Sheets of paper, covered with insightful words, are scattered across our table. We are poring over these papers, discussing how to get the words right.
On the floor among the table legs, there’s a flash of unfamiliar motion. A baby is crawling around like an ant on a scouting mission. He crawls away from the table next to ours, where his mom is stationed, his bottom swaying back and forth side to side. The elastic waistline of his jeans creeps precariously toward his bottom, revealing the top two inches of a diaper—a miniature version of the young men nowadays who sag their pants to show off plaid boxers.
He circles back to check in with his mother’s leg, which he climbs hand over hand to get himself to standing. He waddles a few steps in our direction, stands bow-legged and wobbly when he notices the three of us, deep in our important work. His fat pink cheeks glow with unadulterated health. His random gaze sweeps over us, then lands on me.
I take off my reading glasses. “Hi. How ya doing?”
He stares at me, wide-eyed, alert, an expression of both curiosity and recognition. It pulls me in.
I am seen. I’ve been living on the lam and he’s just blown my cover. If it weren’t for the pacifier stuck in his mouth, I’m convinced he’d say, “I know you. We’ve met somewhere.”
I remember our meeting. Way back when I was fueled by curiosity. Before they taught me that answers matter more than questions. Before they deleted why not from my vocabulary.
Baby’s eyes are transparent. Through them I see my face before I was born, and I remember.
But now he's finished his investigation. His attention wanders. I’m no more relevant than a table leg. I like being irrelevant. It reminds me of the no-thing I used to be, back when we met. When he toddles away, my lovely irrelevance goes with him. I am back to being me. I feign nonchalance, but pout a little inside, hoping nobody notices I take his departure personally.
I put my glasses on and return to the work of forgetting.