Before he was here.
It is Sunday when she tells him.
He knows this because on Sundays, she speaks to him thrice, when on the other days, he can only hear her voice once. That makes him sad, but no matter how big of a fit he throws, it is always the same.
You’re not going to make it, she says, and he thinks he could hear her voice wobble . She shifts, adjusting her weight from one side to another and exhales.
He cannot see her of course, not in the darkness that clouds his world. But he can feel her, it’s strange, but he can. When he is bored, which is often, he would try to imagine how she looks. Oddly enough, all he can think of is a big black mass. Or perhaps that is becuase black is the only thing he could see. Thinking about this makes his head ache and so, he stops.
He can hear a strange sound now- several sharp intakes of breath and then a loud, shaky exhale, again and again, accompanied by an odd whistle.
She is crying, he realizes.
He wants to comfort her, but she won’t listen. He tries to expel the words from his mouth, but they get lost in his mind. He breathes out the sound with his tongue, and they disperse down his throat.
You’re not going to make it, she says again, less shaky this time. A small pause.
That’s what they’re telling me, and I don’t want to believe them, but what do I know, right? She laughs, tentatively. David tells me it’s for the best, she continues, that it’s not worth the risk. Another pause. I wanted to slap him when he said that, believe me, I was so angry. He thinks to himself that he can feel her smile.
He is happy that she is angry at David, and he tries to smile too. He doesn’t like David. David takes up far too much of her time. Time she could have been spending with him. David can go to hell. He smiles again with the self-indulgent satisfaction at having imitated an expression she uses quite often.
It is a Sunday, and she has talked to him thrice, and everything is alright. If what she has said bothers him, he cannot remember.
When he sleeps, he dreams of obsidian eyes and a woman dressed in white scrubs, except they are not really white, he only knows that they are white, inherently, in the way you know that the sun is hot and that ice is cold. She is saying, over and over again: you are not going to make it.
Days pass, uneventfully, or perhaps it is months, he does not know. She tells him of the small, insignificant details of her life, those tiny details that make up a life. He is content, but there is always something lurking under the happiness. A certain anxiety, a fear, of something he cannot remember.
But then, he cannot remember a time without the fear either, so it blurs into the background, just white noise.
The voice comes, day after day, predictably, the only other constant in his day, apart from this fear. For those few minutes with her, he can relax.
It is the days when the voice doesn’t come that it truly disturbs him. Something is wrong. She has not talked to him yet, even though it is time: it is the day after Sunday, and she is about to go to sleep, and she has not spoken. She shifts from one side to another, the same jostling movement that usually precedes their time together, but the voice does not come. Not a single caress, not a single murmur.
He thinks perhaps she has forgotten, and he shakes her, gently, trying to catch her attention. She does not respond. Harder now, faster, faster, anger clouding the fear, and he likes this sensation better. When he cannot move anymore, he stops, and waits for the sound of her voice. A gasp, and then the same whistle, the harsh outtake of breath, a succession of nasally breaths.
He feels bad now. He shouldn’t have done that.
He lies as still as he can but seems like forever before the crying stops.
When she finally talks to him again, she tells him that she is sorry, and there is finality in her voice, a passiveness, an absence of any emotion.
He is filled with an overwhelming , inexplicable panic. It flutters inside of him, this strange, desperate sensation, like a moth beating its wings against a glass cage.
But the next day, she is crying, and there is relief in her tears, and happiness. When she speaks, she seems almost angry, but not at him, it is a positive anger, brimming with energy, she is alive. He does not understand what is going on, but he cannot help but feel that something big has happened, something metamorphic.
Afterwards, he does not remember any of this, except a lingering sensation of solace, and the absence of an emotion he cannot place.
In the Lilac Birth Suite, London, she lays on a bed lined white, dressed in white scrubs, in a room tiled in white, white everywhere. With each contraction, there is a pain that dominates her entire being, precious seconds stretching into eternity, primal agony drifting in waves towards her. When she closes her eyes, she can see only red and then flashes of white bursting into being. She hears nothing but a high-pitched, irksome scream, and she wishes it would stop, and then she realizes it is coming from her.
One last guttural push, the heat of stretching flesh, and that is it. There is a flurry of white around her, like geese, she thinks, though she cannot remember whether it is geese that are white, or something else. It seems important, now more than ever, to decipher this.
She breaths out, and the sound seems eerily loud to her ears.
The room is deathly still, she realizes, the sharp tinge of held breaths straining the air. A second passes, maybe two. A tear escapes out of the corner of her eyes, and she cradles her arms around her, desperately, too exhausted to do anything else.
David steps towards her, hand hovering above her shoulder. There it is, she thinks, bitterly. The I-told-you-so. This is what they’ve all been waiting for.
And then, they hear it.
The sharp, keening cry of a newborn.
He has arrived.