The Birth of Acacia - A Slight Delay
At four thirty in the morning, I opened the front door to my townhouse in Walkersville. I leaned on the glass storm door for a moment, then stepped out. I knew I had to change my circumstances. I had been falling asleep standing up as I was trying to help my wife. She was attempting to induce labor with our second child, a daughter, by way of exercise. The night air would revive me and get me back to her side, I though.
It worked for a while. I headed out around the block at Fortune Place. The glow of the streetlights reassured me while my eyes widened in the mostly-dark night and gave me the illusion of being more awake. The smell of the warm summer evening energized my body. However, I had been raised on the idea that going without sleep was smart because it was what high achievers did. As a teen, I'd trained myself to rest four hours a night. In retrospect, it was a weird habit. It left me always on the edge of too little sleep and susceptible to feeling sleep-deprived before anyone else.
Staying awake overnight, even to deliver a baby, felt beyond me. Desperate for adrenaline, I caromed through the grass near the road. I hopped over puddles and stumbled through a patch of gravel. But when the path grew level and smooth again, my thoughts drifted. Abruptly, I saw myself dancing in a club. Strobe lights made me squint at my surroundings. Two girls danced up next to me, one in black. Beside us, a table of people were eating colored plastic bubbles. A girl popped one in her mouth. The young men and women around the table laughed. In their hands and mouths, they manipulated bubbles the size of golf balls or tennis balls. The bubbles were translucent like fruits of colored air.
"Ugh." I stopped under a streetlight and blinked. This was what had happened to me inside my house as I'd listened to Diane and Jenn talk. It had happened again as I'd paced up and down the townhome stairs. I kept getting flashes of dream life.
The fragments were here, too, even outside.
I turned and aimed for my front door, half a block away. A single dream image came to me as I sped up my pace. For a moment, I was back in a dance club again. This time, the floor around me was empty. Instead of strobe lights, there was a single spotlight. A woman in white spandex danced under it.
"I'm back," I said as I strode through the entrance. A wind chime next to my door jingled.
Jenn and Diane turned to face me.
"Do you feel better?" my wife asked. She had taken a seat in the space between the dining room and living room. Her sister stood by her, looking wide awake and ready.
"Not really. Is it going to be okay if I nap?"
"How can you nap?" someone asked, either Jenn or Leslie. I had blinked and hadn't noticed anyone talking.
"Yes," Diane replied.
"Okay." I tried to give everyone in the room a reassuring smile. I had forgotten about the other people in the house. Our friend Leslie was there. She occupied a corner of the couch. Like Jenn and Kendra, she had come to act as a douala for Diane. Kendra had left on the next leg of her trip but Jenn had stayed. The midwife, Gail, had arrived as well and was hanging around the house somewhere. Everyone had rushed over for the initial contractions. But we had gone into a holding pattern, waiting for more, and all I could think about was getting to bed. My legs took me up the carpeted stairs.
My body seemed to be shutting down. My school of thought had winnowed itself to a single fish of think and then into a tadpole of emotion. And even my feelings seemed to flee, distant and elusive in the currents of my mind.
From the viewpoint of Gail Chapin, it was a few second later that I walked into the room she had occupied.
"Your husband came in," she told Diane the next morning. She had laid herself down in our queen sized bed because she was trying to get much-needed rest. The room was dark. I marched in without turning on any of the lights. I didn't need them. Gail froze. "He didn't seem to look at me. He didn't even notice I was there. I was worried. He stumbled to the edge of the bed and laid down next to me. I didn't know what to do."
Gail held still for a second as she wondered if she should announce herself. Here was her client's husband literally getting into bed with her. My body lay six inches away. Gail normally administered to Mennonite families who had strict rules about propriety.
"I was paralyzed for a moment because I was trying to think of something to say. Then he took a deep breath. A moment later, he took another, quieter breath. By his third breath, I knew he was asleep."
After a while, Gail felt reassured. In fact, she managed to doze off.
Only in the morning did we gather all together for more discussion. Diane recapped the story from Gail about me falling asleep. Soon enough, we returned to the main topic of the childbirth. Everyone was thinking about the best way for Diane to induce her labor. She had tried nearly everything.