Keep Breathing

by John Wentworth Chapin

While you sleep, I wait for you to die. These months, all these months! They wear on me. I don't want you to die — you must know that. I don't even fucking believe in God, but I pray just in case. I want the lifeguards and policemen and hall monitors to really get it when I say that I don't want you to die. When you do die, I don't want to be caught unawares. I don't dare expect it, but I can't help waiting for it.

That this could happen has been hideously  clear since that first electric moment of I'm pregnant when I stopped in the hallway in my ragged tightie-whities with a “?” and she said “!” and I thought about all the reasons she might have to trap me — there are so many fucked-up untrue stories that it's hard to disbelieve all of them. True fact: since I was ten I wanted a kid more than a pony or a Mustang. When everyone else wanted to be a cowboy or fireman, I wanted to be a father.

Keep breathing.

You sleep, but you must breathe. Every time they smeared the ultrasound jelly above you, I knew you'd be stiff, unresponsive — but each time your heartbeat grew stronger. Now the gates threaten to close on your infancy. They mustn't close on the wrong side of you: for then I will die.