It has happened only rarely in his perfectly healthy life. He has reasonable relations with his spouse, his children, his parents, siblings, associates and friends. He’s honest with others, frank with himself, friendly. He has an easy way. Deep sustained unabashed eye contact is not at all the ordinary coin among people he knows and loves, and yet he finds himself locked in a prolonged reciprocal stare with a newborn who will not let him go. There can’t be anything to this, he reasons, from the baby’s point of view, but still he holds the gaze of his little little girl as if her childhood were at stake. She can’t have anything to share with her father of two hours and twelve minutes, he understands, and yet he’s terrified of all he hasn’t learned about devotion and dependence and something tells him he’s about to get a lesson. So he holds the stare. She will not let him go. She possesses him completely, as she inhabits her squeaky skin. So new is she and so complete, so vividly her own fresh entity that she’s on the verge of speech despite her youth, and what she has to tell her dad will stun him to a dreadful awareness of his own inauthenticity. For twenty years his nature has slipped away. He’s watched it go, and suppressed what little was left. There are people from his past he wouldn’t like to see today, though he denies it, people he would disappoint, and he knows it. With slippery little lips, she has formed the first syllable of this message to her dear dad. When he blinks, she spares him. She keeps her peace. He escapes without revelation, and his daughter, out of generosity, takes baby’s first step toward a diminished human life.

Copyright ©1997-2006 David Hodges

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