He looked at the pills in the palm of his hand. There were three of them, unique as snowflakes.
The first was Prazosin. Prazosin came in a capsule like certain kinds of Tylenol. It was grey. Prazosin helped with the nightmares, supposedly, but when he took it he didnt have any sort of dreams at all. He had been proud of his dreams, once. He was a lucid dreamer, with the freedom to do and create in the dream world. But now it was all about Iraq and twisted. So he needed the Prazosin.
The second was Citalopram. Citalopram was the generic version of Cylexia. It was a white round pill, and could have been anything. Citalopram was an anti-depressent. He didnt feel depressed, but this one Dr. Robinson said he prescribed to most his patients with PTSD. Citalopram had knocked him on his ass, at first, sending him into ten-hour-long naps, but lately it didnt seem to do too much at all.
The third was Risperidone. Risperidone as an anti-psychotic. It was a small pink tab with a bend in the middle, a unique looking substance. This one zonked him out good. He felt numb while taking it, like he was underneath a warm bath. The effect lasted all day, and this one also sent him into a ten hour rest period. There was an additional side effect, he had put on a hefty amount of weight since taking it. Dr. Robinson told him only a small percentage of his patients were on this one, which made Conner feel even worse, but he took it anyway. He took them all because, despite everything, the pills worked, the evened him out. There were prices to be paid for everything. He put the pills back in their containers, resolving to take them later.
Joanna was on the hospital bed. She was moaning and quietly calling him over. He went and asked what she wanted.
"Ice." She said. "Give me the ice chips."
"The nurse said your not supposed to eat or drink anything."
"Bring me ice chips."
He picked up the small plastic container from its place beside the bed. It was bone dry and empty. He walked out the room, telling her he was going to be right back. The dispenser was easy to find. The hospital in Browning wasnt very large. He filled it with ice chips, and brought it back to her, picking up one of them, and placing it in her mouth. She crunched through it like a child with a sucker.
"Keep em' coming." She said.
After he fed her half the bucket, the nurse barged in. "You no eat!" She proclaimed. "Docler says you no eat." She was philipino, and squat in a way that made her essentially formless. Her mouth was drawn down in a tight frown, to which it looked like she had added lipstick to the top and bottom corner, where there still remained a vestigial amount of lips. Conner retreated to his chair, in the corner of the room. "I didnt eat." Joanna protested. "It was only ice."
"You no eat and no dlink." The nurse said. "I check dilation."
The nurse whisked the blanket away, revealing the horror underneath, where the doctor had stuffed a bag into his wifes holiest of holies, and where tubing now dangled. She put on a pair of surgical gloves, and Conner couldnt help but notice her fingers, short and squat, each and everyone one of them the sort of digit usually found as a big toe. With no fanfare the nurse jammed the hand into Joanna's twat, and his wife groaned in displeasure.
"You no dilated." The nurse said, in disgust. "We wait more hour."
"How long?" Conner asked.
"More hour!" The nurse replied.
He sat in the chair and waited. His mind raced back over the previous months. Today was September 21st. Ten days after his birthday. Jo had baked him a birthday cake, pregnant as she was. His son would turn out to be a Virgo, like him. Most of the bad vibes of September would be gone by then, or at least by the time he was an adult. Did anyone care about December Seven, anymore? It was one more date. A single date, possibly mentioned on the twenty-four hour news cycles. But it was a big world, and there was most likely some major calamity for someone on every number.
More hour turned out to be overnight. He took the pills and slept as well as he could in the big chair in the delivery room. His wife was moaning in fits. The drugs they were giving here produced contractions, but no results. She had had no labor pains before. The baby did not want to leave. It had been nine months, but the wombs was comfortable enough. Joanna felt terrible. She woke her husband up regularly to demand ice chips. Let that philipino bitch try to stop her. She would shoot out this parasite in the woman's face, and be done with it.
In the morning Dr. Oliver stopped by. "Good morning!" She called out. "How were we last night, mom? and dad?"
Conner said nothing. Joanna was biting her tongue with rage. Dr. Oliver was immaculate, dressed in a designer number with a pair of cute shoes, and a wonderful hairstyle that may or may not have been a weave. She saw the hostility in the room, and dodged it expertly.
"So, I can see that the dilation isnt getting any better." She said. "We may want to talk about C-section."
"Yes!" Jo said. "Get this sucker out!"
"Oh?" Oliver frowned, flipping through her chart. "I thought you wanted a natural birth?"
"Nope." Jo said. "That wasnt me."
"That wasnt her." Conner said, helpfully.
"Drugs." Jo added. "Epedural, right now, and cut this sucker out."
