1. If I wrote fiction, it would be easier. Then, you wouldn’t know if what I’m trying to write is true. Or I could insist it isn’t.
2. I’ve never been able to wrap myself in fiction. Real life’s too interesting, for one thing. For another, it’s too complicated for me. The distance and the feint; I can’t do either. It’s like my face: I can try to filter, screen, be blank, but it can’t be anything other than real. It can’t express any emotion other than what I’m feeling.
3. The story could have 100 beginnings. At least.
4. I could say “I don’t know how to start,” but it would really just be code for “I’m scared.”
5. Here’s the thing: we all have past lives. We’ve all made decisions that continue to affect our lives, in ways we couldn’t have imagined at the time. In ways we can hardly handle now.
6. I know this will be partial. I will be interrupted in the telling, interrupted while I’m writing so I can be inserted back into the story for a while since the story is being written right now.
7. We started looking for them years ago.
8. There were never secrets between us. Things we forgot to tell each other: yes. Things we held from each other: no. Things we didn’t want to tell other people: yes. What people always forget: that true narratives are never neat.
9. There were two of them: missing sons.
10. There was the Internet, which should have made it easy. I feel like saying “It didn’t” is obvious.
11. We started in 2003. We started a lot of things in 2003. We visited old addresses, people I didn’t know. I stepped into life before me. It’s a place I wanted to go. It’s a place I didn’t want to go. It’s a place, above all, that was hard to imagine.
12. If I told you everything, it would change what you think about him. Maybe that’s what scares us most.
13. Nothing happened in 2003.
14. We started again last week. A tip. And it leads to a mother’s home. He doesn’t want to visit but there’s no other way. I wait in the car. 45 minutes become a time when a woman can think a lot of things. But not what you’re thinking.
15. The mother leads to a son, the one who carries his name. On my birthday, they talk on the phone.
16. We stop at Hallmark to buy a birthday card. “The selection is shit,” I say, angry, not realizing the clerk is behind me. There’s not one that says “I’m sorry I wasn’t in your life and I don’t know how to tell you how everything got so fucked up, and I don’t know, really, how to tell you anything, even happy birthday or I’m sorry.”
The Hallmark woman wants to help, but Christ, how do you even begin to tell her what you need?
16. I didn’t want to go to the first meeting in a mall parking lot. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I didn’t think it was right.
17. But I went.
18. He is his father. Just like Brayan, who was never missing but who was left. Brayan, who I love, who is my friend, who is so similar to his father that his gestures, his words, his body, his eyes, his thoughts, his heart, his flaws… have made me stop. Have made me, once, cry.
19. They are together now as I sit at a hotel table writing and listening to men talk about database connections while ESPN drones and claps on in the background. They went to see his mother, who has lost her mind, who calls him (the son) for money, for a ride to the bar, for groceries. She called last night: wanted to see them together.
He has my debit card. Bought lunch. Bought groceries.
Called to see if I’d be okay if he took her to pick up a check. “Yes.” I mean it. But I feel angry with her for not having her shit together. Then angry at myself because that’s not fair.
And all I can think is: I hope I have enough money for gas to get back to New York. For the extra day the rental car company is going to charge because we’re not going to turn it in on time.
20. I am carrying his only daughter- our daughter. For a time-I don’t know how long-I was afraid this meant he would leave. That she would go missing. And that, of course, meant that I would be missing, too. And I didn’t know which hurt more.
21. She will be born soon- by this time next week, probably. Last night, I noticed she’d dropped lower. For the first time in weeks, I felt like I could breathe.
22. We both slept well.
23. I wasn’t interrupted.
24. I’m afraid of the drive home.