Reunion Flashback

I wrote this some time ago as a submission to some contest some place. I have been holding on to it until today.

It was ten years ago today that this happened.

Last Hours of Cold

She couldn’t find a freaking parking space to save her life.

After all the meticulous planning and her careful timeline, she was going to be late because she couldn’t find any  visitor or public parking in this stupid college town.  She looped around once again, yes, this is the right college,  yes, that is the correct dorm building.  Can’t park here. Can’t park there. Circle back. Don’t get lost.  What was anxious butterflies in the pit of her gut rumbled to life, threatening  to explode into full blown hyper panic. Just breathe, she thought, and then reminded herself again and again to no avail. Finally, what looked more like a deserted construction lot was deemed as good enough. It didn’t matter; she had to GO!

Out of the car,  she immediately cursed the frigid weather. While March in Massachusetts isn’t known for its cheerful days, a particularly harsh cold snap had everything in an icy grasp. Looking around  the old industrial town, now turned campus, everything was gray and frozen. She focused on hopscotching along to avoid  the many fields of ice. Her destination, a sterile cinderblock building, housing countless college students, seemed all too far away. A harsh wind blew off the froze river banks and seemed to push her back  in defiance.  It would bring cold tears smarting to her eyes, but nothing would be able to prevent her from walking this last distance.

Shivering now, from both the cold and nerves, she reached the door to the dorm only to find it with no sign of a buzzer system and a locked door. She could see inside, but just could not manage to cross the threshold.  She had been milking a fantasy of him waiting anxiously by the door to greet her, but the lobby was just empty and devoid of any life.

“Where was he?” her mind screamed.

The thought of kicking through the glass was quite appealing; she was stuck out in the cold, barely out of the wind, and hanging around college dorms, feeling like a deranged stalker.  Though everyone always said she didn’t look her age, she knew at 39, she wasn’t going to pass for a co-ed.  She had carefully dressed to impress; professional but hip, mature but interesting enough, she hoped.  Her hair, though, was a different story and the “new” style arranged for this very trip felt alien. She was out of place  and out of her skin.  It felt silly to worry about her looks when faced with such a meeting, but perhaps the shallow worries were an emotional coping mechanism? She worried again if she had prepared enough, though only a passing nagging doubt; she was sure it was the right time.  Yet, who really knew how to get this right?  She certainly had never done this before and  thankfully would never have to cross this milestone again, once today was done.  Waiting, looking, hunting; she felt like she stood out like a sore thumb and had to remind herself that she had every right to be there, at this college, at this time, for this purpose. No one really could make her leave. It was time. She just had to get inside the dorms.

Thankfully, a resident came outside and she was able to slip in without a pass, but that didn’t solve any of her problems.  There was no directory of students and their room numbers. There was no buzzer system to contact him and let him know she had arrived. Squashing her somewhat childish and naturally shy desire to avoid speaking to strangers, she forced herself to speak to what must have been another student; asking how she could find a particular room of a particular student who forgot to tell her what room number he was in?

She was told, “the names of the students is written on the signs outside the doors.”

“Ah,”  she thought; “I will just walk this whole dorm if I have to, ”  and after thanking the helpful student, she made her way to the first floor to start reading.

Soon it was clear  that wasn’t going to do the trick either. The dorm was dozen floors of mixed co-eds and often three or four students to a room.  It wasn’t only that there were so many possible doors to try, but that all too many of the kids had written their names with a crazy  and most unreadable graffiti-like font.  The sad fact was that she couldn’t even begin to read the damn signs, but that could not change her course of actions.  She had to try. He was in one of these rooms. If only she could find the right door!

She walked. Up one staircase and down a long corridor. Again, feeling horribly out of place, she tried to decipher the crazy wording, often peeking into rooms to double check.  Up another flight of stairs, repeat the process. Both her frustration and anticipation grew with every step. How could be that she was actually here and  still could not get to him?  It felt like a cruel trick of fate to bring her this far, only to place more obstacles in her way. But she was resolved and up another flight to another hallway she went.

Occasionally she caught a questioning eye of another student and would  explain her existence under the guise of asking for help.

“Do you know XXX?” she would ask. “He lives here, but I forget his room number?”  Again, she felt so very self conscious that his legal name still refused to roll naturally off her tongue even though she had known it for close to three years now. She couldn’t help but to stammer just a bit and worried that somehow it might give her away. Half expecting any one of the kids to call her out as an imposter of sorts, instead,  she faced continual disappointment.  No  one there seemed to know him either. She walked on.

The dorm had that stuffy feeling of forced institutionalized air and she grew sweaty under her winter coat.  She cursed again her choice to wear the high heeled boots that had looked so presentable when she put them on her feet that morning back in her hotel room.  Now, with all the rushed walking, her feet just hurt, but there was no way that would stop her either.  There was no satisfaction or even feeling that any possible room had been eliminated by her tedious search process. She was wasting too much time. She was supposed to have met up with him already. There had to be another way.  She went back to the lobby.

Though it was mid day and mid week,  there wasn’t much traffic in and out of the dorm  building. She kept peering into the faces of the boys, trying to recognize his face. She had a good handful of pictures collected over the past few years; some sent once by his mother, others shared by him and many more that had been carefully found and lifted off of the internet.  But still she was not 100% confident that she would even known him when she saw him. Internally, she demanded the panic be quelled and she refused to believe that she could have walked right past him and not known. She would know. Of course, she would know. She just had to find him…again.

