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The Conundrum: Splitting The Baby) for Kimberly Mays Twigg

kimberly mays infant photo Switched At Birth, www.silverimagephotoagency.com

I.

Sometimes, I ask myself why I didn’t give her back sooner.  Would it have been easier then, before I knew her personality, the sweet meaning of her every sound, every movement?  Already I loved her smell, the weight of her small head on my chest, already I’d soothed and fed and washed her forty days running.  That other mother gave life, I gave only touch, warmth, comfort.  I couldn’t help it; I fell in love, it happens like that, quickly, without thought.  I didn’t know how it felt to be someone’s mother.  When I couldn’t become pregnant, I cried for days.  My insides felt soft and hollow, like an empty purse.  This little girl loves me, I know she does.  She reflects a rainbow back to my eyes, in her smallest toe resides a perfect universe.  I lie next to her at night, breathing the rich, salty fragrance of her hair, feeling her body growing, expanding to meet mine, and over our private nest flows time, but for as long as we can we rest outside death’s pull, allowing all that to pass by, content with this lovely darkness, this small sliver of heaven.

II.

Sometimes I ask myself why I gave her up in the first place.  It wasn’t easy, not even then; I haven’t held her since the day she was born, but I know her, like she’ll know me, without thinking.  I began her life, I walked with her body in mine for nine months, we were never apart, not for a second.  I called her my daughter.  That woman has taken care of my poor baby for years, but in her heart it’s only me she’ll call Mama.  Any fool knows this, anybody with a brain will tell you adoption can be a mistake.  It was a crisis of self-esteem, more than anything.  A momentary weakness, where I thought maybe I wasn’t strong enough to keep her safe.  Once, during all this trouble, I almost gave up.  All I had in my hands was a pink plastic bracelet, but I couldn’t forget holding her, I couldn’t forget how her toes curled against her foot, so small, so much like mine.  Now she’ll never have to wonder whether I loved her, she’ll never have to discover where I live.  The time we spent apart will soon be forgotten; she’s young and there’s plenty of time for our life to weave itself back together, to re-create our lost paradise.

III.

Sometimes I ask myself why I couldn’t have had them both, forever.  Is love so smart that it can tell the difference between one drop of blood and another?  Being born was harder the second time, though life at home smells just as sweet; the weight of this new mother, her reassuring size, pressed against me like a sheaf of autumn grain, harvest of all dreams.  Dimness is where part of me lives now, the part that slept near the warm shadow-woman of my first days, hands that held fast, then let go.  Dimness, and a lifelong vocation to tell people — remember, I have no patience for fools, none at all — nothing is as simple as it seems.  A child’s soul can fill even the most tortured shape imaginable.  God knows, when I have my own daughter, she’ll ask how it was to be torn apart for love, and I’ll have to tell her:  it was a beauty and a terror and a fiery cross, and gaining the knowledge of good and evil has a price… and those of us who’ve paid it don’t for a minute regret our sacrifices.  Yes, it hurts, yes, it left scars, and yes, now and again I have trouble sleeping — don’t we all?

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A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

illustration a lot of men that year

A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

I was going through a lot of men that year.  All men seemed like works of art to me, like sculpture.  With body hair, without ‑‑ the buttocks, the thighs, the chests.  They were all quite lovely to look at.  Their emotional content was something else completely.  They seemed cruel, without love ‑‑ not that it mattered that much to me; I kept myself armored against hurt pretty well.  It was all casual dalliance, a form of gymnastic exercise, no permanence intended.  That was how I was protected.

Francisco was the handsomest man I’d ever dared let myself be attracted to.  We were cast in the same play, that’s how it started.  His friend, Vincent, was also quite handsome, though not my type ‑‑ blonde, blue‑eyed.

During this same time, my father and I were trying to get to know each other, 20 years too late.  He wanted instant fatherhood:  I was just confused by it all.

His VW van ‑‑ his hippie ways.  He thought I was so conservative.  When he told me he was attracted to me physically, sexually, I was only half‑shocked, because I suppose I had felt it too.  I almost wished he would act on it, just to see what it felt like.  It wasn’t like I really saw him as a father figure.

Meanwhile, I slept with every guy who interested me, except the ones who had love in their eyes.  Lust, intellectual curiosity, and admiration for my body ‑‑ these were all OK.  But love?  It gave me the willies.  Long‑term commitments were the last thing on my mind.

My father was living in his van ‑‑ I didn’t want to see him all that much, and that hurt his feelings.  I don’t know what, exactly, was going through my mind.  Attraction and repulsion, like magnetic phenomena.

Then there was the boy who punched the wall and broke his hand.  The short boy, musclebound.  He had sort of, kind of, almost-but-not-quite fallen in love with me.  He wanted to sleep with me, but I refused him.  He didn’t understand why.  I was sleeping with everybody else.  I sensed that a sleeping relationship with him would get too messy.  He would be jealous, passionate, moody, and neurotic.  I only wanted men who were vaguely indifferent?

I loved my film as literature class teacher from afar.  He was balding, blonde, and wore thick glasses.  I mean Coke-bottle thick.  I wanted everybody to make passes at me.  I was almost offended if they showed no overt interest in taking my clothes off.  My only excuse?  I was nineteen years old.

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