I’m coming to get the baby, my mother said, and hung up. Then, I felt the phone vibrate: my mother had sent me a photograph of the baby in her arms.I looked down. The baby was with me, chewing on my thumb. He’d been chewing so hard that he had split my thumbnail. I had hardly noticed the tinge of pain. I bled into his mouth. He drooled from the teething, and now his drool was pinkish, like syrup. I should stop him, I knew, but the pain and blood were better than the screaming and he seemed to enjoy the sound of my thumbnail crunching. He looked up at me, smiling, his dimples deep.I called my mother and asked her why and how she’d sent the photograph of the baby.I didn’t send anything, she said. I don’t even know how to take a picture.This was true. If I remembered correctly, she was still calling from a phone that plugged into the wall. She hung up again after saying again that she’d be coming soon to get the baby.We waited for her. My fingers were bruised to the bone, swollen. The baby had chewed himself into temporary quiet. He looked out into the middle of the room with wet, red eyes. They are blue, but many babies are born with blue eyes. It’s impossible to know if they will stay blue. He might look up at me, my finger still in his mouth, and his eyes might be suddenly brown.My mother arrives and holds up her hands: she wants to take the baby. I deposit him into her arms and he pulls his arms around her neck. They embrace in mutual relief. She throws him up in the air and he spreads out his arms as though flying and shrieks with delight. He does not know to be afraid of her. All he knows is that she has never dropped him and that she loves him, something even I can feel. It feels like a locker room full of running showers.I am jealous of the baby, his delight, his absence of fear.I look at my mother. She is large, fatter than she was when I was the baby in her arms. I do not remember this, of course, but have seen dark photographs in which she wears enormous sunglasses and polyester turtlenecks. In them, it is always winter. Now, the softness around her throat indicates some vulnerability, but otherwise, she is like a tank. Solid. Impenetrable.As she’s singing to the baby, I realize that she will never die unless she decides to die. She has gone beyond her body. She can hold him from anywhere. She will always be coming to get him and I will always hand him over, fingers bleeding, knowing only how to dial her number.
I’m Coming for the Baby
art by John Rodzvilla