Perched by the door, she noticed that groups of students seemed to gather up in the  vestibule and wait, and then all file out for a bus or campus shuttle or something.  Still feeling so out of place, she continued to examine their faces and  sometimes risking to ask the friendlier looking sorts if they knew the name or location.. The lobby had an office, but that door too was shut and the note on the door stated that the RNs were in a meeting and not to be disturbed.  She reluctantly obeyed. While she knew that the people in that room  were probably best equipped to help her find him, the long standing desire to follow the rules and do the right thing won out even under these circumstances.

Talk about circumstances;  it was looking  like one sick joke. How could it be that she was finally there and could not find him? It was THE day she had been waiting practically her whole adult life for, the day she had dream about, had constructed huge elaborate fantasies in her head, and had waited, oh waited so very long, patiently, sometimes not so patiently, counting off the years, waiting for THIS VERY DAY. The irony did not escape her; she had found him once before, despite all the impossibility of that, but she had made it happen even if he wasn’t  expecting her at that time.  Yet, now, the day they had agreed on, he was lost. Not lost in the wide world like before. Not gone for almost two decades with only a few treasured pictures to recall. Not missing with no name, no location. No, this time, she knew his name, she knew where he was, but she could not get to him. It was infuriating.

She knew she was closer to him than she was ever been before. They were both , for sure, in the same building at the same time!  And she also knew, with a fierce determination, that there was no way she would get back in her cold rental car and head back defeated. There was no other option but to continue her haunting of that dorm doorway until she found her quarry.

Stressed, but confident now she could get back inside the building’s first locked door,  she stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. Partly out of frustration, partly for encouragement and partly so she didn’t look even weirder than she still felt, she called her husband back home. After explaining what the problem is, she asked if he could check her email and see if there was a message for him.  Could he double check the older messages and see if there was a room number or cell phone number she missed? Could he please send him a message telling him that she was indeed there in the lobby and he should just go downstairs right now? Her husband checked as requested, but no new information was forthcoming.

More to keep her sanity now and to prevent her from starting to really cry, she continued chatting with her spouse while watching the door as students again began to gather up for the bus. He bolstered her confidence and empowered her to bother RNs in that infernal meeting.   It was a much needed perception and she had to agree with him. No matter what they were discussing in that meeting, her need to find  him was paramount.   She had waited. She had taken it slow. She had made the trip back though time and miles and memories. She was here now and it was time. They would have to help her and it was to be now. Yes, she agreed. She would get off the phone  and go knock on that door. No more waiting and their meeting be damned.  Yes, they would be the key to telling her where he was she would hang up the phone and march in there and demand that they help her.

Wait, did she want to talk to their toddler son while he had her on the phone? Of course, she answered as she lit another cigarette and watched the door like a hawk as the timetable of the shuttle bus called more students to the foyer. Being told a tale of cheese and some cartoon show wasn’t really a very good distraction. Her mothering autopilot tuned on and she responded appropriately to the small blue eyed child that happily babbled as she scanned the growing group of students.

Maybe she had been slightly distracted by the conversations, but a few had managed to slip by her in the doorway  without her making eye contact.  While most kids waiting for the bus or shuttle or whatever it was (she never did find out)  stayed inside out of the cold, she noticed  two young men standing close to the edge of the overhang,  talking.

One  of them is also smoking a cigarette.

She tries to look more closely while pretending that she’s not; all the while murmuring  the correct responses to her youngest child at home. The smoking boy is wearing ripped jeans and black boots, a leather motorcycle jacket and a black Ramones t-shirt. It is his style and the way he carries himself that peaks her interest more than anything else. Now ignoring her other kid on the phone now, she gets closer without even knowing that she is moving.

She is close enough to hear brief bits of their conversation carried over by the bitter winds and in the mutterings she hears the smoking boy say to the other;

“….mumble ….I am waiting for my mom, I haven’t seen her in …..mumble mumble… years…

She quickly says good bye to her youngest child and at the same moment the other guy walks away leaving him also standing alone, outside, in the cold wind, smoking. And she knows without a shadow of doubt that,  indeed, he is waiting for her.

It is like her soul has suddenly exploded into a million fireworks and can no longer be contained.  There are no words for this feeling, no way to prepare,  impossible to imagine.  She is trying so hard now not to scream in delight, but she can’t even allowed herself that indulgence. She is not breathing. She has forgotten how.  She wills her limbs to be like lead as she knows she cannot rush over, screaming, crying, running, right into him. Instead, she begins to approach him, slowly, from the side, almost like a slow-motion tiptoe. It feels else in the whole world has faded away. Nothing else exists but this exact moment that she has been waiting for, hoping for, praying for.   The final few seconds are painfully slow as she closes the last few feet of physical distance that still separates them.

He sees her coming towards him, turns her way, and she says to him with raised brows questioning though she does know the answer now;

” Who did you say you were waiting for…?”

“Is that you?” But he is already in motion, coming  closer, with a huge smile and open arms.

Years fade away as the distance become mere inches and there is nothing left but the present and a massive hug.

As she looks into the blue eyes of her oldest child, lost, and now finally found, she hears him say, “Oh my God, is it really you?” and she knows the cold winds will not blow any longer.

 

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About the Author

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Musings of the Lame was started in 2005 primarily as a simple blog recording the feelings of a birthmother as she struggled to understand how the act of relinquishing her first newborn so to adoption in 1987 continued to be a major force in her life. Built from the knowledge gained in the adoption community, it records the search for her son and the adoption reunion as it happened. Since then, it has grown as an adoption forum encompassing the complexity of the adoption industry, the fight to free her sons adoption records and the need for Adoptee Rights, and a growing community of other birthmothers, adoptive parents and adopted persons who are able to see that so much what we want to believe about adoption is wrong.

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