The first time Leo died before my eyes, he was two months old. I dropped him on a sidewalk in downtown Milwaukee as I exited a restaurant, the first consequential faltering of my lifetime. Holding a juice drink, clutching Leo between my forearm and chest, I missed a step, tossed the cup, and fell forward, extending my now free hand to prevent me from landing on top of him. Nevertheless, his head cracked against concrete like a ball dropped against the sweet spot of a maple bat, the tight new coils of his essence a telltale sound effect for the audience of patrons dining alfresco. Instead of applause, they responded with silence against my instantaneous begging.
“Somebody help me,” I said. My pleas sounded inside my head like child’s play, as if real cries can echo something pretend. “Somebody, find my husband.”
I prayed, knees bent against the grainy slab of pavement, a perfect match to the imprint on the back of the baby boy I’d pulled into the apron of my skirt, my thighs now bare, the seams of my underpants the only stitches holding me together. An old man with goggles for glasses stood up from a table and limped toward me.
“God takes care of the little ones,” he said.
He cupped Leo’s head with his palms, leathery and wide like baseball mitts. Another stranger called an ambulance. I pulled down my shirt and released my breast from the buoy of my bra, an offering to the baby I thought might die. His wet lips parted, and his gums palpated my knot of flesh, his crying muffled by the warm linen of my bosom. By the time paramedics arrived, Leo had breastfed himself back to life. Later at the Brewers game, the sound of near death reverberated throughout the stadium as I held my baby swaddled in the miraculousness of resurrection.
[Continued in Confrontation 110]