I hope to make this as concise as possible. My life has not been a remarkable one, at least by historical standards. I did not kill anyone, I was not elected for anything, I never made a video that went viral on YouTube. But I stand in firm belief that every life deserves to be preserved, no matter how mundane.
To that end, I’ll start at the beginning.
My life began, as most do, with a fair amount of screaming, I imagine. This assumption is bolstered by my later experiences with my mother, who’s purpose in life seemed to be that of a human car-horn, blasting decibels in the face of anyone who cut her off in traffic or prepared her coffee incorrectly. Early on in life I took to wearing the hood of my jacket at all times when running errands with my mother, so as to limit the number of witnesses who could later recognize me in the wake of potential eruptions. The mental picture I keep of my mother is that of a face, so screwed up in anger that it seems more veins than flesh. Her teeth, always eerily, impeccably white, are fully exposed by her thin lips, which are pulled back in to tight pink lines. Her hair is in disarray, pulled back in to a hasty ponytail as if bound for some unspeakable crime. Her nostrils are flared like those of a bull, and her heaving breaths do nothing to take away from this impression.
In short, it is easy to imagine my mother giving birth to me. In fact, even now I can picture the event with such clarity that I could have been standing there, right behind the doctor’s shoulder dodging spittle and profanity.
Equally clear is the picture of my father, standing, hunch-shouldered, a few feet from the side of the bed. I can see his fingers twitch as he half-heartedly reaches out to comfort my mother, mumbling something that I’m sure sounds like ‘there, there” in his mind, but really sounds like someone making confession through a rolled up bed sheet. Every now and then he might approach the bed, do something gallant like grab my mother’s hand, just to be beaten back again by a wave of curses so strong it’s surprising he stayed on his feet. He was a tall man, and thin, with limbs like a weeping willow and joints like knobbly tree roots. To see him stand was to wonder how the feat was accomplished, as it did not appear that the laws of physics would allow so slender a creature to stand upright without teetering slowly and toppling to the ground.
I am always tempted to picture the doctor with a moist cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, grunting commands to my mother like I imagine a obstetrician in the 60s would do. The only problem is that I was born in 1986, and thus, this assumption is pure fantasy. But indulge me if you will, in picturing the smoke from Dr. Gyno’s cigarillo filling the room with a fine mist. And picture further a single, cone-shaded lamp swinging just behind his shoulder, as though it were an interrogation room, not a birthing suite.
This is the scene of my birth.
Of course there were nurses bustling in and out of the large swinging door, all entering with paper smiles and leaving in tears, wounded by my mother’s wildly lashing tongue in a way they would have sworn was physical in nature. I’m sure she quickly gained notoriety in the hospital, as she did later in life in the PTA and other school organizations, of being someone best avoided if one were to go through life with an illusion of pride left intact.
For that reason, I imagine the large room as empty, save for the looming, smoking figure of the doctor hovering over my mother and the slight frame of my father, pressed against a wall just outside of view. I picture the single lamp in the center of the room casting looming shadows of angular hospital equipment against the wall, stretching and shrinking with each lazy swing of the chain that holds the bulb suspended from the ceiling.
And then, with one final shriek from my mother that cracks the windshield of every car in the hospital parking lot, I slide in to the doctor’s thick, callused hands. All seven pounds, eight ounces of me.
“It’s a girl,” he might have said, his cigarette dancing in the corner of his mouth with every syllable.
Maybe then my father emerged from the shadows, bending his bony knees to lean in over me next to my mother, their faces like twin moons in orbit above my red puckered face. I’m sure each of my parents saw themselves in me as I do now — my father’s twig-like frame, my mother’s piercing stare. But it may also have been apparent to them then, as I shook my balled up fists and kicked out at nothing, that there was something else entirely. An element of creation that, for all the recognizable pieces, was something original. Something unique. Something more than just a random swirl of their own DNA.
And then, I imagine, they turned their wide-eyed faces to each other over me as two words passed soundlessly between them: “What now?”
Photo by Chimpr