Dear My Future Child,
Once you are born, I will grow old as fast as the autumn leaves shrivel and die. Your mother will wonder why they’re welcoming winter so early this year, but I will suspect it’s because of you. She will die, your mother. From childbirth. Because of you.
This is why I will hate you.
The seasons will hate you. Your mother was one of them, once. She was an embodiment of Autumn, burying her browning skin and fiery hair into the leaves, camouflaging perfectly. That’s why it was always hard to find her. Why it’ll always be hard to find you.
I don’t want you to be a season. There was a time when I thought your mother would be a season forever. The weight of the world will be reflected in your eyes. It was her only flaw. Your mother was beautiful, but not without the seasons. They made her what she is today. But they abandoned her, and that’s why I will always hate the seasons after she dies.
I know what you will look like. I am your father. My features will be spun into her’s, and we’ll end up with you. You’ll have my gray eyes. They’ll remind everyone of the tearful clouds in the sky that were swirling overhead the day you’ll be born. Then you’ll have my knotted brown curls, streaked with the fiery red of your mother’s mane. Your beauty will not trick me into loving you just like your mother tricked me.
Just a few minutes ago, I was with your mother. She smiled through grit teeth when I entered her hospital room. Her eyes were bright with hope, but her face was twisted in pain. She thanked me for coming. I just nodded. She said she wanted to discuss names for you. Your mother obviously thought she was going to live.
“I like Autumn,” is what she had said.
“I like Lilly,” is what I answered.
We got into a little argument then. I was sure it would be our last.
“Agree to disagree,” I finally said wearily.
Your mother wouldn’t give up. She lectured me on how we had to decide on a name now, because once you were born we’d be stuck with a nameless child.
But today I made up my mind about you. You don’t deserve a name. You’ll cause your mother to die and your father to drown in his unhappiness forever. You’ll stay nameless.
I fell asleep in one of the waiting room chairs after the quarrel about the names. When I opened my eyes, inhaling hand sanitizer and Febreze, I realized how white the room was. Everything was so clean and wiped-down, shining with the fluorescent lights. Everyone in the room looked unhappy and cold. The receptionist was rubbing her temples with one hand while her fingernails on the other hand clicked on the keyboard. There was a family of four huddled towards the back of the room, shivering and anxiously glancing towards the door. There was an old woman, her face drooping with sorrow and clutching an old framed picture. And there’s me, with my back hunched and dirty palms, watching the pen glide across the paper. Your mother told me I’d be a good writer, but I didn’t think so. If I got a nickel each time I didn’t listen to your mother’s good ideas, I’d be rich. So here I am, an aging man who still has his boring low-paying job at the bank and is about to become a father to a nameless child. I’d clap myself on the back if I could.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. If I could deny that I’m lonely, I would, but I can’t. Because I am. I lost all my friends and family when I married your mother. As expected, they didn’t approve of us. The only people I have left are you and your mother, and you aren’t even born yet. I can’t speak to your mother because she’s in enough pain already. Trying to birth you, of course. I’ll always hate you for enforcing pain on the woman I love.
I wonder what it’ll be like growing up as you. If I were you, I’d be ashamed of myself for killing off my own mother. I’d also be ashamed of my father. Trust me on one thing, my little nameless child, I’m ashamed of myself. Marrying your mother was number two on my Bad Decisions list, because you are number one. You’ll get a lot of hate from me when growing up. I won’t love you, but at least I have the guts to raise you. I’ll regret everything, you know. Maybe that can bring you some reassurance that I’m not a totally horrible person.
George and Yvonne are the grandparents you’ll never meet. My mom, your grandmother, Yvonne, would’ve asked you to call her Grandma Von and to always greet her with two long kisses on her wrinkled cheeks. George, my dad, your grandfather, would’ve liked to go by Grandpa G. and give you bear hugs that probably will crack one of your tiny ribs.
They would’ve asked me your name, and I would’ve shaken my head. Grandpa G. would frown, and Grandma Von would remind me of your mother and something she told me back in elementary school when I didn’t like my name.
“Your name is the only thing you’ll be able to own permanently,” she said. “It’s unique. It makes up who you are. There shouldn’t ever be someone without a name. Then they would live their life thinking they’re a nobody.” Your grandmother had a strong opinion.
A nurse with a tight apron wrapped around her torso strode through the double doors. Everyone in the waiting room gasped, obviously anticipating that something terrible happened to their patient.
“Michael Stones,” she called, and I stood quickly.
This letter slipped from my hands as a chorus of relieved sighs chased my fear around the room. I bent down to pick it up and noticed the nurse’s tan clogs. My back ached.
The nurse cleared her throat urgently. I didn’t like her tone. “Mr. Stones, your wife asked for you. She’s been in labor and is about to have the baby.”
I stared at her with a blank expression on my face, my eyes growing bigger with realization. I gulped hard and followed the nurse out of the room.
There was a long hall beyond it. The nurse’s clogs tapped against the tiled floor.
I clasped my hands together. “Did my wife mention that I wasn’t comfortable watching the baby being born?” She was silent. “I was just going to stay in the waiting room and have you call me when it was all over—”
“Shut up,” the nurse interrupted.
I thought she was rude. She pushed open one of the many doors and led me into a small room. Half of it was wasted by a big bed. On that bed rested your mother, who was screaming in pain.
The nurse rushed over to the other nurses in the room and spoke in a low urgent voice. I knew what she was saying.
I looked away, turning my back to my wife who wriggled with agony. She continued screaming. My head was spinning and it felt like hours before the screaming stopped and the crying began. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I whirled around.
There stood the nurse who had brought me into the room. A blazing smile was engraved from ear to ear. She held you in her arms, and your wails bounced off the walls. My eyes searched your ugly face to see who you most resembled. With a pang of regret, I saw myself reflected in you.
Pushing the nurse aside, I mumbled something about how I was really happy that you were here now. I stumbled over to your mother, who was exhaling one last time. I grabbed her wrists, pulling her closer. Her face went slack and her eyes fluttered.
Your heart beat steadily. Hers didn’t.
I let out a strangled cry.
Maybe someday you’ll understand.