Promises of an Unwed Father
I stand outside of the operating room while they prep Kenyatta for surgery. The waiting is agonizing, but I am happy that we are nearing the end. A nurse escorts me inside and I stand near Kenyatta's head, not just because I'm squeamish but because I want her to know that I am here.
No more than ten minutes later, a nurse says the baby has arrived. And I see her walk away with Samori, who is bluish red. I am babbling every detail I can think of to Kenyatta. Finally, they bring me over and let me hold him. I realize then how inexorably I am now tied to Kenyatta. Samori's birth feels as binding as a wedding ring.
Then the nurse swaddles him in a blanket. Kenyatta is lying on a gurney. The nurse places him in her arms and wheels them both out, to where our old family awaits our new family. When Camille holds Samori, I realize how bonded I am to her, too. Samori's presence is a bridge extending between both of our families. I like to think of myself as the ultimate modernist and my relationship with Kenyatta as the ultimate modern romance. And yet, except for the absence of titles—husband, wife—there is very little different about what I am ultimately charged with as Kenyatta's partner.
I think back to a conversation I had with Camille on the last day of her first visit after Kenyatta got pregnant. At the time I thought she was being old-fashioned, but now I understand what she was getting at. On the day Camille was going home, I drove her up I-95 to catch her flight from Philadelphia. We were pulling up to the airport. She looked at me and began talking: Kenyatta didn't have a father. She was raised by me alone. I really appreciate your willingness to be a father. I want you to take care of my baby.
From I Married My Mother-in-Law and Other Tales of In-Laws We Can't Live With and Can't Live Without, an anthology of essays published by Riverhead.