I became a father before I ever became a son. My parents had struggled to conceive a child for years, but they were certain they wanted to raise a family. Even with the interminable despair and human failure that plagues our species all over, reproduction to them was validation of hope for the world, and on a personal level, it would lead to so many new experiences they couldn’t bear to miss out on. After many unsuccessful attempts and exhausting all the hippie mumbo jumbo they could stand, at the ripe old age of 42, my mother found the one doctor who could successfully tame the rhino and extract safely from his horn the most powerful fertility drug from either side of the Yahtzee River. Detrimental side effects ran rampant, from simple leprosy to intense bouts of uncontrollable ear wiggling, but to her there were no real alternative. She slurped down the ivory’s cellulose, sang the Lion King song, the one with the “Z-Zegna” or something, and instantly she could feel the life brewing within.
Three months later, she found out there was not one, not two, but two feti growing inside her.
My twin sister Melanie was the one sharing in the safety of the belly with me, and I couldn’t have been happier to have her as a wombmate. We became close, as you might expect, and no cabin fever was ever felt in our pre-natal home. She taught me so much, from why certain audience members are compelled to yell out during a stand up set, to how to gauge the ripeness of an avocado. And I made her laugh. I still don’t know how she fell so hard for my caustic wit and Hedbergesque approach to my surroundings, but I do know the laughter was real, and so was the feeling bubbling inside us both. Growing together, physically and emotionally, we fell in love. We knew outside of our cocoon it was taboo for siblings to be together in this manner, but to us, in here, it was us. We connected on a level I’d never known and would never know with another. After several blissful weeks, we discussed the possibility of bringing a child of our own into the world, and the pros managed to overwhelm any con that stepped up to the plate.
One night, after just the right balance of Tennessee whiskeys and amniotic fluid, Mel and I embraced, twirling synchronously in the embryonic sac, staring deep into each other’s still underdeveloped eyes, until my seed was planted in her. Two weeks later, Mel was with child, and so we began our journey into parenthood. She found some old parenting books and obsessed over her diet, and I waited expectantly, wondering what our future would bring. We were all growing so rapidly, running out of previous floating space by the day. It became clear that today, well, today is going to be our birth day. I barely notice my mother’s water break, but I know the distinct whooshing sound when I hear it, and I’m able to make out her and our father gathering their pre-packed hospital bag and rush off to get us out of there. We get excited, knowing we’ll soon be able to see the world as it’s intended, and do it together.
Mel, in the downswing of her orbit, is the first to crawl her way out. Our mother’s screeching voice echoes through her body, a forced cacophony that instills in me a definite first crystallized memory. As she pushes her first-born child out of her body, I take in the moment to reflect on how quickly life can change, suddenly nostalgic for the day when half of me was gushing out of my father, tubing through a seemingly infinite fallopian conduit, searching for my bulbous other half in our mother’s uterus. Lost in my own head, I fail to realize that the stress of being born has caused Mel to go into labour as well, and suddenly, in my first glimpse of the real world, I see that my son Rodney is already there.
In all the commotion, nobody noticed that, while Mel and then Rodney were born in the waning hours of February 28th, I never fully emerged until February 29th. I’d always hoped to be born on the leap day, but I didn’t expect it to happen like this. When I turn one, my son will already be four. When I’m eight, he’ll be almost fifty. Before you know it, he’s going to be a decorated army general on his retirement day, basking in his ability to age gracefully along with the other humans and playing footsies with his daughter’s husband under the kids table. But here in the past I will remain, a lowly cobbler, forced to sell my own body into slavery after becoming addicted to the new kind of heroin, the really good kind.
And that’s why you should never be older than your dad.
[Editor’s note: Somehow, the author’s only hesitation in publishing this one is that the tense changes at several distinct points. But to be honest, I feel like those decisions are useful in properly segmenting the story. I might have kept this one private because of that pre-natal incest, but what the hell do I know…]