Internet that pregnant women experience a heightened sense of smell beginning late in the first trimester. Some experts call this the body’s way of protecting a pregnant woman from foods that are unsafe for the fetus. Interesting, right?”
Well, it wasn’t for me. This was the fourth time we were at the hospital. Fourth time in six years. We had learnt it from our harrowing experience that being pregnant and the whole concept of “having a baby” was no joy ride. It most certainly didn’t qualify the word “interesting”.
Elaine and Neal were Melanie’s friends. Elaine was a journalist and Neal was with the NYPD.
Melanie and I were Mexican immigrants. Well, illegal. That’s a long story. Let’s save it for another time.
So, as I was saying, we immigrated to the Land of Hope and changed our names…twice. Once when we were in Florida and again when we came to New York.
I left Florida because my brother haunted me, my eldest brother. Tough fellow he was. My father just loved him. He was the wind under my dad’s wings. On the happiest day of my life, on the day I met Melanie at the hospital, darkness blanketed our family. My sister died of eclampsia and my eldest brother was brutally murdered by my father’s rivals.
Anyway, Melanie and I left Florida. We were devoid of family, considering friends and families as two separate and independent entities.
Elaine worked at the New York Times and Neal at the 8th Precinct. Melanie met Elaine at yoga classes. The doctor said she was obese and she had a heart condition. So he had advised her to take up yoga. But I didn’t find her obese. She was what she was. She liked eating and I liked feeding. No one called me names for feeding. Why call her names for eating? Just think about it…
Neal was Melanie’s friend-slash-landlord. I worked at the library and I sure couldn’t afford a house in New York. Melanie’s pregnancy had brought us a roof over our heads and we were more than happy to stay under the protection of a police officer.
Family issues sometimes scared us. We had upset quite a few folks back in Mexico and we had illegally crossed the border the day after our families disapproved of our intention to get married. My father was a…let us just say he was a prominent member of one of the most notorious cartel and her father was a…well, a person who worked for my father. A subordinate.
My father didn’t want his son to marry a poor woman. He had plans for me. He had his schemes and my likings somehow weren’t a part of his majestic ideas. So Melanie and I decided to run away. Run away to America. The free country. The land of dreams. I knew that we would survive in the States…our lives would be magical.
I knew a couple of men at the border patrol. Well, dad knew them well all right. I used dad’s name for one last time. One final time. I knew that I could count on America and we knew that a life in an American correctional facility, together, was better than a life at Mexico, away from each other.
We immigrated here in 2002. It took us almost a year to get settled, for us to find a home. I got a job at a library and Melanie worked at a hotel, as a waitress. A good one she was. A very good one, just like my sister. Only a few months into her job, she was made the maître’ d. That was soon…sooner than most.
Well, truth be told, I didn’t adore my siblings all that much. They were mean to me. They were highly cerebral and each one received, extensively, the love of my parents. Oh but not me. Not me. I was born after killing two of my twins. Triplets we were, I was told. My life began with death. Two deaths, in fact.
To live in this chaotic and unfair world I needed to assert my faculties and I, like my father, am the Santa Claus from Abaddon. We bring great dark gifts and we sure like…never mind.
By 2003, we were ready to rent a two-bedroom apartment and so, we decided to have a baby and there began the journey that changed my perception of reality and illusion. For the first few years, from 2003 to 2007, our happiness was sucked out, bit-by-bit, and our entire prospect of the future was blown.
Melanie first became pregnant in late 09’. She and I were excited for our first child. We borrowed a lot of money from our police friend and we bought all sorts of fancy items from tens of baby shops. We bought those cute little clothes and toys and cradle and everything that said, “baby”.
Melanie was happy. She was ecstatic. Her doctor monitored her condition regularly and everything was within the bounds of the scientific standards for normalcy, until the second trimester that is. But then, just after four months into pregnancy, little Lena passed away. The doctor said it had something do with placenta and he shrugged the case off. Doctors! Devil’s best friend.
We painfully endured the next couple of weeks, trying to shrug the pain off, just like the doctor did, only, he didn’t have the burden of pain. We started frequenting the church and we were having second thoughts about moving out. We consulted a shrink, reluctantly, and we were told to hold off the move.
I soon broke my savings account and returned Neal’s money. I bought Melanie new clothes, took her on a trip to D.C. and tried everything in my power to cheer her up.
But I couldn’t. She grew depressed and I grew worried. But then, it is the moments of grief that bring people closer than the moments of happiness. The compassion and care and trust that eventuates during a state of disparity and the hope of a better tomorrow, a new world, a new essence of joy and renewed hope is what makes us live…what makes us strong.
