So you’re thinking, “Fer shit’s sake, how many posts does she plan to jam into a weekend?” Well…
A very long time ago I did a favor for a friend. She wanted to work. She had a baby. I chose to help raise the bairn since the father was a bit less than…sober, let’s say. Not a bad man but just not Present In The Moment.
Mere weeks after she was born I moved in and began caring for her. She was amazingly bright even at that very early stage. I would dress her in the finery her mother demanded and we’d go for long walks. She loved the fresh wind in her face and I was not against getting her out in the weather. I believed it was perfectly fine to dress warmly and carouse in the winter chill.
I would tell her long stories though she couldn’t know more than the tone of my voice. I would give names to things as she played. And over time she became more mine than her mother’s. How not? How not when her mother would push at her when she came home, more concerned with doffing her office finery and donning something to smoke?
I performed this labor of love for nearly four years. In the end, I had to leave it behind. It was madness – conflict and convicts, recriminations and criminals. I have always regretted leaving the child behind in that situation. Too smart by half for a mother dedicated to her buzz. And her mother no slouch in the brains department either but with no desire to apply them to anything but ways to avoid work, acquire funds, and acquire said buzz. I visited only once more, years after. A small quarrel we had, the child and I. It is all I remember…
There is still a photo, dim with the years, of her smiling gently at the camera in a silver frame on a shelf. I rarely polish it, not often do I look at it. Because it is a link to a woman whom I loved dearly but with whom I can never again communicate. I severed that link not long after I met Trooper, knowing that her kind of Crazy was just not something I wanted in my life anymore. A friend had written, “Chew through all of the umbilical cords which provide toxic nourishment, regardless of to whom they are connected and however long it takes.” That connection was tenuous at best but utterly drenched in that toxin. I cut it and turned away.
I turned away from the only one who knew me in those years, who knew the stories that my own addled brain had long lost. My sins, many and varied, are surely still tabulated by her. I consider that loss of memory a blessing. And I missed terribly that connection to the girl. Her mother knew it and would try to reach out with lies about her that I simply could not answer. I told myself that if it were true, I would know. That slender thread would tell me.
Strange that she has been merely 90 minutes away…hardly a handful of letters could be typed in on Trooper’s laptop and I could know more than that. But I have chosen to not know. Nothing more than that she was there, alive, grown into a lovely woman. And then something stirred in me.
I remembered an old snippet of data – her own passion for the knitting needles – and in a flash I was looking on the site we fanatics of fleece use…hardly any effort at all was needed. I looked and read, my finger hovered over the Add As Friend button for long moments.
Decades gone, would she know? Would she notice if I did it? Did she even visit the site anymore? And memories flooding by of those difficult years…so much forgotten in my wish to let it all be Behind Me. What was I doing if I brought this back into the Now? Was I starting a pathway back to that pain or was she as free of her mother now as I am?
And then I think of this: she is the one who is to get all the words. The will is clear, my will known. Because I wasn’t certain anyone else would understand them, and I cannot explain to you why I believe that she could. There is nothing of me in her.
The last thought as I clicked that button was one of wry inevitability. This cord of communion, this ephemeral connection, surely there is a reason for it. And, if not, easily enough undone. And a bonfire of my vanities can be made, instead. A proper pyre made of their aged pages and fading ink.
And what vanity this? Reaching out for immortality…we shall see what cost that vanity exacts…