He’s born in the middle of the woods. He’s born beneath stars scattered across the sky, disorganized and unaware they’re that way. If he waited a month he could’ve had a bed and sterile hospital gloves powdered with cornstarch, the way his mother would have preferred. But he arrives without thinking of time or schedules. He arrives thinking about the way he liked the smell of dirt after it rains and that tiny sheen of light the leaves steal from the moon. He doesn’t care that he’s not in his place. Auden comes without fear of the mountain cold or the little cracks between space.
The time is eleven-ten when his mother’s back is against the damp earth, moss squishing between her fingers as she claws into the ground. She focuses on the hands of his father’s wristwatch to bear the pain, the ticking drowned out by screaming and heavy breaths. She thinks about how she’s a literal animal in the woods, completely like the deer and the coyotes and the birds they saw not ten minutes ago, when she was walking with her husband and laughing and not at all expecting to give birth right here, right now, intimate with the dirt. She keeps her eyes on that wristwatch. Eleven-ten. The longest eleven-ten of her life. A minute dragged out into forever. Her son is inside of her at eleven-ten and then, all at once, he’s not and never will be again. The clock hands jump from eleven-ten to eleven-twelve. A skipped minute. She doesn’t notice. She’s too busy watching the sky, nauseous from the pain but still.
But Auden notices, notices and then immediately forgets. For now, at least. For now he cries because the air is wind-filled and dry and for now he rests against his mother’s heaving chest, warm and thumping for something. His father touches his head, kisses his mother, and now it’s quiet enough to hear the ticking. The muffled sound of his birth sinks into his new, wet skin: tick and tick and nothing and then tick. Time forgot a minute.
A minute that Auden Watts will be searching for for the rest of his life.