She’s seated in front of me, holding her baby. The clinic is quiet and the child is wide awake.
“He likes you.” She smiles and touches his nose. His eyes don’t blink. He is transfixed by my face, or my white-coat. You can never tell what they’re looking at at this age.
I reach for my stethoscope and lean in closer. I bring my eyes to his level and place the round piece on where I know his heart will be.
It beats in harmony with my own pulse, which I hear faintly in my plugged ears. All this time he doesn’t look away. He is mesmerized by everything I do, everything I say, and nothing else is important to him right now.
Nothing is as impressionable as a baby’s brain. I know this as I peer into his huge brown eyes. His mind is a clean slate, a plot of soil where each of us will plant a seed. Some of us will laugh and toss seeds of joy into his neural abyss. Others will fight, perhaps break something and swear, planting seeds of hate. Another will read him a story, carefully pointing at the beautifully drawn pictures, shedding seeds of their intelligence in his mental garden. A loving stranger like me will smile at him, scattering seeds of kindness. And, of course, someone will lie to him, perhaps promise to give him something and then take it away, laughing at his innocent ability to trust. These will be the first seeds of doubt. And they are the hardest to weed out.
I close my eyes, not wanting to contribute to this undeserved privilege. What gives us the right to mold someone’s mind? Who do we hold accountable for the damage that is done? How do we measure the potency of our seeds? I partake in ten minutes of this baby’s metamorphosis. My influence is negligible. Yet I feel its burden, heavy on my closed eyelids. I open my eyes, and there he is, staring back at me still. I can almost see the mirror neurons behind his retinas, their synapses firing at the speed of light, inscribing into memory all that I am doing.
“His heart sounds fine,” I reassure his mother. She bounces him on her knees carefully, to celebrate the happy end of a doctor’s visit. With the final bounce, our eyes break free of each other. His father appears at the door of the clinic. There is a new object for his hungry eyes to consume.
I wave good-bye as they leave, but he doesn’t look back. My time is up. My seeds lie somewhere in the folds of his brain, embedded as a memory of the first doctor in his life. I will remain dormant in his subconscious, until perhaps I am conjured at a medical experience later on in his life. For now, I am but a seed, planted carefully in his mind, and I am praying that I left a good impression.