Melanie Pappadis Faranello

I’m supposed to be nice because I’m carrying a newborn after all, a snuggle-bundle that makes people smile like I am some kind of hero or like I have some kind of secret to share, but really the only thing going through my mind when I see you look at me like this is what? Do I know you? Am I supposed to say something to you now? And irritation mixed with exhaustion is just bitter and dry as if I needed another excuse.

I am not fit to be a mother. I know this from the way these people smile at me, like we have agreed upon some shared tender story, some promising secret to the universe—one that involves a better, brighter future for our offspring and all future generations. But really, they do not know that all I have agreed upon today is that I am not fit for this job, that really, Mrs. Happy-face you are much better than I am at this job if you are smiling in nostalgic revelry, if you are remembering your own grown children, thinking how the time flew by, how were they ever that impossibly small. You, Mrs. Face, with that tender-eyed smile, (not me), deserve the gold medal if you think even after all these years, that this is something to smile at me about. Your gaze is pure and genuine, twinkling with pride at all the fuss you want to now spill over onto this baby in my arms, though I am a stranger and so you smile, smile so brightly.

I decide when I am your age, I will cross the street. When I see my younger self walking, arms full of baby all swaddle-blanket and bonnet, I will avoid my eyes, and, certainly, I will not smile; no, if anything, I will pray. I will pray for you, younger self, in your how-is-the-world-so-big?-and when-did-the-sidewalks-get-so-wide?-and was-it-always-this-far-to-the-end-of-the-block? sleepless daze. And if anything, I will offer you a hug or a tissue, but I promise, I will not smile, not gaze at the bundle-rocket in your arms ticking like a time bomb in that impossible space between sleep and cry, and I will not proclaim anything promising or cute. If anything, younger self with baby in arms, I will take a moment to suffer with you, and I will tell you the corner did not get farther, the block has always been the same length, and I will seem like the last honest person on earth. And then I will tell you, yes, you do look like a train wreck, and it will be the first time you’ve laughed in a week, and it will feel like a fresh shower, like sunshine on your drawn face, and then, only then, will we smile at one another, and then, only then, might we look down together and marvel for a brief moment at the way he opens his eyes.

Melanie Pappadis Faranello’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received mentions including winner of The New School’s Chapbook Award Series in Fiction, finalist in Sarabande Books’ Mary McCarthy Prize in Fiction, semi-finalist in The Dana Awards for the Novel, and a top twenty-five winner in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, Literary Mama, among others. She received her MFA in creative writing from The New School.