Welcome, baby!

The phone rings at supper and so it must be one of two things: a telemarketer or a juicy piece of news. Because you don't call at supper. You just don't, unless you've got something to sell or something to report.

"Oooh!" I jump from the table. "Baby!"

It's my mother, reporting, and I was right. I ask about a name and she says, "Not yet. But he had a 64-inch head."

Okay, so fine. It might have been a thirty-three inch head or a twenty-nine inch head. Or something. Doesn't matter. The point is that at this point in his life, measured in hours, he is known for his arrival and the size of his skull and nothing else, not yet.


"A sitz bath."

She'd stared blankly at me, and he did too, like how Frodo stares blankly at Aragorn when Aragorn offers to accompany him to the fires of Mount Doom. THEY ARE AT THE VERY BRINK OF THE FELLOWSHIP AND THEY HAVE NO IDEA and OH MY GOD THEY'RE SO CUTE IN ALL THEIR UNKNOWINGNESS. We smiled in that terribly condescending way but the universe self-balances and so they'll smile just like that at someone else, someday. They'd said We think we have everything we need but we're not sure and there was that inquiring sort of silence, or at least I read it as inquiring, because I was going to tell them what I thought they needed and I'd wanted to remember it as the moment they asked.

And so I said You'll need a sitz bath. It's plastic and it might be blue, or maybe green, and you get one at those pharmacies that sells motorized chairs and big black shoes and diabetic blood testers and it sits on your toilet and sploshes over into the toilet. And you put epsom salts in it. Lots and lots of epsom salts.

They'd stared blankly.

"It's for your beef."

They still stared blankly and at that moment, I wondered what would have happened to Frodo's consent if Aragorn had told him, beforehand, about the orcs of Sauron and the gate of Mordor and that enchanted pond that swallows the souls of dead elves and stuff.

They still stared blankly and I thought about the truth and the point of sharing it.

THE TRUTH: You might vivisect yourself except it won't be nearly as fun as being a lobster because when you're a vivisected lobster, they scrape out all your guts and then they mix your guts with mayonnaise and freshly-squeezed lemon juice and then they squish it all back inside your shell with a side salad and a cloud biscuit and then, when they bring you to the table, everybody goes OOOOH and AAAAH.

THE POINT OF SHARING IT: You won't know you're vivisecting yourself. It's just all metaphorical and literal pressure and it doesn't matter the setting: fluorescent bulbs and masked figures or bongos and candlelight, you can't feel a thing beyond the need to cross this damn bridge. To get over it to the other side. Somebody whisks in between your legs and you're crying, because there's a squishy purple creature who's crying too, and kicking, at least generally speaking. And at some point you wonder What are they doing down there? And you say those words and the masked figure between your legs, without looking up, responds from behind blue paper in an overly cheerful falsetto. Everything's wonderful! Good job! Good job! Good job! Just a little stitch and oh! Look over there! It's A BABY! Someday, that squishy purple creature is going to piss on your floor and then point at the piss, and then point at you, and then giggle. And you'll giggle back.

Vivisection will be ancient history, even that soon.

THE TRUTH, SUMMED UP: For a little while, you'll feel weird.



"Mommy, you a-kiss me on my eye. How come you a-kiss me on my eye?"

"Because I love every little bit of you. Even your eye."

Ben thinks about this. Then through the dark I can his teeth, beaming, and I realize: stitches can't reverse this kind of tearing-open, beef or belly. Doesn't matter. Every day they make me shout and they make me whisper and they make me claustrophobic and they make me whine for snuggles and they shove elbows into soft spots and they make me dance in the kitchen when I don't feel like dancing in the kitchen. Every day they pry the wound open again because they don't care about pretty. They want better. Better! More! Like That! Now!

Being better stings. Better means being more than yourself. So make being better, better. Wash it down with a peach-banana Yop and a bendy straw. Don't think about it too much. And don't forget to soak your butt.

And that's all you need to know.