Thursday, April 15, 2010


One day in class during a lecture I very nearly broke into tears. I was speaking on the writing of a great leader, who once invited his readers to imagine what it is like to break a very particular kind of bad news to a child. He said that his daughter asked him to go to an amusement park. He had to tell her that, no, she can’t go, that he couldn’t take her, because she is black and black people aren’t allowed to go certain places that white people can go. He said that he could see in his daughter’s eyes a new evaluation, a sudden wretched understanding that she was worthless, inferior. I had lectured this lecture many times, but on this day, I knew something more and it took all I had to hold quarter.

On the day of Resurrection, I rolled up at my crib, got off my bike and discovered a text message informing me that the water had broken. I felt the panic that is immediately replaced by calm. I put in the call and learned that, yes, even though it was more than a few weeks early, the process had more or less begun. She would try to hold it off but probably a flight was in order. I thought of a line from No Country as I pressed buttons: You can’t stop what’s coming. Ain’t all waitin’ on you.

On the next morning I was on the plane, suspended. Time that would never have passed if I did not sleep through it. I got to the Gray City and was picked up by the Columbian, who informed me that yes, labor was underway and the peoples would very much like it if I got there already. But the city was all traffic and no shortcuts. This shit was the movies and I was sick of popcorn.

I got to the apartment and sailed through a few unlocked doors. I could hear Rachel from the staircase. I walked up into the crib and made my way to her side, joining her friends and her midwife. She was in pain and needed support. But some pain is beyond sympathy and this was all her own. She expressed it in a vocalized string of obscenities and deities in no particular order. She bled and vomited and there was no comfort to be had. Giving birth hurts. It hurts that hurt that mothers can’t remember until their second child is ready to be born. It hurts that hurt that men underestimate because they can’t imagine it. I mean, fuck. It's called labor. Perhaps it would have been more bearable with drugs. People say so much of life.

At the end of the third hour, Rachel knelt upon her bed, screamed with a stressed voice and the creature gushed forth. The midwife suctioned its passages and it cried out. Rachel held the child in her arms and reclined against me. The nameless gray being looked around and slowly drifted to sleep. The baby girl was gently cleaned and eventually I took some scissors and cut the cord of life. Such a strange texture. The Dancing Doula rubbed lavender on its third eye and welcomed it into the world. Rachel set about giving up the placenta and I took little nameless to the couch, where I lay her upon my chest and joined her in sleep.

In due time, emails, text messages and phone calls went out. A small world erupted in relief and joy. In Oregon, a Rabbi gave a blessing. Down south, a Deaconess thanked the Lord. In Uganda, some nuns started dancing. From some corners there was silence and from some celebration. Tarot cards were pulled and old scriptures were consulted. All voices asked for a name.

A night passed. I paced across the apartment, holding the newborn, softly singing something about how calcium is deadly, but tender to the tooth. I sat down and lay the child in my lap. Babies this age can’t see very well, but for a moment she looked upon me and complicated my world.

I have long felt that talk of love in our circles is deeply incomplete. We give one word the power to refer a multiplicity of feelings and desires. How many have I loved in my short time? Has the feeling been the same in each case? I have loved those for whom I have done much. I have loved those for whom I could never do enough. I have loved those whom I have harmed beyond forgiveness. I have languished in the thought of love, given up on its possibility and in its place I sought different descriptions or nothing at all. Looking into the black eyes of the infant, I never believed less in love.

I have no sign for what I feel for this being. I didn’t have to get to know her or reflect on her actions. I didn’t have to decide to take the plunge. If there is a way to explain this feeling, I am not interested. I knew only that I was hers, even if she couldn’t form the concept. Even if she never reciprocated. In that moment I couldn’t tell lightness from heaviness. Or maybe I just realized that ultimately, I never could. What must it have been like for my mother to look upon the infant me? Fools investigate these connections. But there is no articulation. It is condemned to silence. Call it a word if you want; I have found a place where words all fail.

I don’t think I am going to give that lecture about the great leader and his daughter anymore. I just don't think I can protect against the tears. But I am thankful to him, and the other powers that came before me. Because of them, when I get asked to go to the amusement park, I can just say yes, Amaya. Go get your shoes.


VentCover said...

The tears fall unashamedly.

Laura said...

You are a blessing to my world, Chioke.

AP said...

this is beautiful. miss you brother.