On Being AmericanIn a place called a city (Philadelphia), in another place called a state(Pennsylvania), in yet another place called a nation (America) the unsayablecomes to life as me. Upon arrival I know no one; not even myself. Where Icome from there is nothing to know. There has been a visceral experience ofmy mother, from being in her, of her, for a time. That womb world is all thereis.A 1954 cesarean section, removed only after mom had been in labor for a dayand a half, a nurse bundles me away from my mother, puts me in a "preemie,"which is how they call an incubator in which premature babies are kept. Firstsensory details outside her womb are likely that microwave oven-like place, aﬂeshless mechanical isolation with oxygen plentiful. Where was mama? Itwas a no-mama, no-womb, small glass metal room. Although not premature,that is apparently what they did then with cesarean births.My head is pointed, I'm told, from being squeezed in mother
s birth tunnel.She hears later that dad, seeing my conical head, thinks I am deformed andgoes home in tears.If there were no way to do a C-section delivery, would I be in a tiny grave rightnow? Would mom have survived?Mom tells me she was not conscious during delivery. They injected her withsomething that put her under. When she wakes up she is in stitches. I am outand away. She has no chance to hold me ﬁrst.Being removed from what gives us birth, from a mother or an earth, is what, itseems to me right now, it is to be expatriate. "Exmatriate"? Alienation.Isolation. That's what it is for me from my beginning. Born into it. Born to it.Dissociated. It is true that I shy away and do not plunge into child's play oradult social interaction. Someone has to invite me, coax me, suggest that I join. Otherwise there I am sitting on a curb along a street in front of a housewe just moved into watching boys across the street play basketball in abackyard.