Here is the smile that makes his day, every day. Here is the small hand that reaches up and tugs at his beard, and here is the laugh that fills the black hole in the middle of him.
Here is the other hand, the one congenitally misshapen but still functional, the one that always tries to take his glasses from his face when the good hand has tugged the beard downward so the bad hand can get its fingers snaked around the nosepiece. Here again comes the laugh when the glasses pull free of his ears. Here is the mouth that opens and chews on the glasses, the one with the crooked baby teeth that are so adorable.
Here is the kiss he places on the little one’s head, who chews his prize and makes pleased, snuffling sounds. Here is muted sunlight through the polarized windows, throwing a brown sunbeam down on them. Here is the warmth; here is the point toward the window, the inquisitive grunt that asks where did the light come from? Here is the moment he never knew he’d wanted when he’d lived alone and only for himself.
Here is the knowledge that such moments are fleeting at best, for his wife enters the small partitioned room through the heavy, white curtains and plunks down into a chair with a sigh. Here is the moment of dread; they’re on their way, she says. Here is the moment of panic that follows the moment of dread, the sudden urge to call it off or climb the building like King Kong and fight off their enemies with angry swats and roars of unquenchable rage. Here is the chance to be the daddy all daddies want to be, a hero who dies saving his family from hurt and shame.
Here is the first grinning man, dressed in scrubs and glasses and that uniformly slick, collegiate way that makes them all look the same, regardless of age, sex, or race. Here is a consent form to sign. Here are the others, a uniformly, slick collegiate gangbang of authority designed to suggest there is no escape now. Here is a pair of smooth, white hands, quietly insistent.
Here is one last kiss, a caress of the little one’s soft cheek, his giggle, and a wave of his new rubber duckie that he loves to chew on. Here is a goodbye.
Here are the mechanical doors, one which opens inward, the other outward, and that’s the way it works regardless of which way you’re facing. Here is another wave, and here is his little one saying his name, “La-La”, because he can’t yet say “Da-Da”, La-la also being his word for light.
Here is the silence that follows. Here is the sickness. Here is the weakness.
Here is his wife collapsing, first in the face, then in the body, crashing to the floor, and here he stands, too numb to reach out and catch her. Here, finally, is that deep, useless yearning wish that none of this ever had to be, and then he remembers, oh yes, it never did have to be. Here, in fact, is something that was not vital to his little one’s life, but something that would only make his life a little easier, something cosmetic that would maybe make him a little more like other little ones so there would be not so many questions, maybe less giggles in the periphery. Here on display is the true depth of parental vanity.
And here is his realization, that he is the world’s worst father.
L. Joseph Shosty lives in Texas.