A Synopsis

I wish I had been aborted.

Actually, I wish I had never existed at all.

But I know that my mother could have had an abortion. Not legally, of course (before ’73), but I know she could have, and my father was willing to pay for it. Instead, I became a bargaining chip with, as it turned out, no apparent value. And since he wouldn’t marry her, then he couldn’t have me, either. She gave me away as much to punish him as because of her parents’ ultimatum: Come home without that baby or don’t come home at all.

She could have stayed with her brother and his family, as she had during the last months of her pregnancy. But she didn’t. She gratefully believed the social workers’ tales and “chose” to start “fresh,” and to go on with her life as if I’d never existed.

I was a nine-month abortion that didn’t die. I was thrown, still breathing, into the dumpster of life.

To this day, I truly do not understand why I continued to breathe or why my heart continued to beat. For the first few hours, perhaps even days, yes; I suppose I held out hope that my mother would retrieve me. But, when I finally gave up emotionally, psychologically, and psychically… then, why?

I can’t begin to fathom the profound depression I must have experienced before I finally just dissociated. Did I try to stop my heart from beating? Did I try to stop breathing? If so, I obviously failed.

I imagine I spent most of those first 1000 hours in a dissociative state, certainly fully dissociated by the time I was picked up by the offensive new “family.” Imagine the shock to my psyche at the sudden commotion and then, just hours later, being shut away again in a crib. Alone. In a cold, dark room.

Years later, they laughed and laughed about how cold that room had been.

I don’t remember when they remodeled, making my room into their new master suite extended over the living room below. I don’t know where I was kept during the remodeling. I barely remember my new little adoptive sister’s crib in our new room – the old master bedroom. She got even less attention than I, ostensibly because she had my company. And, from then on, I was to depend on hers.

She and I were more on our own than ever before, largely growing each other up in our wounded way. Yet, we were never close. We had little in common, and our respective blueprints for relationship were missing trust and security, both instantly dissociating at every little stressor; both perpetually hypervigilant, both traumatized in a world which denied our traumas. We were no help to each other. Were were merely unrelated victims living together in the same cage.

Our replacement mother was damaged, too, and insane, as was our so-called brother.

We engaged most often with our replacement father, a man who liked children but detested and feared females. After he lost his father at the age of twelve, his older sister and mother oppressed him – or, rather, his mother oppressed him and his sister was caught in the middle. His attempts to divide and conquer were ineffective as a boy. But now he was “all grown up” with two little girls he could train “properly” to know their place – to be helpless, powerless, meaningless… useless.

The mother as wife? Small town girl, oppressed herself by her insane, dictatorial father. Startlingly large breasts, not too bright, with her father’s inherent insanity. If she had a mind of her own, she kept it to herself – lest she risk divorce from him for the second time.

Their son was raised and treated as the heir apparent.

We, the girls, were spackle, whitewash, wallpaper, window dressing… integral parts of a fa├žade. As we grew, it slowly dawned on them that we were real – that is, we were not going to fade away once our usefulness was outgrown. They wanted us to go away from them and live lives of our own, but our “father” had already succeeded spectacularly in his training program: we had indeed become helpless, powerless, meaningless, and useless.

We each became like the proverbial dog dumped in the desert who keeps finding his way back home. We were too needy – no one else wanted us either – so, as painful as it was to be around them, we kept coming back. Our touchstone was a bog filled with soul-sucking leeches, an environment of shame and humiliation. Even when we were away, they followed us with their shaming. They wrote letters to us declaring their profound disappointment in us, signed by both of them as though the letters were legal documents. This lasted until the man’s death. I was 37 years old. My adoptive sister was 35.

Weird Lullaby

What a death… what a chance… what a surprise! My will has chosen life?! Still, it has had me spooked, and many others besides.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I teach piano now in Nelson. George has fashioned me a metal fingertip. I’m quite the town freak… which satisfies.

I am learning to speak. My sound is still so bad I feel ashamed. I practice only when I am alone and it is dark.

