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Apple Crumble, or Knedliky

Fatherhood

When the nurse passed her apple crumble body into my hands, I became a new man. Encrusted with sugary crumbs of afterbirth, the scent of the struggling little pale loaf wafted up, soaking my nostrils and me into a swoon, as surely as #Tintin being chloroformed. They didn’t teach this at school. Nobody had warned me. The little gangster had me against a wall, hands up, nose to the bricks. Within moments of her warm body combining with earth’s atmosphere, I was wrenched from devil-may-care lone man, to sentinel father. That doughy fragrance stoked a potion of oxytocin, glucocorticoids, estrogen, and prolactin that burnished my brain, and flushed all those roaming lone instincts away, a Valentine’s Day Massacre of my man-cave self. Whilst her mother rested, I lay back on frigid hospital tiles, the infant asleep on my chest, my body a barrier against the world. The scent of my daughter flooded me that night in Roosevelt Hospital NYC, arousing dormant neuronal pathways that sprouted, stretched, and fanned out like an invasion. Ok, my shirt buttons didn’t quite snap off, but the shock of paternity changes a man, anchors a parent – chains, secures, imprisons, fastens, whatever word you wish – more swiftly than you can imagine. It’s Looking Glass stuff: Once you step through, there’s no going back, as sure as a first murder (or the first time you fall in love). In the days ahead (and perhaps forever more, actually… ) those dewy infant eyes stared at me, asking if I could see now, if I understood. Life is birth, and death, beginning, and end. It’s beauty, and ugliness, happiness, and infinite sorrow. All will come to pass, even those tiny breaths that puff out from the bundle in your arms.

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