Saturday, 18 August 2007

in the darkness....

I was thinking today, about a good friend I had in high school. She was adopted. I don't know why I started thinking about her really. We lost touch years ago. She undertook her latter high school years in a boarding school in the big city, and while we tried to maintain contact over that time, life took over, as it does. She moved, I moved, her parents moved and my parents moved....she could live in the next street for all I know. Nevertheless, we were good friends at the time. Her parents owned and ran a local motel, and I was invited regularly to stay over at her place; we were even allowed to stay in a motel room if one was vacant.

The motel was close to the local swimming pool. One summer we spent practically ever day at the pool (a fact you might find surprising if you had read the story, two posts back). This friend even invited me to stay with her at her Aunt's place in another town, over the winter break. Her Aunt owned a corner deli and we spent most of the week working in it, which was a huge novelty (for me anyway).

We did a lot together, this friend and I. I remember one night, creeping out from one of the motel rooms we were staying in and walking to the all night truck stop (roadhouse/diner/servo) for hot chips; scrambling over neighbourhood fences and into foreign backyards, then walking back through the local cemetery eating hot chips from a wrap of butcher paper, while trying to make out the inscriptions etched into the old leering Gothic style monuments. This friend was there for me during a difficult time in my life. She was funny and crazy; a risk taker and a bit unpredictable...a welcomed distraction, and just what I needed at the time.
Despite all this, I realised it was quite difficult to get to know this particular friend. There was somewhat of a wall that she placed around her that forbid one from really getting to know her. Humour was her best defense; whenever things go a bit intense or serious, whenever the deeper or the tougher question were raised, she expertly sidelined all and any expectations of a genuine or heartfelt response. Never did I learn her hearts crush, while we were at school together, although she told me of the her crush in her new school, he being at a safe, unlocatable and unidentifiable distance - a mere abstraction to me, a fictional character in a novel or a cartoon upon which to wonder and imagine, but never know.

One night however, when laying in our respective twin beds in the motel, darkness draped upon all forms, our voices rising up in the night, unencumbered by the intimidation and bounds of body language suggestions, my friend started talking about her adopted older sister and how, when her sister became upset with my friend, she would tell her that she wished she "had never chosen her" at the hospital/orphanage. I asked my friend when she had been told she was adopted and while wrapped in the safe shroud of night, she told me that she had always known. Her mother was unable to have children, and her birth story was that her parents took her older sister to choose a sibling, and her sister was said to have proudly chosen the prettiest baby in the establishment. My friend seemed happy to recount this story to me. It was a comfort to her; it made her feel loved and wanted, like she belonged for she was chosen.

On the back of this discussion; seizing the moment and perhaps being both rather insensitive and a little daft of age, I then asked my friend if she ever thought about her birth mother. "No", came the abrupt reply, a reply tinged with disappointment and hurt, "and I will never look for her. She gave me up. My parents are the only parents I know. They are the ones who love me. I never think about my birth family." And with that I felt a door close. Silence descended like a rock in a still pond - hard and fast, fanning ripples the only sign that something had occurred...I heard her muffled sobs in the darkness, and it broke my heart to think that I had brought this pain to the surface, for it seemed apparent that this was something that she had often mulled over in the private corners of her inner being. We never spoke of it again, and she seemed happy with that, but the conversation stuck with me, as has the memory of her quiet stifled tears and I have wondered about her and where she is today and whether there really is some part of her that seeks, and longs.
*Photo by Olivier Follmi - "A Tear of Coldness at 4200 Meters, Ladak".


Scotty said...

That's sad, Strauss. Any chance you can look for her before you leave and make contact somehow?

Kathleen said...

What an emotional post! I was having happy memories of the girlfriends that used to be in my life, and had lost contact with, and then your story turned so sad...and my heart broke for your young friend. I hope that as she became an adult, she had the courage to follow her heart and look for her birth family. And I hope YOU can look for HER.

Brissiemum2 said...

That is so sad. I have a friend who is in a similar position but she won't look for her birth parents out of respect to her adoptive parents. Interesting how some people view the world.

strauss said...

I guess she is in Australia. She moved out of the state at one stage. I have known her to be in WA and NT at various stages. Thanks for these sentiments.