When you close your eyes, you no longer see those gazes woven with doubt; that’s why I can tie on an apron without burden, and conjure up dishes of braised pork and cola chicken wings for my hardworking wife upon her return, but I am told when I feed the baby with a bottle, my Adam’s apple retreats like the tide, and the lullabies I hum become as velvety as cream, challenging my wife who navigates the corporate battlefield daily, to see whose skin is thicker, unscathed by society’s piercing stares, and though each outing with the baby transforms me, as those scrutinizing looks morph into a barrage of darts, armoring me in an unexpected coat of spikes, I think instead of the emperor penguins I saw on TV, enduring the biting cold of Antarctica, a solitary sentinel over the precious egg, for which I used to imagine trekking across icy expanses to bring them a basket full of Antarctic krill and squid, not knowing then that by drawing my baby close in a sling, pressing his heartbeat to mine, I could maintain the softness of my chest, after which I stare at the milk bottle in my grasp, pondering whether I could transform the cold scrutiny into a lattice of ice to chill the formula, sidestepping the scalding heat of prejudice, efficiently implementing a social concept conversion algorithm, and in doing so, my wife and I eclipse the realm of judgmental stares, softening the edges of our public and private personas, breathing life into each moment until our existence burgeons, richer and fuller than the sea of misunderstandings surrounding us.

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