james is riding a tidal wave of discomforts- he has a cold, an ear infection, endured his six month vaccinations, and his very first tooth is erupting.
(isn't that gross? that this process of tooth development is referring to as eruption? i am already deeply creeped out by dental imagery because the idea of a skull full of nascent and adult teeth crowded in waiting madly triggers my tryptophobia and i feel itchy just thinking about it, but to also picture them exploding through the gum like a cluster of jagged little volcanoes is truly disgusting.)
but while i am an irredeemable weakling of a human being who gets upset thinking about holes and bumps, james is a shining beacon of strength. he is, by nature, so good-humored and easygoing that we do not even realize he's sick until dr. mcdonald prescribes the amoxicillin.
everyone has different pain tolerance, he says affably while i berate myself for being such a lackluster parent that i can't even detect my own baby's illness.
true to form, james wails in surprise when he receives shots in both legs- but five seconds later, he is all smiles. i am distracted by yet another work crisis on the other end of my phone, but ian cradles our son, holds his little hands, tells him he's okay. the nurses slap spiderman bandaids on his chubby, ham hock thighs and james just peers up at ian adoringly.
there's this photo in the jake rasmussen facebook archives that was taken a couple of years ago at a birthday party, back when ian was still firmly ensconced in my friendzone. in my drunker moments at that time, i was coming around slowly to the realization that my gay friend ian smith might actually be my soulmate. in this photo, i am clearly 75% malibu rum and my eyebrows are filled in too liberally, but i am staring up at ian with undisguised hopefulness, clarity, and joy. i am asking him to drive me to taco bell.
it's this face i see when james looks up at his father, and it's this dynamic i keep falling in love with harder and harder, until the enormity and depth of it feels like it will swallow me entirely. before james made his debut, my vain, self-absorbed ass could only fixate on what it would be like to see myself in a tiny little brand-new person- but now, this father-son dynamic has wrecked me completely. i can't describe it. i can only feel my heart laid bare with an intense vulnerability that has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my whole world condensed to the sound of james giggling while ian tickles him.
it makes me finally feel like a real person connected to the generational weft of history and family and humanity through this minute, fleeting understanding of how and why to love. and not just like a jaded product of the internet subsisting entirely on memes, drag race references, and a pervasive attitude of mechanical saltiness.
sometimes i think about what it would've been like to have a baby with anyone else. i mentally run through a very short list of dudes who have known me biblically and an even shorter list of those who might have wanted to hang around me for a minute and it's clear that this journey would've been a nightmare in any other context.
we are so lucky, i tell ian constantly. james is always such a good sleeper and so happy, we really lucked out with an easy first one.
but it's clear to me that if this is his nature, then there is also nurture at play and i see its loving, careful details in the way ian sings the alphabet, washes the bottles, buckles the carseat, and watches the nest cam from the minute he wakes up. if james is mercifully predictable and surprisingly optimistic for a baby, it's because he is learning from the best. i sit around generally vexed all day about the trump administration and how enormous my thighs look in light wash jeans- but my two boys are twin beacons of enduring cheer, listening to a podcast and cuddling happily together.
and ian did drive me to taco bell that night, but i didn't even let him come up to my apartment. i kissed him impulsively and then immediately flounced off in a drunk messy heap of mixed signals. he ate that bag of burritos alone in his car in my parking lot. it is a testament to his patience and optimism that he never once bailed on his crush. he was warned. he was given an explanation (that i am the worst). nevertheless, he persisted.
so while i tell everyone how we are lucky to have james, i know for a fact that james and i are both luckier still to have ian.