This is Life

read the suite from the beginning

by A.L. Diaz

“Father”

He had not seen her for more than a year so when he knocked on the door his pulse quickened. He flattened his hair and tried fighting back the smile stretching across his face. But when the door opened it disappeared.

Unkempt coils strayed in all directions and the stench of wine wafted through the crack. “You look familiar,” the woman on the other side slurred over the sound of a wailing infant. 

“Are you drunk?” Alessandro yelled, eyes bulging in horror. It required little effort to make his way inside where the sitting room had not seen any maintenance in months. 

From behind him, the girl giggled. “Sandro, when did you get here?”

Setting down the basket of groceries Mrs. Neumann sent him to deliver, Alessandro told her, “You hear the baby is crying, right?”

“It’s always crying,” she scoffed as she wandered to the couch. “Come sit down with me. I’d love to sit down with you.” Gaby dropped herself over the back of the sofa and landed with her legs up. 

The crying came from down hallway. Leaving the inebriated girl for a moment, Alessandro went to retrieve the bawling child. “When was the last time you fed him?” he asked as he emerged from the hallway. 

“I don’t know,” she laughed, her bare feet flexing in the air. “Come over here.”

Alessandro brought the basket of food to the kitchen with him. He recalled Mrs. Neumann had included a quart of milk so he fetched a nurser bottle. When he reemerged from the kitchen, the infant quaffing the provided liquid, Gaby had not moved. The girl wiggled her toes and slurred, “What are you doing?”

“Feeding the baby,” he grunted, pushing her aside to sit down. “Like his mother should be doing.”

“I hate that baby,” she grumbled as she lifted her head. She rested it on Alessandro’s lap and groaned. “Do you know how babies are made? Because I don’t.”

Alcohol must have had something to do with her comment. “You are joking, right? How do you not know?”

Fascinated by her wrist, the drunk girl replied, “I’m only a little bit certain. All I know is the man pushes the girl down and puts something in her and bangs against her until he’s done. I don’t know what it is he puts in her, but it hurts a lot.” Somehow, she found enough orientation to climb up his body and rest her head on his shoulder. Assaulting him with the stink of fermented grapes, Gaby glared at her child and hiccupped. “And then it hurts coming out. Why would anyone want to do that? It’s terrible making the baby and it’s terrible birthing it. My mom did that eight times. She must be dumber than a bag of rocks.”

Many words pooled at the back of his throat, but he swallowed them all down and said nothing. 

The infant in his arms started squirming, which made her moan. “Shut up,” she yelled at him. “Why the hell are you even crying? You got your damn food.”

“Why are you yelling at him? He’s a baby.” His tone came out much stricter than intended which caught them both off guard.

“You’re very attractive when you’re angry,” Gaby gurgled before bursting into fits of giggles.

“You’re drunk.”

“Let me touch your face.”

She reached out for him but he grabbed her extended arm before she had a chance. In that moment he hated everything. He wanted to take her home, bring her back to her old self, kiss her, make things better for her. “Gaby,” he started, hating himself for knowing what he had to say, “I know you hate your husband, but you can’t take it out on your child. It’s not his fault you’re here. He’s just a baby who needs you, and you need to be his mother. Just because Dietrich is his father doesn’t mean he’s Dietrich.”

Gaby dropped her hand. She leaned on him and shuddered, and Alessandro pretended not to notice her crying. After a few minutes, the infant fell asleep while her breathing slowed as she grazed her fingers up and down his arm. He felt her grow heavier and in almost an inaudible voice he heard her whisper, “I wish you were his father,” before she, too, fell asleep.

Alessandro sighed and kissed her head. “Me, too.”








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