I am just past my seventeenth birthday. I am in the home of an acquaintance whose family generously took me in after my second adoptive mother, Frances, kicked me out of her house several months earlier. I am in bed, asleep.
Earlier that night, I drove my lime green Chevy Nova, my first car, to the old neighborhood seven miles away, where I lived with my first adoptive mother, Mary Ann, until I was nine years old, when she decided to relinquish me. This has become a habit, a kind of pilgrimage.
I drove past the playground where I once thrilled to spin on the roundabout, where I learned to swim by holding on to the edge of the pool and kicking my feet in the water.
I drove past the place where, on the first day of third grade, I stood on the sidewalk crying, lost, unable to find my new elementary school. I looked up pleadingly through wet eyes at all the eyes peering back at me through the windows of the school buses streaming by.
I drove past the ice cream shop where my second adopters took me once, not knowing how close we were to my old home, and to the life I was supposed to forget. Some of my old friends from that very same elementary school walked in, recognized me, and called me by my old name. I froze. I couldn’t mouth a word.
I drove to the house of the basement apartment where I last lived with Mary Ann and slowed to a near stop. The house was dark. My eyes closely scanned the narrow basement windows through the shadows. Their darkness seemed impenetrable, as if they concealed another world and barred my access to it. Where in that other world was Mary Ann now? Does she ever think of me? Does she regret her decision? Would she want me back? Just as haunting was the mother I never got to know, flesh of my flesh, my first mother and the first and most intimate loss. She was there, too, in that other world. She stood behind Mary Ann and Frances, their rejections cutting me at the root.
I eased my foot off the brake and slowly drove away. My only solace was the chaotic dissonance of the punk music blasting my eardrums, vibrating like a tuning fork in sympathy with the chaos of my heart. I drove on, a mere passer-by.
As I sleep, I am soon swept into what has become a recurring dream. Frances is screaming at me, her facial features twisted and gnarled. I am defenseless, unmoving. She is so close and her voice slices through me, overwhelming me, possessing me. I am captive to her rage, her hatred. She won’t stop. There’s no escape. I feel the pressure build and build in my dream-body until I can no longer hold it in. All the rage and hatred she’s instilled in me, that I’ve had to swallow for the eight years I lived with her, all the rage and frustration, terror and helplessness of a child betrayed and abandoned by three mothers, come bursting through my mouth in two succinct words:
I am jolted awake. Chemical electricity shudders through my body. I stare at the ceiling as I let the shock waves subside. I am looking into space. I am looking at nothing. I am staring into the void of being tethered to absolutely no one in this world.