I turned off the obnoxious happiness that the radio was spouting at me and I sat in the car, looking at the sunset over the canyon, contemplating and smoking my first fag in over a decade, trying to compose my thoughts and to find some semblance of normalcy.
My life had been turned upside down by his visit. He not only presented to me an unknown life I had once lived, but he presented me with a deed to a dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere, and a shoebox with belongings of a woman that I felt I was supposed to know instinctively, but to whom I felt absolutely no connection.
I had just left the house, and was still unsure what to do with it. I was just going to abandon it like she abandoned me, but then something told me to investigate just a little deeper. That’s when I found half of a broken locket which I now had strung on my silver chain, next to the silver cross and the pearl that had hung there for the last five years. I didn’t even know it was hers, nor did I know why I thought it was so significant, but some deep instinct in me told me to wear it and to treasure it although I didn’t know what was inside. It was a mystery in a mystery and my be the only concrete connection I had to my mysterious past.
I finished my cigarette and stared at the shoebox.
Apparently it was her belongings from the jail. The items she had entered the jail with and those she obtained while she was in lock up. I didn’t even know you could add to your possessions when you were incarcerated. I wasn’t ever going to open the box, but something about the broken locket, the hazy, acrid smoke in the car and the low angle of the sunlight encouraged and excited me. I felt almost as if all the answers I had been seeking would be in the shoebox, just waiting to be discovered.
All I had to do was open it. It was a task easier said than done. Something in me still didn’t want to know my secrets, something just wanted to go back to where it was “safe”. The other part of me was screaming at the first part insisting that you cannot hide from your past.
I stared ahead of me trying to imagine what my biological mother must have been like. Was she beautiful? Did she take me on trips? Did she play with me? Did she bake me cookies? Did she give good hugs?
Or did her violent alcoholism drive me away from her? Did she beat me the way she beat my father? Did she curse me when I cried?
Did she love me at all?
I took one more glance at the shoebox, wrapped in weathered contact paper with small pink flowers and green stripes. It must have been beautiful once. I wondered if she had made this. How could someone who was capable of killing her husband and abandoning her little girl in an alcoholic rage have created something this beautiful? When did she find enough peace to take the care to fold the edges of the paper to fit the box just so, to stick crystals in the gorgeous pattern on the lid one by one, to fold a fan in the paper to create the intriguing texture around the perimeter of the base?
How could this woman find peace in her life after doing so much wrong?
Anger bubbled up in me. It was ridiculous, frankly, that I was so angry with someone I couldn’t even remember, but it was there, and it was fresh and strong.
I grabbed the box and opened the car door, stalking angrily towards the ravine. As I approached, I sped up, almost to a run, just to get more momentum on my throw.
In my anger, however, I did not watch my step and I tripped over some loose stones on the ground. I let go of the box to catch myself, grazing my right knee and both palms.
I cursed and stared at the blood mixing with the dirt, picking little stones out of my hands. Then I looked up at the box. It lay open and its contents were splayed all over the dusty ground in front of me.
A pair of red stiletto shoes, a coffee mug, several old, creased envelopes tied with green ribbon and a framed photograph of a child’s drawing on paper yellowed with age.
My desire to know my truth overcame my anger and I got up and gathered the items from the box gently.
I touched the shoes, wondering how old they were and why she would choose to wear these to prison. They couldn’t have been allowed inside the jail. I tried them on and they fit perfectly, but were a little stiff with age. These were spicy and extremely sexy. I couldn’t imagine these fitting anywhere into my beige life back in Vancouver. A small thrill ran through me and I decided to keep them on.
Then I took up the frame with the drawing in it. It was a typical drawing of a house with three stick figures in front of it, a Mom, a Dad and a little girl. They all had crowns drawn on their heads. I traced the lines of the drawing with my fingers, wondering if I had drawn this for her, and if I had, when had I drawn it and how did she get it? As far as I knew, as soon as she turned herself in I was put into social services, adopted and whisked away forever to a different country. So many questions from one simple item.
Then I took up the chipped coffee mug. It had the prison’s stamp at the bottom of it – I suppose they just threw it in there? She actually drank from this cup. I held the handle, feeling the weight, trying to identify with this mystery woman who was my biological mother. My blood. My blood that I never knew.
I then picked up the envelopes and headed to the car. I sat down, placed the box on the passenger seat, lit another Marlboro from the new pack I had bought after leaving the dilapidated house and undid the ribbon. Surprisingly, the knot slid apart easily. There were so many envelopes, each a slightly different colour, with neat, precise lettering on the front. It was the complete opposite of my rococo styled curvy lettering. I chose one and opened it up.
It was a letter. It was written to Stacey. That was my birth name, according to what the lawyer had told me. This was a letter written to me but never mailed.
Perhaps she didn’t know where to mail it to? Perhaps it was never meant to be read.
It spoke about her feelings, how much she missed waking up in the morning to the smell of my baby’s milky breath. She mentioned how she had suckled me as an infant, and that she loved how my thin blonde hair reminded her of the wisps of dandelion seeds. She said that she loved me.
She loved me.
She loved me.
Tears came to my eyes and I wanted to read more, so I quickly grabbed another envelope and ripped it open.
There was no letter this time, but rather, just a small piece of metal. The other half of the broken locket I was wearing. The half that had the miniature photograph.
The photograph had a family in it. A tall, handsome man in a white shirt and jeans with a wide, friendly smile, twinkling eyes and a lock of dark hair falling into his face stared at me from a reality long past. A small, reflective looking woman with long auburn hair and sad eyes stood by his side holding an infant in her arms. And then, holding onto her leg, was a little girl who looked uncannily like me.
I had found my link to my past. A photograph of my biological family.
My mind was spinning…..another mystery to figure out. Another person to discover.
They had never mentioned this.
Somewhere in this big world…..I have a brother.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, email@example.com challenged me with “Please include the following in your story: a broken locket, a child’s drawing, red stiletto shoes and the next song on your ipod.” and I challenged Cedar with “She was Feisty“.
This post goes hand in hand with my Indie Ink Challenge from last week – “Unknown Life”