Stephanie Leary

Future Mistakes

Raisa Kolbe cast a wor­ried stare through the glass par­ti­tion at the only swad­dled new­born not cry­ing.  Baby Boy Arturo’s eyes focused on the ceil­ing as if he were send­ing up his prayers before the inevitable hap­pened.  Raisa tapped on the glass in an attempt to rouse him but only suc­ceed­ed in gar­ner­ing the atten­tion of the nurse.

Raisa point­ed to the baby and mouthed, “Is he okay?”

The nurse looked down at the pre­oc­cu­pied infant for a moment, smiled, and then mouthed back, “Perfect.”

Raisa breathed a sigh of relief then walked to Room 602 at St. Jude’s Hospital.

Did you see him?” Darlene asked, smil­ing the smile of a first-time mother.

Yeah.  He’s beau­ti­ful,” Raisa said.

I told you, didn’t I?”  Darlene asked.  “I told you he’d be okay.  That you didn’t have noth­ing to wor­ry about.”

Raisa nod­ded her head and looked around the room.  It was devoid of bou­quets and ‘It’s A Boy’ blue bal­loons.  She felt bad for not hav­ing remem­bered to bring some­thing celebratory.

Why didn’t you call me when you went into labor?” Raisa asked.

I kept telling Sonny to call you, but he said we could han­dle—” Darlene said.

Sonny?”  Raisa inter­rupt­ed.  “Why was Sonny at your house?”

Darlene’s petite body shift­ed beneath the thin hos­pi­tal blan­ket as she tried to find a more com­fort­able posi­tion.  When she fin­ished the diver­sion­ary tac­tic, she leaned back and offered Raisa a reas­sur­ing smile.  “He’s been com­ing by,” she said.  “You know.  Staying over a cou­ple of nights.”

You mean he’s been squat­ting at your house, because he doesn’t have a place of his own.”

No.  That’s not it.  He just want­ed to make sure I was okay.”

Mmm hmm,” Raisa said.  She looked around the room again.  “Where is he now?”

He’ll be back lat­er.  He said he had to take care of something.”

Raisa nod­ded her head know­ing­ly.  “Like what?” she asked.  “Does he have a job inter­view?  Is he look­ing for a more suit­able place for you and the baby to live?  What’s so impor­tant that he can’t be here?

He was here,” Darlene said.  “He just got a lit­tle jit­tery with all the baby gook and the scream­ing.  You know how he is.”

Raisa nod­ded her head again.  “Yeah.  I know exact­ly how he is.”

The nurse that Raisa had spo­ken to ear­li­er knocked on the door and came into the room with­out wait­ing for a response, push­ing Baby Boy Arturo in his wheeled crib.  “Hi there.  You ready to try breast­feed­ing again?”

Darlene rubbed her breast and made an unen­thused face.  “Do I have to?” she asked.  “Can’t you just give him anoth­er bottle?”

Holding the still unemo­tion­al baby in her arms, the nurse imme­di­ate­ly went into her spiel as if she had been wait­ing all day for an ill-informed new moth­er to ask her that ques­tion.  “A mother’s milk con­tains the nutri­ents and anti­bod­ies a new­born baby needs to fight off infec­tions and build a strong immune sys­tem.  Don’t you want your baby to be pro­tect­ed?” she asked with­out the least bit of irony in her voice.

Darlene answered by pulling down the left side of her gown, dis­play­ing an irri­tat­ed nip­ple, and reach­ing out to take the baby from the nurse.

Without the glass par­ti­tion and white noise cries of twelve oth­er babies to inter­fere, Raisa took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to exam­ine the baby more closely.

What’s that?” she asked, point­ing at a patch in his mass of black hair.

The nurse leaned in to have a clos­er look.  “Some babies are born with gray hair,” she said.

Raisa let out a bel­low of laugh­ter.  “Good Lord.  The boy’s been on this earth just two days and he already knows he’s got a tough row to tow.  God bless him.”

The nurse joined in with ner­vous laugh­ter.  She looked at Darlene, then at the baby then at Raisa.  “Are you the grand­moth­er?” she asked.

Raisa could under­stand the nurse’s con­fu­sion.  Darlene was Caucasian, Raisa was African American and lit­tle Baby Boy Arturo looked Hispanic.  “In a round­about way,” she said.  She wasn’t about to tell the nurse all of her business.

