Thursday, June 28, 2012


Stillborn Futures
By John Ogden

I press my face into the scope to look, but don't open my eyes.

At least, not at first.

I know what I will see. I know what the QPR lenses will show me. Maybes. Ifs. Could-have-beens.


Almost reluctantly, I open my eyes. The lights of an indice at the center of ten coordinate points is the first thing to resolve as the blurriness falls from my sight.

Then I see her. Her.


Breath catches in my throat a little. I see her eyes, aquamarine, the fronds of blond bangs, the wide, generous smile. I see the memories, flickers of touches and words and fights and compliments that have led to this moment, the moment of a younger me reaching for her, kissing her just lightly on the forehead. Shaky arms extend, and then I, he, gently takes the baby from her, rocks it, coos to it.

I turn my eyes away, spin one of the coordinate dials to eradicate the images, rub at my face with shaking hands.

A child. A child to pass my heritage on to. A child to tell about my father, my family.

Our family.

There is more. I know it. Another careful calibration of the dials shows a younger me making love to another woman, a woman who fell into my arms in another universe, another fragmented fractured path of a possible reality. I know her features immediately, know her face. Tracy. At another indice, she too is straining in the throes of childbirth, squeezing, hands white knuckled against sheets as she brings forth new life, life we share together, teach together, learn from together.

I throw the dial again, throw it to a series of coordinates I know as a possible future with a woman named Teresa. Seductive, motherly hips, handsome features, sharp hair, a poet's soul. A handful of degrees in one direction, and she too is giving birth, bringing our child into the world.

Another throw of the dial, another life lost in possiblity. Names track one by one from my list.

Glenda, Rebecca, Sabrina, Allie, Yvette.

Lives that could have been. Lives that might have been.

And in every one of them, a child.

Every one of them except the one I have chosen.

A few carefully calibrated twists of the dial from the moment of the life I am living now bring me to the future of the path I walk. Gray hair, in this future. Louise. Hand in hand, we walk, memories flickering over the simple, calm pleasures of a life as devoid of bumps as it is of purpose. In this path, there are no children. There is no job. There is nothing but simple pleasure, a life as passing as a breeze, touching so many, and yet only so lightly that my name is forgotten as easily as is the legacy of my family. Six months after my body is lowered into the darkness of the earth, I am nothing. It is as if I had never been born, as if my father, my grandfather, his father and perhaps men standing even further back had never been born.

Here, now, I turn away from the QPR lenses, wipe the tears from my eyes, mourn futures that might have had quieter, less painful deaths.

If only I had resisted the urge to see them.

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John Ogden was conceived of a government form and a passing mailbox. He lives somewhere out in the woods of a rural land more akin to the fantasy realms of literature than real life, and his favorite dirt bikes will always be the broken ones.

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