Short Stories 366:260 — “Birth,” by Gil Cuadros

When I was younger and first coming out, I remember finding Gil Cuadros’ poetry somewhere and an interview where he said writing extended his life post-HIV/AIDS diagnosis. “Birth” feels like a short story drawn from the same vein, a kind of reversal, perhaps. Found in His 2, this is one of those times where I’m struggling to write a review mostly out of a fear of not being able to do the piece justice on any level, but I can’t tell you how incredible this is without trying, so here we go.

The first person narrator speaks of a fetus, a creature he has already named, one he is determined to live long enough to birth, and throughout the telling, it is everyone around him speaking at odds with this goal. He and his lover talk about what kinds of parents they might be—judging themselves harshly—and all the while there is this growth, this sense of coming about this creature. The imagery of this fetus and growth and birth is sometimes parasitic, sometimes a bequeathment, but always incredible and so freaking moving.

Ultimately, this incredibly short piece (three pages?) is so full of a raw and yearning urge to do well by this child that the narrator’s choice becomes clear, and it’s at that point I caught myself on the edge of tears. I often talk a lot about how important it is to have stories of triumph and happiness and I will never change my mind, but I think there is also a triumph in remembrance, and especially so in the case of people like Gil Cuadros. He wrote so vividly, so brilliantly, that every time I find another piece by him, I feel the loss of such an amazing gay Chicano voice with a kind of immediacy entirely evoked by his words.

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