At night, I think of my piano in its ocean grave, and sometimes of myself floating above it.

Down there, everything is so still and silent that it lulls me to sleep. It is a weird lullaby, and so it is. It is mine.

– from the motion picture “The Piano”

Someone Else’s Life

My new environment was usually observed through a veil of vertical slats, though there was precious little to observe. It was cold, and the immediate surroundings outside that tiny prison were too dark to discern. Illumination came from a long thin beam of changing light and, from it, unfamiliar sounds erupted. I was not accustomed to hearing so many sounds. So many sounds, but I could not see their source.

A paradox emerged.

Despite my desire to be left alone and avoid these new strangers, a terrible loneliness betrayed me. My waking hours in that place were spent in ever-vigilant anticipation – and dread – of some commotion that might eventually include me.

I bleated. And hated myself for it.

Each time it occasioned a response, I was disappointed. Each time it was ignored, I was devastated. The former caused me to either be stripped and touched only where I had made a mess, or to be given the bottle that was not Mama. The lack of response was worse still: it taught me I was nothing. It taught me my feelings and needs – my very self – were unimportant or, at most, subject to the convenience of others.

I had the sense that a dreadful mistake had been made: I had been born into someone else’s life instead of my own!

On the rare occasions when I was delivered of my cold prison, I was subjected to startling noises, too-close faces, and disturbing bodily scents. I was passed from stranger to stranger, all of whom inexplicably disavowed my cataclysmic loss.

Included in this barrage was a kind of being I had never seen in those first 1000 hours. It was very small compared with the others, but equally as threatening and louder than all the rest. They called it “Billy.”

Billy was not ignored. Billy commanded attention. The importance of Billy was not lost on me. It was impressed upon me to such an extent that this became my first spoken word.

After a time, Billy began to cart me about the premises when he had tired of his latest toy. At those times I hoped he might continue on out into the world and return me to Mama. I believe this was his desire, as well. However, that dream was never realized.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There was no returning me to Mama, this life was clearly not mine, and there was nothing I could do to change it. So I chose again the escape where there is no escape: I gave up.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yet, again, some force beyond my control intervened.

A Thousand Hours

My newborn mind could not measure time by months or weeks or days. Not even by hours. Without the reassuring comfort of Mama, every second was an agony. And there passed nearly four million of those agonies before my life would change.

To write of those agonies would take me years. For you to read them would take a thousand hours. I will not soliloquize them. I confess this is not for your sake, but for mine.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have told you already that I had given up. But giving up does not put an end to agony, not while you are still alive. It only ends if you die.

Against my will, some inscrutable force compelled me to accept the bottle anew. I began to grow once more, and my bleating regained its strength.

Yet my despair remained. I continued to turn away from the strangers, all hope now lost that one might be Mama.

I had been altered.

I had become a lamb forever lost. What is forever? All I can tell you is that it is not over yet.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And there was more. I had no way of knowing, then, that I was being prepared. I was being prepared as a sacrifice to the Common Good: Restorative for the loss of another child, and for Mama’s future.

Only an unblemished lamb is acceptable, as only a perfect sacrifice is acceptable to God (or to the Common Good). How could they have known that I was blemished? I had no bruises, no bleeding wounds.

They believed I was unblemished.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So a time came, after those thousand hours, when I saw the faces of two strangers, faces which would eventually become familiar. Eventually. But not for another thousand hours.

In those faces was a joyous expression, as if they were witnessing a miracle. I knew this expression, because I had seen it on Mama’s face in that meteoric moment. But I could not perceive any new miracle. I was terrified. Terrified! One of the faces had garish, painted lips and a strong, sickly sweet smell. The other was not quite so offensive, but I was panic-stricken as they drew so close that I could not turn away. I wanted to turn away! They wanted me to smile. Could they not see that I had lost Mama? Could they not even manage to express their condolences? What could possibly make them think I had anything to smile about?

