A New Life
By R. D. Flavin
Leonard rubbed sesame-seed oil
gently on his wife's perineum to help relax the skin and muscle and
save her the savagery of an episiotomy. His oiled fingers slowly
massaged her skin and he found the act of intimately touching his
wife for the first time in nearly five and a half months to be
unnervingly erotic. His wife's body pulsated with the warm smells
and colors of childbirth and it was all Leonard could do to keep his
mind on her labor and not on those swollen breasts or the wonderfully
engorged flower blossoming between her legs. He longed to caress the
red flower, to hold those heaving breasts, or to kiss those sweet
lips which twisted in the pain of birthing, but he dared not. He
bent and kissed her shoulder instead.
“Stop that...,” Cynthia yelled
through her pain.
His tongue tasted the saltiness of
her skin. Cynthia's body was covered with a thin layer of
perspiration and it made her shine and illuminate the entire delivery
room. Leonard looked onto his wife's eyes and saw there a look
related to both disgust and toleration. He answered the look with a
weak and languorous smile and returned his attention to massaging her
She screamed. The midwife ran
quickly from the rear of the delivery room and pushed Leonard aside.
Cynthia's best friend, Julie, tacitly approached the bed and took
Cynthia's hand and pressed it against her own cheek. Over the
shoulder of the midwife's shoulder, Leonard saw the flower open and
looked upon a small mass of wrinkled skin covered with tiny red
hairs. It was the head of their child!
“Honey, I can see the baby's
head,” Leonard said excitedly, his voice thick with compassion and
Cynthia tilted herself and made a
terrible grimace. “Don't call me 'honey', she spat vehemently.
She then cried out loud and horribly as the baby's head crowned and
passed from the birth canal into the world outside.
Leonard Hughes was married to
Cynthia Moore in a trendy Northside tavern on Valentine's Day by a
Unitarian minister who was also a pagan and a pantheist. They were
married in a bar by a witch and Cynthia was eight and a half weeks
pregnant. Leonard did his best to smile and not sweat during the
entire ceremony, but failed at both. It was a small service with
only their parents, the best-man, and the bride's-maid in attendance.
Even friends and siblings were not allowed to be there per Cynthia's
insistence. They didn't make love or 'consummate their marriage' on
their wedding night, nor the following morning. They joined bodies
briefly the following night, but neither was satisfied. Their first
big fight happened two weeks into their marriage.
She insisted he was immature and
lacked any sense of responsibility because he had many unpaid medical
bills from an injury the year before and was still working the same
low paying job as when she first met him. Her idea of security in a
relationship revolved around money, benefits, and social status.
Leonard suspected she was probably right – he just didn't care for
He maintained Cynthia was 'too'
forward to the point of being a bully, unemotional, and 'cool' to a
degree of near frost. Leonard argued he needed reassurance in some
form from his new bride. Not only didn't he get it, but she
adamantly refused to acknowledge she even understood what he was
talking about when he brought up the subject of his need for
reassurance. He knew she was correct in her admission of not
understanding his request. She would say, “Get a job; it's that
simple,” as if it was the answer to all of their problems. What
she refused to say was his need for reassurance and her inability to
understand it would just have to wait. She didn't have to say it, as
the unspoken words hung in the air around them like a dreary fog.
With the full emergence of the
baby's head, Cynthia carefully reached her hand down and felt the
head of the child as it was still a part of her. She stroked the wet
hair of the child while the midwife eased out one shoulder and
then the other. Cynthia could feel the comforting hands of Julie
upon her and knew she had reached the end of her long labor. In just
a few heartbeats, she would be holding her baby in her arms.
Leonard saw blood and water. He
saw the wound in Christ's side and witnessed the birth of Ecclesia,
the Church. He saw his wife on the cross of motherhood giving life
to a new religion of love. He heard a scream and felt cold all over
because he knew the scream had been his own.
Five weeks into their marriage
they began sleeping in different beds with Leonard sleeping in the
guest room. They talked of therapy at the top of their lungs and
threatened each other with divorce. Neither were behaving properly
at the time and both displayed indications of being in a state of
emotional shock. It was soon after Leonard began sleeping alone the
A tall and fair-haired child would
address him from across a large room. The child was beautiful and
proud and angry. Instinctively, Leonard recognized the child as his
and Cynthia's. In the dream, he'd quit the the marriage and divorced
Cynthia during the seventh month of her pregnancy. He'd shouted he
didn't want to be a party to an “emotional bastard,” because the
child's parents, though married, were not in love with one another.
And, they were divorced, many years had passed, and now the child was
confronting his father.
“You left me alone with her,”
the child stated flatly.
“I couldn't bear it anymore,”
“You left me alone with her,”
the child repeated.
By the end of the third week of
nightly visitations by the child of the future, Leonard had begun to
doubt himself. He questioned whether or not the child's best
interest would be served by divorcing Cynthia. Weary from
apprehension, he agreed with Cynthia to enlist the help of a
psychologist to attempt to right the wrongs in their marriage.
Leonard vowed secretly to himself he'd give his 'all' to this woman,
his wife, the mother of their child and give totally and completely
of himself to their child. He swore he'd endure sleepless, loveless
nights and Cynthia's scathing bitterness, the likes of which he'd
never imagined. Leonard promised himself he'd do the right thing.
