The Ether Diaries
As I stand here now, looking at the mountains that dot the bare autumn landscape, I can’t help but think what a strange trip it has been, that brought me here to you. Looking back at life, it tends to make more sense than it does when we face it head on, but this time, both directions offer only subtle answers, and small bits of peace.
You stood where I am now, once, not so very long ago, thinking similar thoughts I imagine, while looking up at the same sky, the same trees, and the same rolling hills. I stand here now, with the hope that somehow my being here, in this sacred place, amongst those who have gone before me, will somehow send a signal to you that I am here, praying and hoping, and looking for a sign that you are here too.
I am here, can you feel me? I wonder if you know how much I love you. I can’t see you, not just yet, but I am touching you. I hope somehow you can feel my heart beat, as I can feel yours. You are part of me, and no matter what happens, no matter where either of us are, we will always be connected. I wish I could hold you. It won’t be long now. We will be together soon. I can’t wait to see your face, your tiny hands and your tiny feet. I can’t wait to just hold you close.
As I stand here, listening to the hawks and the wind and the whispers of souls, as they drift through the nearby trees, I feel close to you. Standing here, on Crucifixion Street, I can picture your face. I can see your smile, and almost feel your touch. You are out of reach physically, but your energy is here. Your spirit blows in with the gentle breeze off Mount Tom, and gently touches my cheeks.
Butterfly kisses. I can’t wait to give you butterfly kisses. I want to hold you and breathe you in, and press my face gently against your tiny, warm cheeks. I don’t know how long we will be together, so I will make every second count. Life now is different than I thought it would be. I want to get married and keep you, but the man I am with doesn’t want children. Not ever, he says. I don’t think he likes kids, but I am trying to do whatever it takes to keep you, my little girl.
I remember the day like it was yesterday when I learned I could obtain my original birth certificate. I sent away to the Department of Public Health immediately, and waited patiently for the certified letter to arrive with my birth name, your name, and hopefully my father’s name. I waited each day like an anxious child on Christmas Eve, until finally, the certified card arrived letting me know my birth certificate was only a few miles away. Finally, I was going to learn about how my life began.
One rainy Saturday, as I sat in my car alone in front of the post office, I learned your name, Cynthia, and mine, Monica. I said my name over and over, Monica Dickinson. Monica Dickinson. Monica Dickinson. It felt foreign on my tongue, the letters felt strange in my mouth. After 47 years of being called Christine, it didn’t feel normal to know myself by another name. It felt unnatural, and quickly it felt very wrong and rude, to my parents that raised me, to be referring to myself as anyone other than the name they carefully chose for me so very long ago. My heart would sink a little though, to see Father’s Name, left blank. I knew then, that that little empty box would eat away at me. I was happy with the information I did have, so I filed that blank space away in my brain for a later time, when I would begin my investigation as to how exactly, I came to be.
My parents had never been open to me knowing any of my biological information, and I knew, even though my mother had passed away years before, I was betraying her. I needed to know in a way that I can never fully explain, what my beginning looked like, and who my mother was. I needed to solve the mystery that I had been plagued with for so many decades. I didn’t know if I would ever fully know why you gave me away, but I needed to try to find out.
I wish I could explain why I have to give you away, my beautiful little baby. I want to tell you that everything will be alright. I hope somehow you know that I love you, and I have decided to give you up for adoption. It is very hard for me, and even now I am sick over it. Mama is right though, she always is. I can’t tell her the truth, I just can’t, but I can tell you. The man I love is beginning to frighten me, but he says he will change. He says he won’t hit me anymore. I mentioned keeping you, and he got very angry. I love him so much, but he hurt me, and he punched my tummy. I won’t let him hurt you. I think you will be safer away from him. I wish I could keep you, oh how I wish I could watch you grow up. You would love my little house. It’s so cute and full of love. I hope someday you can see it, and know how much I wanted you to live here, with me. I hope someday you can understand why I did this, and I pray you don’t hate me. Every day I pray you don’t blame me, or yourself, for this decision.
Your address was listed on the colorful piece of paper, 34 Olive Avenue. I liked the sound of it, and my mouth didn’t object to those letters, so I drove there. I parked my small, blue car in front of your little green house, and wondered if you sat there too once, asking the Universe the hard questions that we do when life feels out of balance. I had tipped the scales of knowledge, knowing more now than I had, but still without many answers. As I sat there, feeling off kilter and unsettled with my need to betray my parents in search of my biological information, I felt like I might roll off the little street you grew up on, one I had driven by many times, in a section of town I always wished I had lived.
Somehow, I thought if I could be where you had been, sat where you may have sat, and listened to the sounds of your neighborhood, that somehow, on some great cosmic level, we could connect. I sat there for a long time trying to picture you pregnant with me, sitting on the small front porch that guarded your house, talking to me.
It’s going to be alright. I don’t know how, but I promise you I will keep you safe. No matter what, I will protect you. Mama says I’m too young to keep you that I have my whole life in front of me. I am going to name you after her. She will see you, and say your name, and she will see how much I love you. It’s going to be okay, you’ll see. I won’t let anyone hurt you. That man has a look in his eyes, one that gives me chills. I love him though, and I think he will change.
I don’t know if you know how much easier you made it for me by keeping your little green house in the family. If it weren’t for that, I’m not sure I would have ever found out anything more than just the information on my birth certificate. I couldn’t stop thinking that my last name was Dickinson and I was from the next town over from the poet Emily Dickinson, so I emailed them, with high hopes, that perhaps, she was a distant relative. The people that work for the Dickinson Foundation were wonderful to deal with. The historian told me you were very active in the Society until 2008. They not only confirmed my relation to Emily (5th cousin), they told me of my brother.
