Lacuna by Jesse Patrick

My brother was born silent. When he emerged, slick and wet from my mother, we all stopped breathing. The nurses in their pastel scrubs stopped breathing. The doctor with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows stopped breathing. My father with his hands on top of my mom's stopped breathing. My mother with her hands beneath my dad's stopped breathing. And me, standing on my tip-toes, peeking in from the hallway through the tiny square of glass in the door, I stopped breathing too.

There were summers before he was born when my father and I would spend most of the day underwater. We would play Cannon in the pool in our backyard, me in my blue daisy-print two-piece that smelled like plastic and chlorine and my father in his swim trunks with pockets that would swell with water like balloons. He would cup his hands before him, and voila! A step. I'd climb up and he'd launch me. For a second, I'd be above the water and above my father, floating. It would be enough time to realize I was airborne before I'd come crashing back to the surface.

That is what it felt like when Nathan came out. The doctor held him in his two big hands, still connected to my mother, and for a moment we were all floating above the hospital looking down. We were frozen there, stuck between what happened and what comes next, the hand-step and the splash, suspended like a drop of water from a leaking faucet:building, building, before we fell.

Then Nathan cried. Splash!

The nurses rushed for a towel, the doctor wiped his forehead with the back of his wrist, my father closed his eyes and bowed his head, and my mother exhaled for all of us.


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