The Baby

Nobody knew where I had been. Nobody knew where I was going. I was alone. I had begun alone and I was going to finish up alone, and in all the intervening time nobody was going to be there or look at me or talk to me or try and talk to me because of my excellent exercise in caution. My peace of space was intact, and this gave me peace of mind, which must have lasted only so long as I recognised it, because very quickly an unearthly ebullience was stirred up in me at the thought of such loneliness.

In my arms I held a Baby. Before you say anything, I should make clear that Babies don’t count.

I forget what the weather was like, and I forget how much time it took for me to come through it. I do remember that it was the vertical sort of weather and not the horizontal kind. I remember being very tired and I remember how heavy the Baby felt (The Baby felt 8lb 7oz). Babies are dense. I am certain that we might be able to use them for nuclear energy someday, and have often thought about writing to a Scientist to suggest this, but have been unable to find the words or the syntax. My room has four corners and one corner is for piles of attempts to Scientists.

After a time I came to my small house in the woods, and stepped in. There are two rooms in my house: one for eating, and one for sleeping. I found the Spare Corner of my bedroom and put the Baby there. It seemed to not precisely sit there; that is to say, it seemed to sort of sit there, but not entirely. There was a fraction of the Baby’s behaviour that was not taken up with sitting, and I could not say what this was. This realisation unnerved me and I quickly convinced myself that I was thirsty, hastening to the welcome loneliness of the kitchen. I only get cold water through the pipes, but I ran my hand under the tap for several moments anyway. I pretended that I’d misplaced my cup even though I knew it was always in the same cupboard, and I drank it more slowly than I ought. I tried to seize the solace to empty my mind, but it was impossible. How long would this Baby have to be in my Spare Corner? It was my worst corner, where the cobwebs lay thickest and the rot had started, but it was still useful. What if something else ended up needing to go there for a while? I began to make a mental list of things that could go in my Spare Corner, and then thought better of it because the whole point of a corner being spare is that it should be able to accommodate almost anything for discrete periods of time. Were I to spend too long thinking about it, I would define it and thereby destroy it, and I would have lost perhaps my most important utility. Still, all the more reason for me to deal with the Baby sooner rather than later.

My thoughts turned directly to it, briefly, and then recoiled with slight disgust, or fear. No doubt I was drawn in, but I somehow didn’t want to dwell on it. After a second, longer cup of water and several deep breaths, I passed back through to my bedroom, allowing the Baby into my peripheral vision and hoping perhaps that this would yield a new insight, which it did not. Diagonal to the Spare Corner is my chair and desk. I sat on the chair, with my elbows on the desk and the tips of my fingers to my lips so as to sharpen the mind. In my head I began to build a complete picture of what I wanted the Baby to look like. I recalled what 8lb 7oz looked like and, having done that, began to fashion the details of the Baby’s face and digits. I would like to tell you meticulously what those details were but, unfortunately, like a dream – and this fancy was in many ways no different – they have faded from my memory. I would be very surprised however if they were not the sorts of details that any other reasonable person might expect from a baby.

When I had this image concretely in mind, I steeled myself and turned swiftly to stare at the Spare Corner and the Baby which mostly sat in it, looking directly at it for the first time.

The Baby did not look much like my imagined image, which was disappointing but not unexpected, seeing as I knew that for likely effect one must spend months or even years concentrating singly on an idea before it will liberate itself. However, I’ve never struck lucky before and was hoping that maybe this was going to be my own personal Story of Fortune to tell any future passers-by. It clearly wasn’t, mainly because there was still a Baby and the emerging smell of shit in my Spare Corner.

It was obvious that at some stage I was going to have to physically enter the Baby’s space and fulfil its worldly needs with food, clothes and bedding. But before I could define the Baby in what I did, I had to define it in what I thought. It needed a name. I could not name it immediately, because I did not know its nature. I did not know its favourite food, or where it liked most to sleep at night; I did not know its habits or routine. Most importantly, I did not yet know what this Baby stood for, nor what it stood against. Yet frustratingly, I would not know any of these things properly until I could name it, which ostensibly relied upon knowing these facts. You understand the problem I had.

If one is mature and reasonable enough then it is possible for the human observer to approximate objectivity in a near enough sense. The most important thing, however, is to conjure up many wide, gentle smiles. Gentle smiles are like rungs on a ladder to God, as one climbs up to make peace with the universe.

I smiled as widely and as gently as possible and stared at the Baby with an intensity that was maybe too intense. I resisted the urge to get up and skip ahead to the easier, mundane things, even though the smell was becoming more pungent. It was tempting, for I missed being able to point the Baby somewhere, but it was imperative that I did things in the rightest order possible. All the while I tried to detect something of the Baby’s nature with my complex mental apparatus, but as time wore on it became more difficult because the effort became more painful. I felt the space around me become like an inflated airbag that was now expanding against my cheeks and trunk, cutting off my vision before it would cut out my airflow. The Baby repulsed me more and more with every moment I gave my attention to it until, for my own sanity, I had to rise up out of it all and push time forward myself, squashing the moments into a single whole that might be experienced instantaneously. That is how I am telling this to you now, because to recall each single moment would deposit more details of remembrance into yours or my head than could ever be borne comfortably by anyone.

“In what felt like an age”, I began to feel myself being driven towards a genuine conclusion. That is how I knew that it was genuine, because it felt like a bull behind me rather than an ox before me. By now I was sweating profusely and the wide grins had coalesced into stone grimace that was beginning to compromise my reason. Maggots that had emerged from the woodwork were now congregating under my clothes and over my skin. The capillaries were bursting and I was weeping blood. (I have been to the doctor and she tells me there is nothing wrong, but I am certain that on that day something in my sternum cracked. I haven’t been able to do my morning exercises since.)

I screamed from the roof of my mouth – exactly the way the singers aren’t supposed to, yet everything else in me had emptied or escaped. I screamed the Baby’s name, again and again and again, each time searching for that unearthly ebullience that had greeted my loneliness, but unable to find it. (I have not found it in so long now that I have almost forgotten it.) I was not left bereft, however. Rather, the joy and relief that eventually stepped through was different. It was not the visiting kind that emerges from the abyss before you and spirals up into heaven, needling you with empty pleasure and ultimately mocking your senses. It was the kind that one finds in floors, walls and ceilings. The kind that moves from A to B and back again on a straight, well-lit path that you may also tread in your spare time, or in its company. It is your equal and yet will come when called.

I now knew the name of the Baby that was bawling in the Spare Corner of my bedroom. For a moment I had feared that it would have consumed the rest of my life with a stubborn refusal to yield data, and its namelessness thereof. Without a name, the Baby had been an unseemly whole that repudiated any attempt to engage with it, evading the direct line of sight – it was a miracle I had been able to stare at it for so long. But with a name, the constituent parts of the Baby’s nature could now be delineated and examined individually under reason, before being pegged back onto this generous name that prevented the Baby from falling to bits, as had happened to me some time ago.


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