On Nativity

PUBLISHED IN FOURTH GENRE.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born while his parents were traveling to Bethlehem to register, as required by law, with the census. Fast forward two thousand and ten Decembers—giving or taking a few for the ecclesiastical debate and/or shoddy recordkeeping around the dawn of the common era—to the advent of my own son’s nativity. He wasn’t born in a Bethlehem barn beneath a great star, but in Michoacán’s Star Médica hospital overlooking a bullring.

19.7˚:101.2˚; 20:23 hours; masculino; 2 kilos, 250; Apgar 9. The data of birth is quantifiable; a baby is weight, gender, and geography.

Too soon, I knew, he’d be more data. Too soon, we’d have to begin the process of certifying his identity, of classifying and designating and documenting a being who still felt like an extension of my body, our umbilical joining a residual cord, a phantom itch, a short in my circulatory wiring. But those dim, reverential days and nights after his birth, my son did not exist anywhere but in my arms; he was nothing but sweet breath and drying flesh, his tiny fingers and toes printed with patterns unfiled anywhere. He had no name or nationality. Not on paper anyway.

 

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