Two Syndromes At Once

Robert Lopez



A mongoloid baby is crying on the subway and so now everyone is a hostage. Everyone is either sitting next to or across from the baby or standing up and away from it but we might as well be bound and gagged in the back of a gas station. We all look at each other like we don’t know what but it’s undeniable and true that we want this baby dead or to stop crying so we can go back to the magazine we are reading or the music we are listening to or the frayed hem of the skirt we can’t stop touching. Everyone feels badly about this, about wanting this baby dead or to stop crying because it is a Mongoloid baby and it is the middle of the day. Perhaps if it were early morning or late at night people would feel differently and yes, it’s true, that everyone knows you’re not supposed to call this kind of baby a Mongoloid anymore, but this is what we call him. Maybe if this baby weren’t a Mongoloid everyone would feel differently, but there’s no way of knowing. We think most people don’t want to be around a crying baby regardless if it’s a Mongoloid or not and no matter what time of day it is, either. What some people don’t know is the doctor who they named this syndrome after was an awful human being and his thoughts on the whys and wherefores of this condition is even more offensive than calling the baby a Mongoloid in the first place. We tell this to the mother and then we tell her we have nothing against the Mongolians as a people and that we respect Genghis Khan as much as anyone. We might even mention that millions of people are related to Genghis Khan and that is most impressive no matter how you look at it. We tell her we are not here to judge anyone and then we ask what is the baby’s name and does he always cry like this in public. The woman looks at us and says, how dare you. We don’t know how to respond so we apologize. We say that we don’t mean to upset her and this is true. We feel sorry for this woman and it’s possible we are already in love with her. It’s possible we have profound feelings for this woman because of what she has to go through every day with a baby like this and also she is pretty and has nice hair and toes. This makes us wonder about the father and what his problem is and if he is still in the picture. We’d bet his name is Don, if we had to bet on it, and we’d bet this woman has been looking for a way out since she met him. There’s no doubt she feels trapped and who could blame her, what with Genghis Khan and his brother, Don. This is when we realize we might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome and we ask each other if this is what is happening. One of us says we have two syndromes going on at once if such is the case. Meanwhile the baby keeps crying and when we say crying we mean screaming more than anything else. It’s as if the baby is on the rack or is being disemboweled or something likewise unimaginable. We want to ask if the mother is taking the baby to the hospital, but we don’t because it’s clear the mother would take this the wrong way. We wonder if the father is out now with another woman, one who doesn’t have a baby and might, in fact, be barren so this kind of tragedy could never happen again. This is another thing we don’t tell to the mother, who by now is cursing at us while covering the baby’s ears and rocking it back and forth. By now we know this woman is past saving and there’s nothing we can do, so this is when we get off at the next stop even though we are supposed to take this train to the end of the line. We are scheduled to have dinner at a new restaurant downtown that almost everyone thinks is the best thing going.