I saw Superman walk down my hallway today and he didn’t and doesn’t care what you think about him. He was a white-boy with dread-locked hair that’s long enough to tuck behind his ears and he smelled like the stink and rot of unwashed bodies in tight and closed places. I’ve smelled his kith and kin in hovels bare and small. I’ve sat and listened to their stories of life and things passed-by and wondered at their truth and then found that it didn’t matter, those things and they, well…they became true in the telling. And today, as he shuffled past me in his coke-bottle glasses with scratches and old and yellowed tint from age and sun and wear, the arms hooked over ears with huge and fearsome gauges stuck in the lobes causing holes that would be large as a ring on my thumb, he shuffled past in that mess and whatnot with torn jeans and ravaged converses as he huddled his face into the small baby of two months or less and whispered his whiskered and loving words into his tiny self. He whispered kind nothings and stink and I didn’t smell his breath, but neither did the baby as he lay there cuddled and warm against that chest in the torn and fake-leather jacket and was loved by him in all that it meant to him. That baby there was cherished in those moments where he existed in my life and Superman had him and rocked his world…and I hope he remembers that love when life comes on him hard and rough as it sometimes will…I hope he remembers that his Daddy loved him, then.
Not so many years ago, the evening television was on and I sat with our little one, noticing the characteristics of his face and body and was struck by the differences between our hands, his and mine. The size and shape and color and texture and complexion and strength and the lives that each represented were alarming in their dissimilarities.
His tender innocence was spoken of in the smooth, plump whiteness and delicacy of grasp. Those little fingers have never known an agony or pain, either physical or emotional. Oh, I suppose there have been times when he has awoken in the night when Mommy or I have been away and he might have known fear or alarm at being alone in his little world. But, the unscarred and unblemished hands attest to an ignorance of heartache and trauma. They have caused no pain or misery of whatever scale. They have only touched in love and exploration and learning, in discovering their world. The slobbery, chubby fingers have only reached out to Mommy’s or Daddy’s face or hands and arms, or brothers’ or sisters’ and known love and wonder. They have not been stabbed with the thorns of life and involvement; have not known betrayal or deceit in shadowed seclusion. His baby’s hands are pure. And mine are not. What defilement they cannot imagine and renderings unknown have yet to be. No scorn has caused them to sweep aside the glances of hurt loved-ones’ eyes, no condescension revealed in a thumping knock or troubling grasp.
Darkened and swollen with work, scarred and abused, only knowing tenderness with their increasing age, appreciation, and maybe even a little wisdom; knowing regret and forgiveness, my hands seek his face and cradle it with love. His eyes fix to mine for a moment as my creased and thickened hands frame his innocent countenance, gently pressing his baby cheeks to envelop their softness.