When I look at my friend’s girlfriend’s son, I look at his misshapen skull and think about all the times I’ve seen him fall off of coffee tables or into corners while he’s running. Then I think of all the cigarette smoke the kid has inhaled and will inhale in his adolescent life because his mom smokes with him in the car, and she takes him with her into outdoor smoking sections. And then I wonder when he’s going to start having his earliest memories, and I wonder if he will remember the times he’s watched his mother have sex with someone who isn’t his father. Or the bad parenting. Or the enraged maniac outside the apartment trying to smash the sliding glass door with a chair, while I wait just inside the door in a blind spot with a taser in my hand in case he succeeds.
I can’t help but feel bad for the kid, but none of that makes me feel worse than the fact that he has no clue what he’s getting into. I think of all the heartbreak, anger, confusion, loneliness, and identity crises that he’s going to experience, as long as his mashed up skull doesn’t perpetuate his infantile bliss—as I write this he’s giggling moronically while bouncing up and down in a suspended baby chair.
So, while his mother is outside smoking a cigarette with her boyfriend and the child and I are alone, I make a toast to him. I raise my beer and say, “Don’t worry kid. One of these days, none of this will make any more sense than it does now. Just try not to lose that smile.”