Born to Run (2016)

BOOK THREE

LIVING PROOF

FIFTY-THREE

LIVING PROOF

It’s a boy! On July 25, 1990, at eleven thirty p.m. on the fifth floor of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Evan James Springsteen is born. All protective veils slip, all defenses are down, defeated, all emotional “conditions” are suspended, all negotiations are ceased. The room is filled with the light of blood spirits past, present and future. The truth of your partner’s love sings brightly before you. Your love, the love you’ve worked so hard to show, to hide, has been ripped from you and its presence shames your lack of faith while raining light upon the good you’ve created. All of your excuses for staying “protected,” in isolation, all of the reasons for your “secrets,” your hiddenness, are blown away. This small hospital room would be the great house of your contrition, of a life’s happy penance, except there is no time for your bullshit here. You dwell in your lover’s body, in her bloody pinks and reds, in the creams and whites of transcendence. The spirit is made physical. You are not safe; love and risk are everywhere and you feel a flesh-and-blood link in your tribe’s chain, a trace of the dust in God’s hand as it passes over the Earth. Patti’s face is the weary, grace-filled face of my grammar school saints, her green eyes drifting upward, locked on something beyond me. It is final; this is my gal, bringing the rumble of life.

CITIZENS OF LOS ANGELES: EVAN JAMES SPRINGSTEEN IS BORN. A SON OF NEW JERSEY, BORN IN EXILE, HERE IN BABYLON!

The raging river of my ambivalence, my lifelong low ambient hum of discontent, is silent. Dismissed by rapture. The doctor hands me scissors; a snip, and my boy’s on his own. I lay him upon his mama’s belly and this vision of my son and wife takes me far into my own highest room. We are huddled together with seven pounds and eleven ounces of living proof. We are one short breath of night and day, then dirt and stars, but we’re holding the new morning.

Making life fills you with humility, balls, arrogance, a mighty manliness, confidence, terror, joy, dread, love, a sense of calm and reckless adventure. Isn’t anything possible now? If we can populate the world, can’t we create and shape it? Then reality and diapers and formula and sleepless nights and child seats and yellow custard shit and cream cheese vomit set in. But . . . oh, these are the blessed needs and fluids of my boy and at the end of each headachy, tiring new world of a day, we are exhausted but exalted by new identities, Mom and Pop!

At home, I take the midnight shift, walking my boy lost miles across our tiny bedroom floor ’til his eyes go from full to half-mast to . . . sleep. Lying there with our son upon my chest, I watch him rise and fall with each breath I take, I listen and count each and every exhalation of his lungs, his breaths still so few as to remain countable, a prayer to the gods I’ve doubted. I inhale his baby smells, secure him gently in my hands, synchronize our breathing, and I drift to sleep in peace.

The endorphin high of birth will fade, but its trace remains with you forever, its fingerprints indelible proof of love’s presence and daily grandeur. You have offered up your prayer. You have vowed service to a new world and laid a bedrock of earthly faith. You have chosen your sword, your shield, and where you will fall. Whatever the morrow brings, these things, these people, will be with you always. The power of choice, of a life, a lover, a place to stand, will be there to be called upon and make fresh sense of your tangled history. More important, it will also be there when you waver, when you’re lost, providing you with the elements of a new compass, encased within your heart.

From here on, the hard gravitational pull of the past will have a formidable challenger: your current life. Together, Patti and I’d made one and one equal three. That’s rock ’n’ roll.

This new life revealed that I was more than a song, a story, a night, an idea, a pose, a truth, a shadow, a lie, a moment, a question, an answer, a restless figment of my own and others’ imagination . . . Work is work . . . but life . . . is life . . . and life trumps art . . . always.