The psychologist accepted
seventy-five dollars (discounted because of Leonard's low income) for
every fifty minutes of her time. She was professional, dignified,
charming, and listened to their every comment and complaint. Some
sessions provided a temporary prophylactic of sorts protecting them
somewhat against further hurt and acrimony as they acknowledged the
other struggling through the motions of emotional repair. Yet, in a
few hours or days, they'd return to the marital battlefield of
caustic remarks, hopeless projections of a shared future, and, of
course, no physical contact. Nearly two thousand dollars ultimately
was spent in therapy and all it basically accomplished was to hold
them together by a thin, strained thread, and a vague pledge things
may eventually get better. Cynthia grew larger in her pregnancy and
their relationship and ability to successfully communicate actually
Leonard felt the dark envelop him
and his heart felt porous like a clump of coal expired and all used
up. A high pitched whine arose all around him raging like a thousand
pound sea-shell attacking him with the sounds of forceful waves
crashing onto a lonely shore, only much faster and louder.
Instantly, all changed and he was at home and at peace with the
blackness around him. Leonard couldn't accept anything existing
outside of his inky and shadowy world. However, even if he could
have summoned his consciousness to acknowledge anything beyond the
dark, it wouldn't have done any good. Nothing existed for Leonard
outside of his light-less resignation.
“Oh, Mr. Hughes,” the midwife
called out. “We've had our share of problems with babies and
mothers in the past, but we've 'never' lost a father before...”
One session in therapy, Leonard
made the grand confession – he regarded his wife as pretty, desired
her physically, thought her extremely intelligent and longed to share
her mind, and believed Cynthia had the capacity for kindness, joy,
and wished to love her and be loved by her. He also admitted a sense
deep within him, his wife had long ago turned away and would never
look back. Leonard stated without hesitation, he was alone.
The therapist interpreted his
words as negative in the worst way that a married man with a child on
the way could express himself in such a fashion. Tossing aside
professionalism, she scolded and berated him for daring to exclaim he
“was alone.” She added, with perfectly enunciated vehemence,
Leonard didn't deserve the life and wife he had. It was a venomous
pie in the face, as the therapist expounded upon the myriad problems
which made up his flawed and damaged psyche. Defensibly calculating
to himself, Leonard projected if the therapist and his wife were
correct, it would take several thousands of dollars to rid himself of
the delusions he was alone. Clenching reason once more, he smiled to
himself at the number of truly disturbed people in the world which
would enable the shrinks and psycho-kinks to manage an income and not
“You have to find your 'true'
voice,” the psychologist instructed him, adding, “Think about
Leonard attempted to do as the
therapist said. After several days of searching and failing to
discover his “true voice,” he resigned himself to believing the
psychologist was aggressively suggesting he speak his 'true' feelings
to Cynthia. Which, as Leonard understood the situation, is what
started the marital problems in the first place. He tried to talk to
his wife, but they predictably disagreed over what were 'true'
feelings and delusion. It was a one-way street and while Cynthia's
'true' voice was one of disdain, Leonard was repeatedly told he was
thinking, feeling, and speaking the wrong way.
The murky blackness was complete.
He had achieved acceptance at last. The pent-up tensions, the weight
of stress, and the sad and sick perception of hopelessness left him
as he settled down and began to explore the dark. Leonard felt like
a baby once more, in a safe and secure womb of existence. It was
warm and wonderful. Peace, at last...
“Mr. Hughes, you're a father,”
the midwife announced as she gently placed the newborn on its
mother's stomach. “Get up off the floor and come and see what nine
months of waiting has produced!”
Cynthia touched its tiny feet
hands and feet, while lovingly letting her fingers glide over its
wrinkled brow. The baby was slippery and wet with amniotic fluid,
but a greater intimacy she couldn't wish for. A blessed, healthy
child. And, if only her 'husband' would get up off of the delivery
room floor and start acting like a man, a husband, and a father, then
a sense of completeness and celebration could truly begin.
They separated during the sixth
month of her pregnancy. Cynthia squared her shoulders and looked him
straight in the eyes and told him to pack his belongings, leave, and
to re-think his life's goals. Leonard looked at his wife with
incredulity and asked how their relationship could continue, how
their marriage could survive, how their love could grow when they
weren't even living together.
“Maybe it won't...,” she
answered without any apparent emotion.
Leonard moved into a cheap
flop-house and continued in therapy with Cynthia. He landed himself
a better paying job with complete medical benefits, began to pay off
his bills, debts, and gave as much money to his wife as he could
afford. An infinitesimal fraction of her bitterness was checked by
this, but love never returned. Leonard felt betrayed.
A little bit of sex, a few weeks
of love, and months of acrid and harsh words had produced a failed
relationship. Leonard cried often, sometimes sobbing in the middle
of the night for no reason he could name. Failure welled up and
overflowed out of his lips like a wounded animal getting ready to
die. He whimpered at the injustice and meanness around him.
But, now the hurt was gone and he
was safe once more.
The hospital staff talked about
Leonard Hughes and nothing else for weeks, as they'd never 'lost' a
father in the delivery room before or since. The efforts to revive
him were valiant, however as the coroner's report later showed,
Leonard died of a massive heart attack the instant he collapsed to
the floor. The father died at the same moment his child was being
born. Everyone thought this was nice and remembered Leonard fondly for
waiting until the birth of his child before passing on.
Cynthia took her newborn home from
the hospital the next day and resumed her life with a reaffirmed hope
and vigor. She had lost a husband, ...but, she had gained a child.
At her six-week postnatal checkup,
Cynthia was told she was remarkably well healed and it made her feel
ebullient. The nurse upon further examination ordered blood-work to
be performed, as the new mother showed certain symptoms which were
unexpected. Blood was drawn and tests were run to find out why
Cynthia's body was behaving as it was.
The results of the tests indicated
she was pregnant again. Deep within her body, her womb had conceived
a new life. Now, it was Leonard's turn...
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