I felt so helpless, so powerless, so unprotected! All I had was my bleating, and it drowned out everything else. I bleated until consciousness mercifully left me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When I awoke, I was in an unfamiliar place with offensive smells and peculiar sounds. I was terrified all over again, and started my desperate bleating. The face with the garish lips and sickly smell appeared, and my bleating grew louder still. She laughed. She laughed!

What new hell was this?

Silence of the Lambs

From Wikipedia: A lamb does not bleat when it’s killed, making it a suitable object of sacrifice because this signifies its willingness to succumb to its fate.

Animal behaviorists affirm that injured sheep don’t vocalize, but their physiology under such conditions indicates no willingness.

Mama did not bleat when I was taken. Her silence was neither involuntary nor instinctive. Her silence was commanded. I cannot imagine her unnaturally muted torment. I am afraid to try.

I was not silent. But because my bleating was presumed meaningless it was deduced that I, too, accepted my fate willingly.

For a thousand hours, I bleated in protest of my obliterated world. I bleated in protest of my obliterated self. I did not exist without Mama.

I was no one.



Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing… nothing.

I wondered what I was, not who. With every strange face that hovered over me, I waited for my definition. Was I a receptacle? A mechanism? What was my function? What feat must I perform?

No answer was forthcoming.

I cried louder, hoping with new hope she could hear and that at some magic moment the features of a strange face would morph into those of Mama.

No. At least, not yet.

If I accept this foul liquid, will Mama reappear?

If I accept your embrace, will Mama reappear?

Scanning, scanning, scanning. I was ever-vigilant.

Minute after minute. Hour after hour. Face after face, not Mama.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Eventually, protest was eclipsed by despair.

I became lethargic, a leaden heap. My heartbeat slowed. Sleep was intermittent, shallow. I had no sense of day or night. I wanted to disappear. I refused the bottle. I turned away from the strangers. I stopped growing. My bleating grew weak and dispassionate, until it stopped altogether.

I accepted my fate, and became the lamb.

In the Beginning…

Birth Day.

This is not about a party with cake and candles and presents.

I want to tell you about the day I was born.

It was the middle of April in a Midwestern city, an unseasonably cold 20 degrees. The day started early for me. I emerged from my cozy womb at 1 a.m.

The moon was new, and so was I.

But, like the moon, I wasn’t really new. I’d been around for a while – just hiding in a place where no one could see me.

In that place, I was warm and happy. In the daytime, my cousins gave me loving rubs and pats as they welcomed me with their words, and I could hear them giggling and squealing as they played around me. I could smell food cooking in the evening and hear the sounds of dinner – forks against plates, glasses clinking, music, animated talk, and hearty laughter.

My mother wore out every nightgown she had, rubbing her belly late at night and talking gently just to me. Sometimes, though, she cried. I felt the sobs rack her body, and mine, too. And I felt her sadness and despair.

But mostly I felt her hope, her anticipation, her optimism. Sometimes we danced, Mama and me.

I grew to love the tastes of the foods she ate. She craved tapioca pudding when I was inside her. I still abandon my usual healthy diet now and then to succumb to its comfort.

And always, always, I could hear her heart beating. My life, in that place, was measured by its rhythm.

When I was ready to come into the world of air and light, I woke her up on that cold April night, and we rode in the big car, Mama and I, with her favorite sister.

Soon after our arrival at the hospital, I emerged from my cozy home. I was frightened for a moment, breathing air for the first time, and it was cold. But then I was laid on my mother’s breast and I felt her warm skin against mine, heard the reassuring rhythm of her heartbeat, smelled her familiar smell, recognized her voice welcoming me, and gazed at last into the eyes of my World, my Universe, my Everything.

I was enraptured.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Time in this new world, I was to learn, passes all too quickly yet can be an agonizing eternity.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As I snuggled, euphoric, at my mother’s breast, strange cold hands clasped around me and, in that moment, Mama was gone. My World was gone. I was gone.

In a matter of seconds, bliss ended… and terror began.

Sacrificial lambs, both of us; we would never know that sweet embrace again.