The baby start­ed to get fussy, unable or unwill­ing to latch onto Darlene’s breast.

He won’t do it,” Darlene said.  “What’s wrong with him?”

Maybe if you gave him a name he’d be more inclined to suck on your breasts,” Raisa said.

I told Sonny I’d wait until he comes back to name him.”

The nurse was more help­ful.  “Try the oth­er breast,” she said.

Darlene switched breasts but the baby still would not attach to his moth­er.  Defeated, she hand­ed the baby back to the nurse.

I’ll go make him anoth­er bot­tle, dear,” she said, con­sol­ing Darlene by rub­bing her arm.  “Don’t wor­ry, hon­ey.  Sometimes these things take a while.  When he’s ready he’ll latch onto you.  You’ll see.”  She pat­ted Darlene’s arm one last time before plac­ing the baby back in the crib.  “I’ll be right back, sweetie.”

Raisa exam­ined the baby again when the nurse left.  “He seems so list­less.”  She gave him a lit­tle poke.  “Did they test him?”

What for?”  Darlene asked.

Don’t play dumb with me,” Raisa said.  “You know what for.”

I told you I didn’t do any­thing while I was pregnant.”

I know what you told me, but that don’t mean you didn’t.”

The door flew open and in walked Sonny.  An unlit peach-fla­vored Philly Blunt dan­gled from his lips and his arm held some fresh­ly-yanked daisies.  “Where’s my boy?” he asked.  Sonny dropped the daisies and the blunt on the food tray and picked up the baby, who final­ly start­ed to cry.

Darlene reached for the baby, but Sonny held him up in the air, out of her reach.

Sonny, be care­ful,” she said.

Whatta ya mean be care­ful?” he asked.  “This is my new baby boy.  My pride and joy.  The fruit of my loins.”

Sonny, don’t…you’re gonna…don’t hold him like that,” Darlene said, get­ting anxious.

The nurse came back in with the bot­tle of for­mu­la.  “Mister Arturo, you can’t…Mister…please…you shouldn’t hold him like…,” she said, try­ing to get Sonny to put down the baby.

Santiago Luis Arturo!”  Raisa’s voice boomed.

The sound momen­tar­i­ly stopped all move­ment in the room, includ­ing the baby’s cry­ing.  Sonny low­ered the baby and both the nurse and Darlene reached for him.

Boy, what’s wrong with you?” Raisa asked.

I wasn’t gonna drop him, Ma.  I’m just hap­py to see him.  Happy to be a father,” Sonny said.

You can be hap­py with­out act­ing a fool,” Raisa said.  “Are you high or something?”

Sonny looked in the direc­tion of the nurse, who was gen­tly hand­ing the bot­tle and the baby to Darlene.

Sorry,” he said.

The nurse gave him a wary look and then gave the entire mul­ti-col­ored mot­ley crew anoth­er once over before she exit­ed the room.

Sonny walked over and hugged Raisa.  “How’ve you been, Ma?”

I’m doing alright.  How are you?” she asked with poignan­cy, star­ing into his dilat­ed pupils.

One day at a time,” he said.

Raisa could smell the stench of liquor with every exha­la­tion.  “Mmm hmm,” she said.

I thought of a name,” he said, turn­ing to look at Darlene feed the baby.  “Future,” he said.

What?”  Darlene and Raisa asked at the same time.

Future.  You know.  As in not the past or the present.  Future,” he said.

You wan­na name the baby Future?”  Darlene asked.

Yup.  You like it?” he asked.

It’s orig­i­nal.  I’ll give you that,” Raisa said.

Sonny sat on the bed fac­ing Darlene and the baby.  “How do you like that name, lit­tle man?  Future.”  He took the baby away from Darlene and began to gen­tly rock him.  “That’s a some­body kind of name, right Ma?  With a name like that he can’t help but be some­body important.”

Raisa breathed a heavy sigh and shook her head.  She reached into her purse and pulled out her point and shoot cam­era.  “Smile,” she said.

God bless the child.


Stephanie Leary lives in Rochester, New York and recent­ly earned a cre­ative writ­ing degree from The College at Brockport State University of New York.  She enjoys writ­ing essays and short sto­ries but her goal is to obtain a MFA in playwriting.