"All right!" The doctor added, still cheerful. "Lets do that. Lets have a baby."
After the epidural Jo started to snore, a kind of deep full body rasp that would normally be found among lumberjack's warming up their chainsaws. The nurse gave Conner a set of blue scrubs. He took a picture of himself for facebook before going into the surgery room. He looked at his phone curiously, somehow he had managed to avoid using the thing for the entire twenty-four hours they had been in the hospital. It seemed to be a record for him, at least, in his civilian life.
Inside the surgery room the doctors had arranged a sort of tent around where they were working, and told Conner to "Stay by the head." That was all that was visible. His wifes drooling, snoring, head. He remembered something she had said months ago, about getting her hair done before having the baby. That hadnt happened. It was nap-tastic, pulled out in every direction. A sudden queasiness came over him, would she want a picture, with the baby? Should he crop out her hair in it?
The doctors mumbled to each other. One of them said, "You got him?" And the other answered, "I've got him. Big pull." Conner's curiousity overwhelmed him. He peeked over the sheet. The doctors hands were in a hole in his wifes stomach, pulling something lumpy out. Jo's eyes flew open. "Ouch!" She said.
When they baby was held to the light, it was far less messy than all the horrible medical shows had conditioned Conner to believe. There wasnt even a lot of blood. It was just a small baby, not even that small, face squinched up like a bulldog, eyes firmly shut. The baby opened his mouth and went
A little cry, and the doctor laughed, "Okay dad, here you go!" And, wrapped in a blanket, Conner held his
Who was small and perfect. Who resembled neither him or his wife, nothing but a baby, but his baby. A piece of him. Something he had cast off. He could see the future, now. Something that would survive him. He held the baby next to his wifes head, and told her, "Look honey."
And showed her what had happened. His wife said, "Awww." and
And gave the newborn a kiss, a moment that Conner captured in a picture. After that she closed her eyes back to sleep. They put his new baby in a clear plastic bed, and wheeled him out of there. "Come on dad." One of the nurses said, almost bubbly with cheer. Everyones happy, Conner thought. It must be a good job to have. At least when everything turns out well.
This nurse cleaned off the baby with a towel and looked him over. Conner had the same chance, to look at his son deeply. His heart skipped a beat, when he realized that the nurse was looking for defects. "Okay." The nurse said. "There's a little tiny birthmark here." She pointed to the baby's back. "Not large enough to really be seen, and its not red." Where she pointed, Conner couldnt see anything.
"Thats all right." Conner said. "As long as he's healthy." He felt stupid after saying it. It was the sort of generic observation every parent to be makes. As long as its healthy. As long as it possesses all its eyes and ears, fingers and toes, all in the right amount and in good order. But somehow he never doubted it, or questioned it. Joe did. She had her moments. But not him.
"You know." Whispered the nurse, conspiritorally, "I cant find a trace of color anywhere on him."
"What color are his eyes?" Conner asked.
"Blue." Said the nurse. "They might change, later."
So this was it, Conner thought. A blue-eyed, light skinned child, with a black woman. If the roles where reversed- that is, if he was the black one, with a white wife, he would have cause for concern. Possibly hauling his wife off to one of those reality shows she enjoyed, where the entire purpose was to announce "In the case of..." And announce the childs name, followed by an overly dramatic reading of parentage. Evidence of fatherhood. The woman would crow, and he would hang his head in his hands, or the woman would scream, and run backstage, and he would celebrate with an impromptu dance, with all the joy overflowing in his soul of being able to once again escape the consequences of unprotected intercourse. But the child favored him, so everything was fine.
He gave the name for the birth certificate. Caleb Arthur Conners. Caleb because it was from the Bible, which meant his mother would accept it, and it was also the only name they had both agreed on. He had originally wanted Dylan for a boy or a girl, Jo had wanted Savannah for a girl, Demetrius for a boy. He had made the mistake of saying Demetrius was to ethnic. This led to a fight, because, according to Jo, ethnic was code for ghetto which was code for black, which meant that you thought black was bad, and Joanna's uncle was named Demetrius, a kind, sweet man, who had made his living as a cook, which was more than Conner was able to do, seeing as how he was somehow incapable of feeding himself, etc. etc. The matter was tearfully resolved later.
Here, now, a trio of family. Conner resolved to capture everything. He wanted to hold this moment deep within himself, and make it the new fucrum of his existence. But the war was still there. The war was in him, in the flesh and under his skin, and even when he was here, at the hospital, he was still Over There in Iraq, or Afghanistan, where nothing ever ended. But while he was Over There he was only Over There, so he wasnt in two places at once, not really. He was one-quarter in one place and three-quarters in the past, at war, and in danger of being sucked in completely.