fiction by Nasdijj (Timothy Patrick Barrus)
It is the sun that falls. It’s so easy with a Navajo baby. You make a cradleboard. You gotta do it right though. Then you wrap them in. Kid ain’t going anywhere. They will cry but they will be okay.
He would not cry. He was like a Navajo mountain. A red rock of silence and resistance. A reservoir of reserve. He refused to cry for a long, long time. He would not break or bend. Nothing could make him do it. He was a strong, tough guy. Rough at the core and unbreakable.
He was twelve.
It’s easy to be tender with an infant. The little legs and blankies. An infant wants to be touched and held. When they’re twelve, it seems to be a little more complicated. But behind all of my adopted son’s resolute complexity, there is a tender, rather scared boy, a boy who sometimes trembles, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Just when I can’t take one more bad, bad thing, coming into our lives like a raging bear inside the house, I grab him, and I hold him, sometimes not too
tenderly, and for a long, long time, he was as steadfast, and as silent as an oak.
It was like holding an oak tree and you know something is in there.
Every now and then it moves and groans. In wind. Branches reaching. Leaves to the sun.
I have a heart that’s proud, you bet
I have a mind that won’t forget
And I have arms that are strong and yet
Tender when they want to be
Well, you can be the will that finds the way
And you can be the one that saves the day
But show me tender when it’s time to say
Exactly how it ought to be.
My new son’s name is Awee. His eyes are as black as the Rio Grande rolling wet with shadow. His skin is brown and flawless. He weighs almost all of eighty pounds. He smells like clouds.
I love him. It is the sun that falls.
A few days ago, he was eleven.
Now, exactly when is he your son? Is it when he’s in the womb and kicking? Is it when the adoption papers from the court arrive? Is it the first time you take him fishing? Is it when he comes screaming from his mother’s body? When is it? I want to know. I have consulted all the books. Exactly when is it that the person of the child becomes your son? Is it the first
time time you two walk across a field with the dog? When do you become responsible? What moment does this responsibility occur in? When the social worker hands him to you? When the nurse hands him to you? When the mother hands him to you? Why are most men simply standing there like drooling idiots waiting for someone else to hand them their sons?
The 2000 National Magazine Awards Nomination: The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams, by Nasdijj, for ESSAYS, Esquire Magazine.
The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams