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better life for us I enroll in graduate school at U.C. Irvine and
continue work on my first novel, a novel that eventually gets
published, gets optioned for a movie, sells paperback rights and
sets us on our way. Meanwhile Heidi and I have our first child
and I am there for her in the delivery room, stone-cold sober,
holding her hand and giving whatever support a husband can
give his wife when he is powerless to ease her pain.
I ve never liked children.
They annoy me. They re loud and often obnoxious. They
cry and make too many demands and I ve never had the pa-
tience for them. But when Andy comes into the world I love
him immediately in a way I never before knew I was capable of
loving. He is a quiet, easy baby with few demands, and when
Heidi returns to work as a display artist, while I m completing
my last year of graduate school, I take our son to classes with
me. I carry him in a pouch that straps around my shoulders
and rests on my stomach. I feed him. I change him. I love and
comfort him.
J a m e s B r o w n
I have not always been a bad father.
Later I will become a professor of English and jump from
job to job Irvine, Santa Clara University, Hayward State
until I settle, back in Southern California again, in the desert
wastelands of San Bernardino. In that time my wife and I have
had our second child, and this one is harder on us. He is col-
icky. He is hypersensitive to light and noise and prone to ear
infections. His needs put an additional strain on our marriage,
and I am strangely proud of myself, for despite my growing ad-
dictions I am for the most part there for the boy when his
mother has reached her limits. Somewhere in through here I
also publish a second novel, this one about the family, mainly
Barry, and I fail to include you, my sister.
 Where am I? you ask me, after you ve read it.  Don t I
matter? I lived this story with you. I mean, Christ, I was there.
Now that I m older I realize the magnitude of my mistake.
I realize that you are right. I do you and the novel a serious in-
justice by not sticking closer to the truth and the story ulti-
mately suffers because of it. But at the time, in my selfishness,
I tell you that you don t understand the constraints of the
novel, what can and can t be included, and if you just look
more closely you ll see how I leave out all sorts of things, all
sorts of people, and it s not because these things didn t happen
or that these people don t exist. It s because they don t fit. Don t
belong. After all it is just fiction. After all it is about making
things up, and you know it is easier to lie about the dead than
the living.
By now your daughter is all grown up. She is your age when
you gave birth to her and despite her childhood, or maybe be-
cause of it, she turns out to be a fine, responsible young
woman who s seen what drugs and alcohol did to you and her
father and won t touch them herself. You re in your late thirties
now and still going strong. You ve racked up three DUIs. You ve
wrecked two cars. Your husband has filed for bankruptcy but
the coke is still plentiful, and your marriage, like mine, contin-
ues to erode. But there is hope. People change. Addicts and al-
coholics can get better instead of sicker and I ve seen it in you.
You break the news to me over the phone.
 Are you sitting down? you say.  Because you won t believe
this. I don t believe it myself but I m pregnant again.
Maybe neither of us voice it but we both know that this is
your chance to turn your life and marriage around. This is the
motivation you need to quit drinking and doping, and for the
most part you do. In the months to follow you cut back to just
a couple of drinks a day, and in the evening, to quell the with-
drawal symptoms, you only take one Valium or Xanax instead
of your usual three or four. And so far as the coke goes, be-
cause you ve heard all those terrible things about crack babies,
you use it only on the weekends and in moderation. Those who
know little about addiction might see it as a moral weakness
J a m e s B r o w n
and expect nothing less from you than complete sobriety. But
for someone who has drunk and used so much for so long I
know that any step forward is a tremendous one and I am
proud of you. At least you acknowledge your problem. At least
the desire and effort to change is there, and even if it is not yet
enough, you deserve a certain respect.
Your daughter is off at college, her room is empty, and
again you begin making preparations. Because you never ex-
pected to have another child, you gave away the crib. You gave
away the bassinet, threw out the old clothes and broken toys,
and now you rise early in the morning, with a renewed sense of
purpose, and look for replacements at garage sales and swap
meets. You scour the papers for good deals. Hunt for bargains
at department stores. You are eager to fill that room back up
but mostly you are eager to fill yourself up again, and the baby
offers you this chance, the promise of a new start. Things will
be different this time. You will be a responsible mother, you
will do the job right, make amends with the past and free your-
self of your guilt and shame. The old wounds of your marriage
will heal and you and your husband will fall in love all over
again, only this time it will be a stronger, more mature love be-
cause you have had to overcome so many obstacles to finally get
there. In some ways you see this baby as your last hope for a
so-called normal, happy life, and it takes you back to earlier
days when you were a churchgoer, a firm believer in God.
 I know you re not religious, you say,  and I m not big on
it either anymore. But I really believe this is my wake-up call. I
really believe this baby is a gift from God.
Since you are no longer a young woman, you have an am-
niocentesis done. You take a sonogram. The doctor tells you
that everything is fine, the baby is perfectly healthy. Is it a boy?
you ask. A girl? Where with your first you wanted to be sur-
prised, this time you want to know up front so that you can be
better prepared, if only for the baby shower. You say it s the
practical thing to do but I have a feeling that you re just too ex-
cited to wait, and I like that about you. It s part of your charm.
You and your husband name her Katherine and paint her room
a light shade of pink.
When your water breaks and the contractions start, your
husband drives you to the hospital. You don t have medical
insurance so the care isn t what it should be and they hook
you up to a fetal monitor and leave you in the room alone.
The intervals between contractions grow closer together and
more intense. You re nervous. You re scared. You feel the baby
moving inside you and know the time is near. But where is [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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