It was a hot August night in Marfa, hot and dry like any other August. The streets of the town were quiet on a Wednesday night, unlike the weekends when the tourists and locals roamed the sidewalks, talking and laughing below the sparkling string lights. But in the small homes, scattered throughout town, families sat down to dinner, resting their aching feet and sore muscles after a hard day’s work to support a less than-middle-class lifestyle.
In the distance, in the dark skies outside Marfa, a few tourists stood, quietly, at the venue called Marfa Lights. Flashing lights, a local unexplained phenomena, erupted in the space around them, some nearby and some at a distance, like lightening emanating from the ground, escaping the earth’s secret core, seducing a few “eeeeeeews” and “aaaaaahs” from the small crowd. As midnight approached, the Milky Way crept over the sky shimmering on its slow journey toward the ever-moving horizon, and then it was Thursday.
Life passed unhurried in west Texas, one day after another often the same. As Thursday’s sunset approached, at the dinner table in one small home on Elk Street, Rosa felt a twinge as she set dinner on the table for her husband and young daughter. Her feet ached from the hours waiting tables, but cooking dinner for her family was still a comfort. When the second twinge came, stronger, she saw that the sun had set and knew it was time to call her mother.
Rosa’s mother was at the house in just fifteen minutes as Rosa’s husband, Raul, grabbed the overnight bag. It was over thirty miles to the hospital in Alpine, so, once instructions were shared and Rosa got her daughter, Angela, into bed, they left.
“Mama, call the doctor. I don’t have time,” said Rosa. “Here is the number, on this paper.”
Rosa hugged her mother and sluggishly dropped into the passenger seat of the 1997 blue-faded-to-twilight-gray Silverado, and Raul tossed the bag into the bed of his pickup. The contractions were getting stronger and the next one took her breath away.
“Hurry,” said Rosa.
“Really?” said Raul, remembering the last such trip where little Angela arrived fifteen hours later. He turned the key in the ignition and looked to his right to see his wife’s grimace, filled with worry mixed with pain.
Once out of town, headlights intermittently breached the blackness. Raul pressed down on the accelerator as Rosa’s moans became louder.
“We’ll make it,” Raul assured Rosa, trying to convince himself more than his wife. There was still twenty-six miles to go.
“No. Maybe not.” Rosa leaned over in agony, feeling the urge to push. No, no! This cannot happen. She knew she should not push.
“It’s now. NOW!” she yelled at her husband. Raul did not know if he should brake or push the accelerator to the floor.
He pulled to the side just as he saw the Marfa lights flash and reveal the brick pavilion and pergolas for visitors. Raul pulled into the parking lot.
“Help. He’s coming. I feel it.” It was clear to Raul that his wife’s moans were as much from fear as pain.
Raul carried his wife to the back of the truck, rested her on an old blanket.
“What do I do?”
“I have to push. I have to push. I ca ….” Her breath is gone, clutched in her chest. “… can’t wait.
“He’s coming. Get him”
“I can’t even see you, Rosa,” replied Raul as his hands found the hem of her skirt in the dark. And just then headlights flashed on nearby.
“Hey,” yelled Raul as he waved at the departing car. “Call 9-1-1. Please call 9-1-1. And leave your lights on, can you?”
The car backed up so his lights shined on the back of Raul’s truck as the man’s wife dialed her cell phone.
He felt the baby’s slick head and held on to the small squirming life in the palms of his hands as Rosa screamed with what turned out to be the final push, and there lay his son, on the frayed orange and blue blanket, looking up expectantly, as if he just walked into a room he’d never seen before.
“Now what? What do I do?”
“Put him here, on my tummy. But, first you must tie his cord.”
“With what?” Raul’s voice rose with panic.
“Here,” says Rosa, as she puled the ribbon from her hair and hands it to her husband.
“Do I have to cut the cord?”
“No. Just tie it and lay our son here,” as she patted her stomach. And find a clean cloth so we can wrap him.”
She touched the still wet head of her new son. He was quiet as he squirmed and Rosa heard approaching sirens.
“There’s a blanket for the baby in my bag,” she instructed Raul.
“Is she okay? Is the baby okay?” asked the stranger in the car. “I did not hear him cry.”
“He is good,” said Rosa, feeling more cramps as the ambulance drove up and the paramedics surrounded her. Her son lay content as activity bustled around her, his eyes locked on the flashing lights.
Raul kissed his wife on her forehead.
“Manuel?” suggested Rosa, looking up at her husband. He smiled.
“Yes. Manuel,” said Raul.
“Manuel Milagro,” said Rosa, gazing at her new son.
“I’ll follow the ambulance into Alpine,” and he kissed Manuel and Rosa before walking to the truck.
Lying in the back of the ambulance in the Marfa Lights parking lot, Rosa cradled her new son, Manuel, his dark eyes open wide as he stared, calmly, at the sky, with the flashing golden Marfa lights and, everywhere, thousands of twinkling stars looking back at him. When the medic had swaddled the newborn, Manuel’s eyes never left the skies; and when Rosa put her new son to her breast, he looked up, his eyes lit with the old world mixed with the brilliance of promise. Rosa smiled, feeling the comfort of the pillows propping her up and the warmth of her son. An abundance of treasures brimmed within her heart and as far as the eye could see.
Sandra Fox Murphy
© 2016 Sandra Fox Murphy. All rights reserved.