Warren said, “Just get in the cab,” and I did, and Warren told the cab driver where to go. I wasn’t even listening to where Warren told him to drive, how and when and why. I felt the wind lift up my dress, pressed it down over my slip as I got out of the cab. I glanced toward the front of the hospital but really didn’t see the name. I felt knocking in my stomach and knew he was on his way like an express train. I couldn’t keep my fingers still, so I consigned them to the solitary confinement of my pockets. Several nurses stood over me. One of them squeezed my hand before I passed out. When I came to, I was told I birthed a boy, that he was pale as potatoes. When the two head nurses brought him to me, I turned away, couldn’t look my boy in the face. But then one of the nurses placed her hand on my shoulder, and I tilted my head toward him. His right eye didn’t look steady, flew like a ball in a tennis match. I reached up and grabbed him from the nurse wearing a patch over one eye, cradled him in the crook of my left arm. The nurse who’d held him, her free eye twitched as she said, “Your boy got dropped by one of the nurses in training. She reported to us that she slipped on a handkerchief.” I wanted to bawl that one-eyed nurse out, talking about my first born that way. “Where’s Warren the Third?” I asked. Those two nurses just blinked. “Where’s my husband, the boy’s father?”
II: Great-Aunt Esther
If Ruthie Mae had listened to me, Warren the Third would have been all right.I told her to take Warren over to New York Hospital, a trustworthy hospital, the city’s best hospital, in my opinion. She and Warren Junior, the boy’s father, don’t know enough about the city yet to know which hospital is which. The place they chose to take Warren to is a muddle and a maim, a place where patients have lodged complaints. But I didn’t say anything to Warren Junior, only told Ruth because Warren Junior never wants my advice, being that I’m Ruth’s aunt, not his. I’ll tell you how I know Warren doesn’t take advice well. A few months ago, he asked me where’s the best place to shop for babies’ clothes. Well, I told him to go down to Macy’s on Thirty-Fourth Street, because that Macy’s has got everything, only to learn he went to Alexander’s, a second-rate store. From now on, I’ll pretend I don’t hear him when he asks me something, let him back himself into a broom closet like a mangy dog evading a dog catcher.
A woman’s got to know her place, and Ruth’s Aunt Esther don’t know that. Okay to give advice now and then. But don’t always expect people to follow through on what you tell them. I checked out the hospital I sent Ruth to. Problem is, you can’t control who staffs a hospital. Can’t always weed out the below average and average workers. That woman who dropped Warren, my son, ought not to be a practicing nurse anywhere. If I had had my way, I would’ve sued the city. But Ruth got scared, us being newcomers to the North and colored. These days, I spread my palms, ask God to reconfigure Warren’s brain cells. Can’t bear to watch him – big eyes with a spindly frame, thud of his head always landing on a pillow. These days, I soak my feet in warm Epsom-salt bath water, bathe my face with hot wash cloths, breathe out exhaust fumes I carry in my lungs, taxing myself with Warren’s care.