He goes to the bus station to meet her. She said eight pm and already it is half past. He gets impatient in the waiting areas. It is too big for its traffic. Hard to believe in overpopulation when chasms open up between bodies.
They move past him. Arriving, departing; going nowhere. Going somewhere the same as here but the names swapped out. In other places different faces the same as these. They wear their exhaustion like armor. Eyes say do not speak to me. Earphones say I can never be far enough away from the others.
His own earphones hurt his ears. The music keeps him company. They say it makes things cinematic. They say it is a desire to be the hero in one’s own film: a cinematic narrative delusion. He takes them out. A rush of noise. A closeness of the world. He puts them back in. It is better.
He walks over to the small newspaper shop. Headlines. Pictures. Celebrities in trouble. The funeral of an unknown dead baby. He stops. Everything sinks. This is the world, he thinks. He can’t stop thinking it.
At three weeks old the neonate starts responding. Attempts at primitive communication; the first sign of the fall into language. It means the neonate recognises the mother. Her world is already becoming populated by proto-persons. Her hands flail uncontrolled in front of her. From a blastocyte to this. She is unspooling into humanity. She is amazed by the world around her. She isn’t able to know any better.
He fixes his eyes on the story. Front page small side column. It wants to be read but doesn’t want to intrude. It is apologetic. So sorry to announce it but there are dead babies. This one has no name.
There are parents out there. They have names but no one knows them. They didn’t want to be parents or couldn’t. They left him wrapped in a blanket on the street. Abandoned but wrapped up. Unwanted but held in the warmth of soft fabric. No one found him until he was dead. Three weeks old.
Neural development begins at three weeks into gestation. The embryonic ectoderm forms the neuroectoderm that becomes the neural tube. Neurons are produced. They migrate. Differentiation, division, the formation of the hints of an architecture. Anything could go wrong. A prenatal explosion as synaptic configurations blossom.
Later they will be parred back. Environmental input glossed experience selects pathways to keep and pathways to lose. Desire lines in the head. Afterwards it will separate from its housing. It will be torn from the quiet and the warm.Brought into the world where the raw input is too much. Weeks go by.
In the first month…but there is no month.The nameless thing is dead. It is so small and so cold and so dead.
He feels himself softening. He is wilting. Shriveling on the spot. Deflating like a balloon left over weeks after the party has finished. He feels as though someone took his insides and scooped them out, took them somewhere to be quietly incinerated. It’s not nothing that is left. He feels something alien inside moving around on its own. It swims through the vacancy as if hollowness were liquid. It is a feeling that resembles a weird deep sea creature seen on a documentary. It moves through the midnight zone of him. It pulses with a terrible luminescence.
The story is still there. All his solidity as evaporated along with any thoughts of her arrival. They are going to the theater. They will enjoy a night of culture. They will drink alcoholic drinks. People will see them and they will see people. They will rush to get there. They will laugh at something or other. The world made stable with plans will loose its jagged edges.
The night will be full up with all the things that have abandoned him. All that exists is this newspaper. This print. These words. How could anything else dare to exist? The world was a smear on the purity of something that was not the world. It was improbable. Undignified.
The police feared no one would come. There is no family. Workers might come. The ones who found his frail softness gone rigid; or would they stay away? And who were they? What do people who find dead babies do? He imagined them hand in hand. A white cis heterosexual couple. He imagined them smiling. The first day off they had together in weeks. No interruptions. They would start the day with a walk to their favourite cafe. A little light indulgence. He imagined them happy. They might not have been any of these things.
They could have been a street cleaner reaching down with those claw arm mechanism to pick up the thrown away things. The detritus might have fallen as the prosthetic gripped it. It might have tumbled to the ground. The blankets gone into disarray revealing a face. A tiny cancelled face.
Or a dog walker’s dog. Sniffing. The strange way dogs know that something is wrong. Pleading looks at its owner.
Years of counselling. Years of waking up with that face floating on the peripheries of dreams. Even worse, a stoic acceptance. A shrug of the shoulders. A rapid moving on. A story told years after down the pub. The day I found that baby.
He moves away from the shop and back into the center of the station. He tries not to feel anything. He puts on another song and watches another bus load of bodies disembark and gather bags that contain evidence of lives lived in constant transport. Everything is movement in these places. The kind of movement that is full of anxiety and purpose. You could believe things mattered here.
The words three weeks old echo in his head. It is an accusation. He is not sure what it is against. Probably against everything. Other words spin swill around him. Stagnant water stirred by an absent minded monster. The baby was found a year ago. The funeral is tomorrow. The police are inviting the public to attend.
To relieve the sadness, he thinks. To pretend that no life goes un-mourned. He moves back towards the little stand where the paper sits. It’s red top and bold white lettering. The image of a pregnant Royal crowding out the front page.
Detective told that he had been well-fed and healthy. And wrapped in blankets. He wanted to make sense of it. He imagined the infant’s cries in the cold morning air. He imagined the distress and the lack of any sense of that distress. No reasons could be conjured. No thoughts that someone would come. Only an infinite awareness that no one was coming.
He imagined the mother. It had been too hard. She would have had reasons. She had loved her little boy- surely he had a name- but couldn’t face it. His crying. His screaming. His being sheer need. His face might have reminded his dead father. His face might have reminded her of the man who raped her and left her with this. H
e knew about postpartum depression. He knew about puerpal psychosis. There would be reasons. He lingers on edge of the idea of reasons and justifications. He leans over, daring himself to jump into the abyss beneath.
He looks up at the arrivals board. Big yellow lettering on the disrupted black screen restoring him. Swimming in the black for a few moments. Letting the letters bob to the surface. Now the words form. The meanings radiate out from them. Her bus has arrived. Stance 23. He walks briskly towards it and waiting for her. Eyes tracking body coming down stairs and onto tarmac and through door and into his arms.
He buries his head in her softness. She says things to him. The embrace comes to an end. He says things to her. They smile at one another. They go to wherever it is they are going. They do whatever it is they are doing. Tomorrow a body will be placed into the earth.
This is the world. This is it.