Young Master Doodles arrived on this planet with the certain knowledge
that we are all infinite beings made of light, that we cannot be diminished and
that this was what he was meant to impart. His mother was always offering
him her milk as if this would somehow ward off all terrors; he thought it sweet
and a bit amusing and he drank as much as could and grew larger though he had
no control of the odd baby body he had been given. The head formed a point in
back at first and finally smoothed out; it was so big and heavy-looking lolling there
and the hands which were blue and wrinkled with long sharp nails when they
emerged from her, and changed into pudgy pinks with a dimple above each finger,
danced around like drunken butterflies trying to catch the bright toys they'd been
offered. The body curled nicely, draped against his mother's warmth, as if it
were still attached, on the outside now, some kind of fancy coat collar, but the feet
flexed with tension as if remembering how cramped they had been, jutting against
her small diaphragm.
It had not been easy to get out of her. She had managed
to ride the contractions, rearing and spitting and snorting and bellowing like
a dying stallion only to find that the pushing was almost impossible. He heard her
begging for help—"please, please"—and the doula, Julie, said, "I know it hurts.
The only one who can make it stop is you." This gave his mother the courage
to reach into herself, into the part of herself he had strengthened by living there
for nine months, and find some remaining breath and muscle.
The doula, he felt, truly knew the pain she spoke about. After he had come out and been laid in his mother's arms, swaddled in flannel, calm except for his tense feet, watching
the lights of the day, his mother asked politely, "And how was your son's birthday?"
It had been the day before, almost Doodles' day. Julie said, "It's a sad story.
You don't want to hear it now." But his mother felt brave and compassionate
holding him against her breasts, and asked to hear, in that brief time just after
birth when all the portals are open.
The doula's son had thick dark curls, a strong nose, angular cheekbones, a lean frame, broad shoulders.
In a photo Julie had shown Doodles' mother he was walking purposefully toward the camera at an airport runway with an indigenous
woman at his side. He looked heroic as if he could fly perhaps. His middle name meant peace.
When he was born he weighed eight pounds, thirteen ounces, the
exact same weight as Doodles. He had been killed at the age of twenty-four trying to save rain forests.
Late at night, Doodles knew his mother was thinking of this. She lay awake in the den nursing him to comfort herself, hands shaking, heart throbbing, unable to rest.
Sometimes they dozed together or watched snips of foreign films about mad men, lesbians, angels or
spirits and she ate millet rice flakes with vanilla soy milk by the soft blue light
of the globe lamp. Sometimes they sat in the bathroom with the shower running
to make steam to clear his congestion from the cold he'd had since his birth.
In spite of her anxiety—would she sleep? could he breathe? they loved this time
together, it was their only chance to concentrate on the nursing that her breasts
and his belly needed so much.
In the day she was not his but his sister's. His sister named for a flower
with her purple sparkle fountains of energy whirring through the house.
He never tired of looking at her round glowing face haloed in gold ringlets, her tiny charming teeth, her deep-set blue eyes with long dark lashes softening their brooding gaze.
He wondered when the time would come that they would have to pretend to forsake their obsession with
each other—until they actually forgot it had ever existed. He knew her love for him
was fierce, angry, confused, consuming. "Baby baaaybeee beh beh babeee,"
she would croon, patting him softly then harder until his eyes widened, startled at
her fervor and his mother had to move her off of him. She would pop open the
snaps on his pajamas, exposing his bare belly, then blow raspberries there and declare
lovingly, "My baby is yucky!" "Can I touch baby?" she would ask, then before she
got an answer her pointer finger would plant itself in his chubby cheek with the
triumphant announcement, "Touch!" She played her instruments in front of his
face while he helplessly strapped in his car seat—the menacing rhythm sticks, drum
and triangle, pretty musical weapons. When no one was looking she would pinch
his belly until it left a mark. He rarely cried; he was mostly just mesmerized by her.
Sometimes he chuckled if his mother kissed him a certain way in the fold where his
two chins met his soft round shoulder, or if she bounced him in the air like a rubber
boy. She said his laugh made her stomach ache and clutch with love. She said
that when his sister was born she felt her own heart go pitter pat with the romantic
surge of love at first sight, love across a room for a stranger you know you will
adore forever and that when he came she felt the calm slow love of recognition.
He balanced her, she said. He was after all her astrological opposites, air to her fire.
And fire needs air to survive, she said. He was also a child of the year of the horse according to the Chinese calendar and she was tiger and they were traditionally said to compliment each other.
She needed him so much. Once he was merrily bouncing his feet and looking out
the screen door at the green leaves rustling with sunshine when the little chair tipped forward onto the wood floor.
He was unharmed but for a few seconds before his mother came to
him he realized with a panic how delicate this body he had really was and how
much she needed him inside of it, how much his existence in this body kept
sorrow at bay for her.There were so many sad people, so many sad things.
Like Julie’s son, Terrence Unitas, who had been killed trying to save forests for indigenous people. Doodle’s mommy’s dear friend Fred Drake, a beautiful singing cowboy who had been fighting AIDS for years and years, had developed a brain tumor. A man who shared Doodles' real name, the name of both his maternal grandfathers, had just died of cancer. This man was a surfer and an actor on a television program, a young man. He loved this life, he had no reasons to leave it. Did he? He had loved Doodles' mother's worried-eyed, raven-haired friend. Doodles wondered if the man might return to her. She had tried to artificially inseminate with expensive frozen sperm seventeen times and wept every month her period came.
Doodles sent out a little prayer to a soul to fill his mother's friend's womb as soon as
possible. It mystified him how little control we had over these things, how tiny
and tinny his prayer sounded in a universe echoing and pulsing with prayers.
But then he knew, also, that prayers can be answered. In fact, he was one.
He almost came to his mother twice before but it had not been the right time. The bodies were not the right ones. When he slipped away he had not realized how much it would hurt her but there was nothing he could do. He tried to comfort her with the moonlight and wind rustling the eucalyptus trees outside her window—he had tried to say goodbye. It was not the right body and not the right time, he wanted to tell her, as she lay howling on the floor, but I will come again. Maybe he was afraid of the first-born-love that might have swallowed him. His sister wore that love so easily, like her purple tulle tutu filled with silk pansies.
Even this time, his mother had feared her prayer was not answered. The doctor had not seen a heart beat on the ultra sound screen. He told her, “It may start to spontaneously abort. I’ll be out of town but you don’t have to worry too much if you start to bleed, it’s so early, we can talk when I get back.” Doodles’ mother had decided to walk. It was all she could do. She walked and walked to keep from crying. One day she saw a monarch butterfly feeding on some purple passionflowers. She told herself that if the butterfly landed on her, it was a sign from her baby that all was well. The butterfly landed on the brim of her straw hat and a short time later Doodle’s heartbeat appeared, a flashing light in the dark cave of his mother’s body.
Prayers can be answered, Doodles thought. In fact, he was one. Maybe his mother’s friend’s baby was just waiting to find a body to answer with, too.