Stepping into Reality
Beware the metaphor.
Paul and I often walk around Gallup Park here in Ann Arbor. On one such ramble we met a young couple pushing a stroller on the wood-chip path. I smiled at the beautiful blonde mother. She didn’t smile back. Her glazed sky-blue eyes didn’t focus. Her husband, a loose-limbed, tall fellow showed all his teeth—almost in excited relief.
We walked on and Paul nudged my arm. “There is no baby in the stroller.”
“Maybe under the blanket?”
“Why would a couple push an empty stroller?” I hadn’t tried to look at the baby in the pram.
We conjured all kinds of excuses, “The grandmother must have the baby at a picnic table; but why take the stroller?”
We got giddy, looking in the bushes for ‘Moses’ along the path. Still no plausible answer presented itself. Then more fiction rose to the rescue.
Delores understood the green, they were at the park after all. The blur of grief did lift at times, usually in the shower when her damp tears could have been the hot water. Daniel hadn’t cried as far as she knew. She should have worn a hat or at least sunglasses for the bright day. Daniel held onto her shoulder, as if she might disappear, too.
His constant refrain of, “Come back, come back;” did nothing but drive her further away. She liked to slip into the fantasy of still being pregnant. Gigantic in her ten month. He’d been proud telling everyone they were probably having twins.
Well after the due date, Delores awoke in their first home, sitting on the family room couch with a bundle of wrapped blankets tucked in her left arm. The television wasn’t on.
“Never mind,” Mother said. “You’re getting better, you know.”
Encouraged by the positive words, Delores began to un-wrap her baby. Why had Mother allowed her to over-heat the child? She noticed her mouth got dryer and dryer after each swaddling cloth dropped away.
“You needed something to hold,” Mother said.
The blankets were empty. “I better lie down,” Delores stretched out her arms to escape the painful couch.
Mother helped lift her, nearly carrying her down the long hall to their sun-brightened bedroom suite. “Daniel will be home soon,” Mother’s words had lost their cheerful tone, “or do you want me to call him?”
“No,” Delores remembered hearing herself say as she drifted into her patch of numb oblivion, “Daniel doesn’t have the baby either.”
Delores nearly stumbled on the uneven winding trail as she pushed the light stroller. At first all had been well. She could feel the hot sun burn her face. Her eyes had dried up—no wetness.
Other people dragged her mood down to her empty arms.
She tried not to face their smiles, but stopped avoiding them when an older couple walked up. The woman’s face was lined under her wide hat, her smile genuine. The sixties-symbol her older husband wore promised peace. He had stared inside the stroller—but didn’t break stride with his wife.
Daniel pressed her shoulder.
“I know,” she said. “How long has it been?”
“Four months.” Daniel lifted both his hands to tug at his hair. “We can’t have anymore.”
“You’ve been so alone.” Delores slid her barren arms around his waist. “We have each other.”
Nearly breaking her fragile bones, he embraced her with his powerful, life-sustaining arms. “Always.”
To understand the power of the scene, I immersed the parable into my futile writing career. My babies, novels, were freed of their sterile boxes, sent out into the glutted world among the dreams of other writers floating in Amazon space.
When they visit with their five-star reviews enough, I repeat the husbanded muse. “Always” means the joy of writing will not leave me—or anyone aspiring to create perfect relief from reality.