She lives, and I suppose that is a good thing. I wouldn’t wish anything so lovely into nonexistence. Couldn’t, if what my Chan Buddhism teacher said is true. Nothingness can’t not exist, for it is nothingness, and that’s something. I love that kind of mental crap, it makes my own situation seem less absurd. Seem less lonely.
For years and years, it was like it never happened. I worried about things, the rent, the PG&E bill, passing the test to be a Certified Shorthand Reporter. I didn’t worry about her. She was happy or not, loved or not, what did it matter? I gave her life. That’s all — that’s more than I had to give her. She was so tenacious, so brutal, demanding, demanding. I wanted to let her go, believe me, get it out of my body long before it became a her. I wanted to find a way. But she took over, really took over. I lost my mind there for a while, and she ran the show. I disappeared from the planet — I was the defeated Ripley, the host incubator, here to serve until the thing burst through whatever chakra and charged off to the wide, wide world. I’m amazed I am ever able to forget that time.
For a week I’ve been listening for the UPS guy. The truck hurls into our cul-de-sac every morning to rendezvous with the neighbor, a major eBay person. One day that truck is going to stop with something for me. It would be great if it were today when I don’t have a depo to go to. Something’s coming, I know. I saw it last week when I was in Napa. The second witness didn’t show, and I walked around waiting for the last deposition of the day. I passed a bookstore and thought of her, she loves writing and reading and little independent bookstores. I went in to kill some time.
She found me. No surprise there. The day I heard from her, it was like I had never escaped at all, never had any of my own real life. She wanted, just the way I remember. Wanting, wanting. Feed me, Seymour. The years of forgetting shattered like so much old-fashioned pale green glass, and there she was, a grown-up woman with my nose, my hair. His eyes.
Why can’t she just be happy with her life? She has it all. Brains, money, a great education. She’s a lawyer, what a cosmic joke. So is her husband. She’s got children. A life anyone would want. The life I wanted.
How could I have missed him? He must have come when I was doing the dishes. You know I can’t hear you when the water is running. The paper it’s wrapped in is browner, drabber than I remember, but it’s just as I expected. I knew I’d be getting this book. She would think of it, obsess herself into a snit, and finally send it to me like all the other little hints and helpful reminders. You are my mother, so be my mother, mother. Gah. They don’t come so often now, but I knew she couldn’t resist this one: The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade. Sheesh, what a mouthful. Double gah. The instant I saw it, I knew she would send it.
I don’t need a book to tell me. I’m glad no one else is at home today. I stare at the title and then make myself a cup of coffee. Did I surrender my child? What loaded words, surrender, child. You were never my child, how can I be your mother? And surrender, surrender. No, darling, it was you who finally surrendered me after nine long months. You finally let go just enough that I got away — from you, from him at last, from his eyes.
I would tell you, if it wouldn’t kill me, I think you are lovely. And for all the pain, I am glad you exist. I just can’t stand you. No, that’s not it. I just can’t stand me when I think of you. I’ve always been alone with this; there is no sharing the pain with you, you are the pain. Yes, the moment I saw it, I knew you would send it. I handed it to the clerk, gave her my card, my address. Now I carry it to my comfy reading chair, cradle it in my left arm, and open the cover.