by Brendan Strong
‘Patience is a virtue, seldom seen in women, and never in men’
Spent today waiting for the arrival of my first child. Damn fool obviously missed the flight, or what-have-you between the fore-to-here and the here-to-fore. This left my wife and I in quite a strange place all day. We had been alerted of an arrival, early (a time of day I seldom believe in, and never enjoy). While I had coffee and bread with chocolate spread, my wife was in sublime agony. She gritted her teeth as I said “Isn’t this exciting!” She howled as I whispered “Have I time to have a quick read of the paper? Just before we go to the hospital?” My own reticence in the issue was to be punished with my child’s reticence.
We have now been waiting all day, in a stupor. As first timers, this doesn’t surprise us – we had anticipated some amount of stupor surrounding the birth of the child. Although my preferred stupor would be drink-induced, and I believe my wife’s preference was for the stupor of some kind of medication, which would ease the pain of it all. But the pain we are left with now is that resulting from patience. The pain of waiting. Something my generation had confidently dismissed from our lives with fast food, iPods and credit cards. Damn it all, why can humanity not be more materially-directed?
However, however. Off we went for lunch. A McMa (Middle-class, Middle-aged) lady cursed us to all her friends for taking a table we had arrived at before she had appeared at the restaurant. Her belief in God or good manners seemed to dictate that we would vacate the seats for her and her various McFriends. No chance – we had a McReason. A fine McReason to keep my wife as comfortable as she could be, given the circumstances. At table, we waited for the waiter to wait. “This exquisite agony!” I said to my wife as she groaned at pun or progeny; which it was I have no idea.
After prawns and crab claws and coffee and a smoke, we set off for a walk. The motion, gravity, good God, good Grace or good manners were sure to advance the situation. After all, this is my child. And manners are bred, not learned in my blood line.
Up to the head we drove. This is a round jut of land, out in the sea. One imagines, if you were to see it from the sky, it would remind you of the cranial end of a dead man or a drunk. Which is why I used the term ‘head’. I believe it’s the same reason most people use the term. I suggested this to my wife, who again groaned.
Once again, I wished I had a cane. We passed a lady with two crutches. I thought of stealing one, but a crutch isn’t quite the same as a cane. All silvery and utilitarian. I needed something that seemed unneeded. We stood to the side, allowing the lady and her escort to pass around us on the path. Feeling good for doing something we knew was the right thing to do, but we also knew people seldom cared to do so these days.
We reached near the path end, which leads to a playground. It was too much for my wife and I. Knowing we had one of these bizarre in-media-res beings about our person somewhere, if only we could get to it. We turned as hastily as we could, which turned out to be quite languidly as a result of my inability to turn in a circle of any kind, and my wife’s inability to sympathise with my condition. But now we were walking back, a chronic symptom of waiting. I’ve always said: You know you’ve been waiting too long, when you have to go back over your movements to ensure you’ve done something to cause the effect you are waiting for. I say this to my wife, who, without groaning simply says
Luckily, those around us could see she was quite uncomfortable. If anything, they blamed her for her lack of patience with me. Letting a little thing like labour interfere with a walk like that. If that’s how she was going to be (they were thinking) she should have waited in the car! We walked back, and I waited for her to make the next comment.
She moaned as she clambered into the car. In my generosity, and the spirit of passing the time, I took this as a comment, and continued with my pithy observations of the life around us.
“That lady with the crutches is waiting for us to pass. I suppose she’s repaying the compliment. Wouldn’t do to keep her waiting too long”
“I think she wants to be sure you won’t run her over”
“Of course I won’t! I’m not the type. Anyway, what are those teenagers doing in the playground?”
“I can’t look at the playground. Not without thinking about this little one that’s keeping us waiting”
“Yes. Bloody bad form. When the little one’s born, I think I shall form a vigilante group to deal with that kind of thing. Muttering teenagers playing on swings. Singing Morrissey songs, no doubt.”
“Jesus, they wouldn’t listen to Morrisey”
“Well, they should. Busy down here now, isn’t it. Just as well we came down when we did. Or we could be waiting”
“We were waiting”
“Yes, but for longer. God, how do these people park? Why do they all need tanks? Who’s invading? Oh, there’s Terry. Terry! Hi!”
“Mind the bumps”
“Yes, and the bump… d’you geddit? Geddit”
“Jesus, I get it”
“Why do you keep calling me Jesus? I don’t mind it, of course, it’s great to be compared to such a great figure… but still”
“Please stop talking and drive. Please.”
“Stop. Talking. Now.”
“What? Why ever? I’m only trying to pass the time! You should be grateful!”
“You’re scaring the life out of me, talking with your hands as you drive this bloody car!”
“Oh, I see. Shame it wasn’t the child scared out of you, eh?! Haha!”
“If anything, it’ll be scared back in once it meets you.”
“Good. Bit of fear instils respect.”
“Why did I marry you?”
“Love. It’s a bugger, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know about the child being born through such negative emotions. You should try and cheer up”
“You should try and shut up”
“Did you see the teenagers in the playground? When this little one is born, I’m going to get a vigilante group together…”
“You’ve already visited this subject today. Don’t you remember?”
“Have I? Well, I suppose it’s in the nature of waiting. I always say: You know you’ve been waiting too long, when you have to go back over your movements to ensure you’ve done something to cause the effect you are waiting for.”
We waited in silence the rest of the day, while I Googled setting up a vigilante group.
We wait still.
Will we wait tomorrow? I hope not, for my wife’s sake. I’m quite sure she can’t stand much more of this. I can tell by the look in her eye, and the growl when I ask, chipper as ever, “Well, how are we feeling now?”