The usher opened the door for me, I was grateful as my hands were full of the best snack pack one could dream of. Popcorn, pomegranate fizzy water, both chocolaty and sour candies, nuts! I was set up to ruin my dinner and enjoy it.
"Thank you!" I said gladly
It was dark but to my surprise, there was only one seat in the entire theater. This was not a normal theater. As I walked to the single-folded chair that sat in the middle of the room, I felt the floor begin to decline and I was walking downhill. I looked at the walls as I walked and realized that it wasn't a square room, it was shaped more like a cone and the screen was no bigger than a large screen TV. The artwork displayed as the screen saver looked defined on the 40x40 inch screen but the walls also projected the rest of the artwork but looked blurred on the velvety wallpaper.
When I sat down I realized that the shape of the room and the projection onto the walls, which reached just past my seat, created a severe focus on the screen that was now only 10 feet in front of me. I almost felt as if I should lean forward.
Something within me felt manipulated, I set my snack pack on the swivel table thing and instead of leaning forward, I reclined my chair and folded my arms.
I hadn't been seated for long when the show began.
A baby lay on their belly in a crib in the corner of an empty bedroom. The crib and child were in focus on the screen but the details of the room were blurry on the walls. I could tell there was wood paneling on the walls and the bed had no headboard and multiple thin blankets. I got the feeling it was sunny outside by the lighting but no sound or music played. Silence.
The baby stirred and grunted and fussed as it tried to turn over. I guess the sound was on, it was just silent in the room before. The baby's head seemed too heavy it got tired and started to cry. I was so bothered for some reason, that I could not snack or relax. What have I gotten myself into, I wondered.
It felt like a long time had gone by and the crying continued. I sighed and began to focus on distracting myself as the anxiety rose from my belly. The baby continued to cry and began to try to turn over again and again. Giving up repeatedly. I realized the right arm of the child wasn't able to move from underneath its body. It kept trying to roll to that side, so the arm just stayed tucked in and looked so painfully frustrating. My elbow felt stiff just watching this. I extended my arm until it made its usual little pop as pressure released.
The child began to kick its feet furiously.
All the little fingers and toes curled up into fists and balls.
The head lifted but shook as it cried. Tired, it put its face flat onto the mattress.
The thin blanket muffled the cry.
It lay there exhausted, still.
The right elbow still stuck under its body looked red.
"What the hell... what is happening?" I whispered to myself eyes darting around the scene seeking movement.
I realized I was leaning forward and the popcorn had fallen to the floor. The cries were muffled, stuck. Not like the air wasn't going in, but like the kid forgot to breathe after wringing out its lungs. The slight shaking of the body and the misleading silence told me what came next.
Finally, the head wrenched upward and the kid gasped for air. The scream that followed made my jaw clamp down like a vice and began to grind. It pierced my ears and rang in my brain like a ninja version of Freddy Krueger, doing parkour inside my skull during a fire alarm. I covered my ears. The sound bounced off the walls and filled the theater in the same manner as it did in my head. Over 30 minutes had gone by and I felt rage welling up within me. I wanted to leave.
"How long are they going to do this, my God!" I spit out of my mouth.
The baby's right shoulder hunched, folded under, and finally, the kid set its head down. Still sobbing, the kid worked its right hand straight out towards the left and its head resting on its right shoulder, almost on its side. The screams seemed less sharp and it appeared this move released some of the distress the kid was in. It lay crooked and exhausted but you could see the red fingers of the right hand wiggling. I thought of how it feels when your arm falls asleep. The pins and needles feeling that I was watching made me feel itchy.
I popped my knuckles as the screams slowed. The kid seemed to soften but lay there all crooked. The right arm was now extended to the left but still pinned under its chest.
It lay like that and the sobs slowed back to silence as the lighting in the room shifted slightly as the speed of the film was sped up.
In this brief pause of emotional hijacking, I thought about leaving. I figured this was a short before my movie started but it is never ending. I was given a ticket to this show by responding to the theater's email promotion. It said, "Sign up for a private showing of your favorite show". I thought it would be a unique thing to try for my birthday, but this is NOT what I had selected. Was this a prank, was I stupid for replying and signing up?
As I was debating on leaving, the speed of the film slowed back to normal as the kid woke back up. Its head lifted and bobbed. It grunted and squirmed its legs and left arm. This time it escalated quickly and it was screaming once again. Fire alarm status screams, banging in my head. The sight of the red little fingers of the right hand made me so angry. Jaw tight and teeth feeling like they could break, I stood up.
"TURN THE @#$% OVER," I shouted.
The kid, I swear heard me, because it swung its arms and legs franticly pushing with all its might. At the peak of its torment, it finally made its way onto its back and lay there screaming enthusiastically. Taking in big gulps of air, and expelling them with the same force. The right arm, finally free, didn't move much. It was then I noticed a mole on its right arm; I have the same one.
Classical music swelled in the theater and I can't remember noticing when it began. It felt consuming. I realized I had a tear on my cheek and was still standing. My anger solidified into determination at the base of my spine. I began to admire this child for what it had just overcome. The focus so sharply on this baby had made me unaware of anything else. Myself, my snacks, and the room all just seemed stupid in comparison to the human turmoil of such a frustrating experience. It was horrible. I began to feel relief as I watched the baby calm once again, the speed of the film increased, and my heart followed the melody of the cello.
I sat down and pushed the scattered snack tray away from me. I pulled out my palm journal from my purse and began to make a list of the things I find difficult in my life. I listed the things I feared, the things I hated, the things that made me mad. I had decided. I was going to do them, I was going to eliminate them. I was going to be wrong and learn and grow and move my body gratefully.
I watched as the baby version of myself slept and the tears dried. After some time it awakened suddenly with a jerking motion of its right hand. Moving both of its arms freely, it smiled.
Watching myself overcome my very first struggle made me realize how deep life is from beginning to end. I have spent too much time avoiding struggle, seeking constant comforts when it is the human experience to overcome. One can not overcome what they are avoiding. One can not overcome if they give up. I will begin again and again, and I will continue to overcome.
In the past "good parents" let their babies cry it out. Today that is not recommended. The complexities of parenting are endless. While parents are trying to figure out the balance of self-soothing and love attachment, a baby is introduced into the paradoxical world that we all struggle through from beginning to end. Cry and scream if you need to but do the things that are hard for you. Do not give up, rest. Ask for help! A lot of us who were raised to self-soothe forget that other people are around and happy to make life a bit lighter and brighter for one another.
About the Creator
Born in a beautiful town in Arizona where the cowboys and the hippies meet. I walk with one foot in front of the other, exploring the difference between fear and freedom. I am growing into a fearless force of relentless kindness.