He woke up sweat soaked. With the bone-chilling sensation of little fingers tighten around his throat. Mary, his girlfriend, slept placidly beside him. He cleared his throat and came out of bed straight to the bathroom.
The man in the mirror was haggard and not even the cold stream of water could refresh it. He rolled a towel and stuck it in the gap between the door and floor. He reached a pack of cigarettes taped below the sink, lighted one with his quivering hands and stood on tip toes to blow the smoke through the high window.
He felt guilty.
He was ashamed of himself.
It has been thirteen days, he thought. But his mind replayed it again as vividly as it was happening right now.
Thirteen days ago, Max was strolling through the soft lawn of Green Park in a cloudy day. He was on the hunt for the special spot to propose to Mary. Max was old fashioned. He believed that nothing is more romantic than a picnic with a red-and-white-checked cloth and a woven woodchip basket with turkey sandwiches and a bottle of champagne.
He found the perfect spot, distant enough to provide quietness and intimacy. He reposed on the grass beholding the puzzled sky trough the dome of pines, visualizing himself with Mary.
The Zen moment was broken by the uproar of a five year old toddler running around an old woman that pulled a stroller with a crying baby. They stopped thirty yards away of him for his bad luck. Exasperating, he thought. Max has never been fond of children—a recurrent topic of dispute with Mary who practically raised her little sister.
Max closed his eyes trying to ignore them, wishing the baby could keep mum.
Three seconds later his wish came true. The wind hauling the grass was the only thing to be heard.
“Please, help me!” The woman yelled with edgy voice.
Without thinking twice he jumped back to his feet and flew to the woman who had the baby on her arms.
“What’s happening ma’am?”
“Help her please,” said the despaired woman handing the baby to Max. “She is chocking.” Her brother gave her from his goodies and one stuck in her throat. Ashamed, the young boy peeked hidden behind the stroller.
The baby writhed on his hands. Max first reaction was turning around for help, but there was no one in sight.
“Help her please,” The woman sobbed curling her arms over her head. The woman’s pleas fell on deaf ears, Max was absent of himself.
Max took a depth breath and managed to regain control of his numb limbs. He inserted his index finger in the mouth of the baby in an effort to clear her throat. Unsuccessfully.
The clock was thinking.
The baby was turning blue.
“Please, save her,” the sobbing woman pulled Max’s raincoat.
His cloudy judgment cleared. Max turned the baby around and embracing her from behind he pushed her stomach as he have seen on television.
He pushed repeatedly until count of ten.
The baby fainted and the woman plummeted.
“No, no, no, c’mon,” Max shouted.
Max stopped and realized his efforts were futile.
The Park was endless and his voice dissipated. The small body of the baby loosened like a rag doll.
“Max, are you ok?” Mary knocked at the door. Max curled on the floor, crying.
“Max,” she insisted. “Please open the door.”
“You can’t keep blaming yourself.”
“I can’t help it,” he answered.