I worked for only half a day. I was paid less, but ah! Who cares? I wanted to be with my wife. I wanted her to move on and focus on the better part of life. I went home each afternoon, carrying an ice-cream cone and waffles in my hand, her favorite food. Each day, she would sit at the corner of the couch, watch Victor Fleming’s “Gone with the Wind”, and quietly eat the ice cream and the waffles.
The slight glimmer in her eyes when she finished her ice cream and waffles reassured my belief in God. It made me believe in a better tomorrow. It gave me the impulse to live.
A couple of months later, we tried again and a year later again and both times, we were let down. Liam passed away in the first trimester and Leia was a stillborn.
During these years, Melanie’s condition deteriorated. She became mentally unstable and she began hallucinating. She could hear the baby in the hall, right next to her spot on the couch and she could feel the baby on her lap, sometimes. Her hallucinations became her perception of reality and she became happier…gradually.
I tried to pull her back into the “real” world. I even tried to explain to her what reality really meant. Whenever I yelled at her, I saw hatred flare up in her eyes. She didn’t want me to be a part of her world, of which I was an indispensible part. After umpteen failed attempts, I gave up. I decided that I didn’t want to talk her out of it. She was happy in her world so was I.
I began to accept her ways and began to play my part in her illusory world. I told her we needed a second child and she agreed. A baby brother for Aimee. Her psychiatrist told me that her hallucinations would disappear, should a baby be born. This time, the fourth time, I followed every procedure by the book and she was hale and healthy for a perfect nine-month period.
We went to the hospital on December 31, 2007 and boy, she was happy! At around eleven PM, the doctor rolled her into the OT and I said, ‘God is with you this time, my love. God will set things right.’
‘God is real, as his world is real.’
I kissed her forehead and sent her in. Then I went to the waiting room and…waited, with Neal and Elaine. A few irascible minutes hence I bought us all some food and some beverage and again, waited for the doctor to tell us the happy news.
The chief doctor, Dr. Manie, walked out of the OT and said, ‘Mr. Ian, I need you to come with me.’
I hesitantly walked with the doctor, with Elaine and Neal on my side. We were made to wear all the necessary clothing and then we were let in.
I saw the…the baby, in her palm. In her little palm. Ani had his eyes closed and so had Melanie.
‘Mr. Ian, what just happened here is a medical marvel. The baby, immediately after it came out to the world, said, “Ma, I want to go home,” and then he closed his eyes and wept. Your wife kissed the baby on the forehead and said, “Sure dear, I’ll call daddy and tell him to take us home right now,” and she closed her eyes.
‘You mean, they…’ said Lane, the reporter from the El Mexicano and lifted his eyes off the notepad.
‘Yes. Dr. Manie was a friend and so were the doctors inside the OT. Elaine and Neal helped us report that the baby was stillborn and that the mother died of medical complications.’
‘ – but it is only the doctor’s word.’
‘Okay, but they might just be – ’
‘ – lying?’
‘Yes. I mean, a baby talking at birth?’
‘I’m sure he wasn’t lying.’
‘But you weren’t there, right?’
‘I wasn’t. But look, Ani is here,’ said Ian and escorted Lane to the drawing room and pointed at the couch, ‘and Melanie is here,’ continued he and pointed at her spot on the couch. He walked towards the couch, leaned forward and kissed her. He then walked brushed his son’s hair and said, ‘Look at him, he is just six and he is just as tall as me. But God! He is so much more intelligent. He can talk better than a politician and sing better than…well, whoever is the best singer in town.’
Lane looked at the tens of ice cream cones and waffles on the couch and he saw that the Victor Fleming’s “Gone with the Wind” was playing on the TV.
‘Hey Ian, what do you have in mind for Ani when he grows up?’
‘I don’t know. A doctor, maybe.’
‘Great. Is that what you wanted to be when you were a child?’
‘No. I wanted to be a policeman. A law enforcement officer.’
‘And what about Melanie?’
‘A journalist or a yoga instructor.’
Lane remained muted for a few seconds. He then cleared his throat and asked, ‘Brian, what was your mother?’
‘And, who am I?’
Ian turned to his right, looked at his reflection in the mirror, as the names Melanie, Ian, Elaine, Neal, Lena, Liam, Leia, Aimee, Manie, Ani, Lane ran through his head, Melanie is my world, everything else is derived from her. He stared at his own reflection in the mirror and said…