Visiting Hours

He looks like him.

That was the first thing I thought of when I looked at my son.  He had Joe’s coloring, his hair color.  His eyes were dark, dark blue, which everyone told me meant his eyes would turn brown within the first year of life.  Everything about him, including his sex, was more Joe than me.  The only thing I felt I could definitively say was that he had my nose.  Joe’s nose was a long, pointed, ski slope of a nose; even before we’d broken up I’d joked with him that I hoped the baby got my nose.  The tiny, rounded snub on my son’s face was the only thing that I found of my own DNA in him.

One by one, all of my friends came to visit us in the hospital.  My friend Karen, who’d been there with me since the beginning.  My college dorm roommate Lori came.  Dean, who’d helped organize the baby shower for my friends, came.  My sister’s friend B, pregnant with a baby of her own and married now, came.  Ana, another of my sister’s friends, also married, came.  Randy, another of Joe’s good friends and part of our group in high school, came.  Mike, another friend of Joe’s who lived near me in our townhome development, came.  My friends Dawn and Lauri couldn’t make it; Dawn was away at school at Michigan State, and Lauri was in the Air Force in basic training.  My mother, my father, my sister, they all came and snapped photos.  My mother’s friend Marilyn, who we always spent holidays with, came.  My room was a constant hub of activity during visiting hours.

Everyone came, but one.

Joe never came.  I asked his friends if he knew that Zachary was here, that the birth had happened.  They told me that they’d told him, but that he wasn’t coming.  I thought, well, maybe it would be intimidating to be around all of my family and friends, most of whom were taking a very dark view of the fact that Joe hadn’t come around during the rest of my pregnancy. Maybe he’d call, I thought, and made sure all of Joe’s friends had the number to my hospital room.

But it didn’t matter.  He didn’t come, and he didn’t call. After all this time, all of how I thought it would go, all of the dreams I’d had where all of the anger, and fear, and cross words and stupid decisions would just melt away once the news of the baby came.  That after everything, our love would rise up in his head and remind him who we both really were, and what we’d meant to each other, and that the proof of that was right here, right now, in the perfectly healthy, robust baby boy that everyone oohed and ahhed over.

I held my baby boy close.  “We’re a team, you and I,” I told him.  “We’ll get through this, together.”

He nuzzled softly into my chest and breathed in and out.  If I said it, I’d believe it.

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