Ground Zero

After reading my previous post to my therapist, I feel mute, distant, disconnected. “I feel like we are now in the hour after she told you,” she says. “What that was like for you?”

Part of the challenge of writing my life into a coherent story is that there are so many gaps in my memory and so few people who were and remain consistent presences in my life whose memories I can lean on where mine fails. For instance, I have strong impressions of our adoptive mother, Mary Ann, telling my sister Robyn and me that she was giving us up and we were going to another family, but I do not recall what immediately followed.

How did I cope in the immediate aftermath of such a catastrophe? What was the hour after the explosion like for me? Though I can’t recall the details, I trust that my body remembers. And what is most important to me here is not getting the facts straight but telling a story that is true to what lives inside my body. I want to write in a way that honors the truth of the child I was and what I lived through, this child who still lives in me. I want to listen inwardly, with compassion, to this child to help me fill in the gaps.

Mary Ann retreats into her room, and soon after so does my sister, leaving me alone on the sofa. I am stunned. I cannot move. I dare not leave the spot where I tasted the last remnants of the world I knew. I listen for Mary Ann, hypervigilant for any sounds behind her bedroom door. I hear her occasional footsteps and the shuffling of papers and other sounds I can’t make out. I sense the anger and agitation in her movements. The embrace we just shared feels so far away, as if it happened in another universe a long, long time ago. My heart instinctively reaches for her, but the cord has been cut. She is no longer there, no longer accessible to me. She, too, is in that other universe.

So where am I?

Without mother or father I do not exist. Without anyone to recognize me as their own, I am no one. The child I was unravels. I float above my body. I no longer have a home in my body.

I hear her door open and I am brought back to my senses. I hear her footsteps coming down the hall. Who is she now, this not-my-mother? I can’t bear this not-knowing. I need help! I am terrified! I grasp hold once again to the feeble, desperate hope that she will comfort me, will save me from this void of non-existence washing over me. I hope to meet the eyes of the mother I once knew, the mother I need right now. But when she appears, her eyes are cold and distant, hard. Our eyes meet for a fleeting moment, enough for me to be scorched by her resentment of my need. She has given up on me, given me up. There is nothing left to hang on to. I float away.

 O Lord, I am undone, I slip away from myself;
 I have no mouth to speak, no arms to reach out, no legs to move.
 I am plunged into the deep dark abyss
 and there is no one who sees me,
 no one who comes to my help. 

 But you, O Lord, are the Greater Abyss;
 all depths are enfolded in your embrace.
 There is no suffering, no despair, no destruction 
 that you do not bear within us, with us, for us.
 Though I am forsaken, helpless, you are my help;
 you will rescue me, release me from the snares of non-existence.
All my hope lies in you.

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