Devin’s first born was late. He would not arrive that night. As anticipation grew, an encounter with a family made the new dad aware that a small movement would soon change his life — forever.
Today my first was supposed to be born. Now, it’s a clear, warm night, and I’m putting out the trash. He hasn’t come. It could be tonight. Maybe soon. Any moment something in her body has to shift, shift, and everything will change. I leave a recycling bin by the curb, full of empty boxes of crackers and cookies from my stress eating and my wife’s drained protein bottles.
“Excuse me, sir,” a man says. I look up. I’d been staring at the ground. Daydreaming. “Did you put that stereo system out by the curb last week?”
“Yes.” It was a subwoofer and stereo console the previous tenant had left.
The man’s probably in his fifties with a shock of white hair combed tight over his scalp. He’s pushing a little baby in a green stroller. The baby’s bald, beautiful, and studying me. A woman with a burgundy head scarf walks alongside them with a tiny white dog.
The man steps toward me, and the stroller rolls backward.
“Watch my baby,” she says, and I see the headlights of a car turning the corner and illuminating the shape of the moving stroller and the perfect skull of the child. The man jumps back to the baby and pulls her up the slight grade of the driveway.
“Does it work?” he asks.
“I think it does,” I say. “I didn’t know how to set it up so I put it out hoping someone would take it.”
“I think I have the speakers if you want them.”
“Sure.” He starts walking, and the baby stroller rolls back again toward the street. I move this time to catch it before it tips over the curb. He doesn’t seem to notice. He smiles when I push the stroller to him. The baby makes a lip smacking noise. I set the brake on the stroller. I’ve practiced doing this.
I go to retrieve the small speakers.
“Thank you,” he says, when I get back. He loads one speaker into the sleeve of the stroller and rests the other on the baby’s lap.
“How old is the baby?” I ask.
“I’m about to have my first soon.”
“That’s great news.”
“Scary news.” I surprise myself saying this.
“Oh. Well, don’t be scared,” he says, and turning to me, the baby rolls away with the speakers. “Be excited. It’s joyous.”
“Watch my baby,” the woman with the tiny dog says.
He reaches out, grasps the handle of the escaping stroller, then turns back.
“He’s about to have his first baby, baby,” he calls to the woman.
“That’s great,” she says. “Don’t be scared. She needs you to be brave.”
“Oh, baby, it’s his first baby.”
“I heard, baby,” she says.
“I’ve got six,” he says. “My youngest before this little perfect one is fourteen.” His hand hovers over the stroller. Then he waves. “Good luck with your baby, and thank you.”
They push the girl down the street, and as I watch the couple turn the corner I’m filled with a deep hope that’s out of character for me. I wish for him to get those speakers working. I imagine him calling his children and wife to listen to the rush of music, and they lift up their baby in small movements of celebration. I like the idea that any moment could be a celebration—a reaching out to the world, or it reaching back. Later that night, I imagine his fingers twisting speaker wires around the receiver as I hold my wife’s hand and wait for that world to crack open for us.
Photo: Flickr/Matt & Janet Dusten