A little Life.
Temperatures lingered around thirty, the heat stood still in the city, humidity put a film of moisture on skin, onto which pollution and dust settled easily.
A man and a child walked down the street at a leisurely pace. They walked like two people would walk. The boy was just over 3’ tall, the man 5’10’ at the most, slender, wore washed out jeans and flat canvas shoes. The little boy was wearing beige shorts that fell beneath his knees, still carrying the baby fat of young children, and a red t-shirt with a logo that was no longer decipherable, but had once belonged to a Peruvian make of beer. Earlier they had held hands, but now they had entered quieter streets and the little boy let go, mimicking his father, pushing little hands deep inside his pockets and pulling his shoulders up some, the balls of his feet pushed him upwards a little with every step. He carried a blue backpack on his shoulders as he bounced along. The man looked down at the boy with his dark blonde hair sticking up in multiple directions.
‘What do you want to do now,’ he asked the boy.
The boy looked up and thought for a minute, his little legs keeping in motion as he stumbled along.
‘I think I want to eat some ice-cream.’
‘Hm,’ the man pondered before answering. ‘We just did, your fingers are still sticky.’
‘Yes, but ice-cream is good to eat when it’s hot like this,’ he said, tripping, but catching himself before his father could.
The man smiled down at the little person, marvelled by the child’s logic which had once been his own.
‘OK, but you know you can get sick if you eat too much and then it will never taste as special anymore.’
‘Sure, I want chocolate now, but with cream in a tub, but Italian because that’s the best there is.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Everybody knows that,’ he said looking up with a frown his eyes rolling with shock from the obvious ignorance his father had just expressed.
‘You are right,’ he said grinning to himself as they walked on.
‘It’s hot,’ the boy said a little later, ‘it would be good to have ice-cream.’
‘I think there is a café just opposite the entrance, we could sit down and have a little rest, or perhaps we should do it on the way back, hm, what do you think?’
‘No, it’s too hot, and you said we can do what I want.’
‘Well it is your birthday so I got to stick to my word right.’
‘Yeah. Maybe I can rehearse my song in the café again.’
‘I think you should save it and play it for your mom when we get there.’
‘OK,’ the little boy shrugged his shoulder like it meant nothing.
Six years earlier Stella’s face had been bright red, she was hot and sweaty the breathing rehearsed and the pushing calculated, only the midwife was with her, kept popping out to check on another woman in the next room then returned counting cycles, taking pressure and offering labour inducing drugs and pain killers. Stella wasn’t having any of it she was there on her own and would get through it on her own. The cycle started to quicken as did her breathing, and when her eyes closed and her face contorted she kept seeing his face in front of her, the face and the seductive smile she had always fallen for, other times it would be the two of them together, naked and quite possibly the night she conceived. Her legs in the air and his hands holding them by the ankles not all that different from the position she was in now. It was the way he got into her, deep and purposeful, sometimes sudden pain rushed through her and he would slow, go more gentle, but it had always aided her excitement. A bit like now that the baby wanted out somehow it was a reverse from the former situation. Back then it was both of them who were covered in sweat, drops running down his face, down the length of his narrow nose, held on, held on, then dripped, making a tiny splash on her belly.
The pain increased when she pushed again and she thought she felt something rip, but it all felt like a blur, and she wasn’t sure where anything started or finished any longer. Thinking of him made her wish things had gone different, after some light banter he had always rushed off, and she sensed the eagerness to leave, replace the lust from earlier.
Cum and go, he had once jokingly asked over the phone and she had laughed and let him.
Now she was scared with pressure building up inside and pain taking on new dimensions. She pushed again as the midwife spoke encouraging words.
I can see the head, the words came through a hazy blur, push and breath. She pushed and felt herself stretch, the babies head and the baby itself crossed her mind, for a second everything else faded.
It was like being constipated badly she thought, wanting to drop the load pushing harder as more words of encouragement were uttered. Then there were more faces around her some she had seen earlier, when they made routine visits, others were new ones, they worried her with their sombre expressions and their whispered voices.
As she pushed again, she made a noise that she would not have been able to even imagine previously, but then she had never felt pain like this before either. That was when her surrounding faded to black and she lost consciousness for the first time, when she came to again activity surrounding her had doubled. There was blood, a lot of it she noticed before she heard the voice of the child cry out, before she felt the child in her arms, wrinkled and red, ever so small and fragile.
They asked her to take it slow and easy, nervous voices surrounded the bed, she felt light headed and relieved, the little body pulsating under her hands.
They took it from her when she started to slip again.
There was more blood after, as doctors rushed and shouted.
The boy and his father sat in a café across the street from what appeared to be a big park, wall and fencing alternated alongside a long stretch of road. The man held a spoon with which he stirred a café latte in a tall glass, watching the boy who’s name was Oscar, spread whipping cream over his chocolate ice cream at an equal thickness.
‘What are you doing’, he asked the boy.
The boy looked up, his spoon padding down on the cream, covering the dark brown of chocolate till it disappeared.
‘It freezes onto the ice-cream and then there is crispy frozen bits. You can try when it’s ready.’
The man smiled at the boys explanation, remembered days long gone when he was bent over a tub of banana, spreading the whipped cream just like the boy been doing now, remembered the sensation of the frozen cream on his tongue, and the sweetness of the banana ice-cream in contrast. Unconsciously he licked his lips as the memory crossed his mind. Next thing he knew Oscar was waving a spoonful of chocolate covered in a slim layer of frozen cream right in front of his face.
Soon they walked on, walked through the tall iron gate of the entrance and into what appeared to be open field, gently sloping up hill.
‘How far is it,’ asked the boy.
The man looked ahead.
‘Can you see the small path going off to the left,’ he said, his finger outstretched and pointing.
The boy nodded and his legs started to stretch further as his speed increased some.
‘And after that?’
‘It’s in the third row, we have to look for it.’
‘Oh,’ said the boy.
They reached the path and then the third row, both necks stretched to see beyond. The man walked to the far edge, and the boy followed. They walked past simple stones made from white marble until they reached the one bearing Stella’s name.
‘This is it,’ the man said and stopped.
‘Oh,’ said the boy.
He sat down on the grass, opening his satchel and taking a small keyboard from it. The man stepped up to the stone, wiped dust from it and pulled weeds back from its edges, where, he presumed no weeds should grow.
He felt a sudden bout of shame when he remembered the flowers he had meant to bring and then forgotten. Suddenly the keyboard burst into life and the boy started to play the song he had long prepared. His high pitched voice sang the lyrics about ice-cream and little man dreams in a shrill and dissonant manner. The man had heard the song so many times before and closed the doors in the past. Now as they stood in front of the grave he felt strangely touched by the efforts of the six year old.