It took me months to find him, but I did. His name is so unusual that I thought it would be easy, but it took me long weeks of research, that eventually turned into months. I finally paid for a report that contained his address, some financial information and his police report. I found his address to be a homeless shelter, but when I called them they said he had moved out the previous year. I tried every soup kitchen, every shelter, the police department, The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and I even spoke to the Navy Chaplain to see if they could help seeing as how he is a Navy veteran, but they couldn’t. Nobody that could help would. Even if they knew something, or had ideas of how I could contact him, they wouldn’t help due to laws and HIPPA and fear that I wasn’t who I said I was. I was running out of options, so I openly contacted him on social media. I stated that I was his sister, and I wished he would reply to me. He had his doubts, but he did email me, and I forwarded him my birth certificate and the emails from the Emily Dickinson people proving that I was, in fact, his sister, or at least his half sister.
I fear the worst for him, and although he says he works part time and attends graduate school, all my research to find him says differently. I believe he is homeless, and living on the streets of Virginia Beach. We talk through Facebook, but his vibe is unsettling, and there is something about his messages that make the hairs on my neck stand up. I was so excited when I first learned I had a brother, but now I almost wish I never found him. Part of me wishes I never uncorked the bottle.
Oh my baby girl. I saw him talking to a little girl in the park the other day. At first I thought he might be warming up to the idea of having a child together, but then I saw his hands touch her fanny. She froze when he did it, and locked eyes with me. I told her to go play on the swings. She ran away, but the look in his eyes made the hairs on my neck stand up. I still do love him very much, but something about him is not right, not completely right anyway. You will be here so soon, and I am scared for you. Scared he might touch you; scared he might hurt you, and scared for us both. I’m so frightened and alone right now. I am already losing you; I can’t bear to lose him too. I wish you were here, grown up somehow, so you could tell me what to do. No one seems to understand. Can you hear me?
I can’t begin to imagine what you went through, and all my theories have so many holes in them, I don’t know which one is true. I am trying to make sense of it all, but every time I think I know what might have happened, I come up with a reason it couldn’t have happened in the way I imagined.
I found my brother’s father, he is serving a life sentence in a nearby prison, so he was much easier to find than his son. I wrote to him with the hopes of learning more about you. Although he is a horrific person, jailed for serial rape and murder, he did reply. We exchanged a few letters, and I learned a few things about you that I didn’t know. He says my father is a man named Jay, but that’s all he knows. His letters to me are typed and offer me no signs of fact or fiction, but something deep inside me tells me that he isn’t being honest. The very fact that he says he isn’t my father, makes me think he is. According to my brother nothing he says is ever true, and he loses appeal after appeal, always maintaining his innocence. His own sister fights his appeals with information about animal killings, and childhood crimes, crimes so dark that my brother won’t tell me the details. Crimes that would keep me awake at night, he says.
Knowing all this, I still drove there, to see where he is kept, to see what he sees, and talk to people he talks to. I drove there to learn more of you, hoping to feel nothing when I saw the prison, to feel empty at the sound of his name, but that was not the case. While I don’t know if he is my father, I do know we have a history. As I sat in the parking lot looking at the barbed wire around his building, I could feel him, and I know there was a time when he felt me.
It’s going to be okay. I promise. Life is so hard, but I love you so much. I can’t wait to meet you. You’ll be here soon. It’s summer now, the summer of 1969. I hope I am not telling you too much, I hope you will someday forgive me for all of this. He knocked me down the other day, I fell down the stairs, baby girl. The doctors say you are okay, but I am scared. I hope you can hear me, or maybe I hope you can’t. You are the only friend I have in the whole world right now, and it is going to break my heart to let you go. I wish you could just give me a little sign that you can hear me.
I wanted to kick him, that brother of mine. A kick so hard even you would feel it all the way in the cosmos. On my birthday, at 2am, he sent me a message on Facebook asking if I wanted anything that he owned because he wasn’t planning on sticking around much longer.Although I did give him the telephone number to the suicide hotline, part of me wishes he would just go away. He says he loves me all the time, and everything about him feels untrue, so “off.” He doesn’t know about the report I paid for, or any of the people I spoke to while looking for him. He said you two never got along. He has hate in his heart, and did not attend your funeral. I was able to find your brother’s ex wife, Aunt Lenora, and she has warned me to be careful of him. When you died it took them several days to find him. The police finally did. They knew his name, and had already had several previous issues with him.
I met you today, my beautiful baby girl. You are perfect. Five perfect fingers on each hand, and 10 little toes. I was hoping to keep you for a few days, but the police have come. The man I am with has been accused of some serious things. He says he is innocent, and I want so badly to believe him, but my stomach is queasy and my throat gets a funny feeling in it when I say his name. I want, more than anything, to be a family. I am still so afraid though. I am so scared he will find you. I never told him that he is your father. I made up a story about a man I met, named Jay. It is all so painful for me, so he doesn’t ask about any questions, and seems to believe me. He must know there is a chance he could be your father, but he has never said a word to me about it. I am frightened that he will hurt you. I am frightened that he will find you. I will hide you away, my little girl. I will hide you so that no one, not even me, will know where you are. I promise.
Even now, as I hold you, I am trembling. I know you won’t remember what I am saying, but I am hoping somehow, in some way, some of what I have said stays with you. You aren’t safe with me, but you will be safe soon.
A man walked on the moon today. The whole world is talking about it. It is on every television set, in every newspaper and in every conversation. I can hear the nurses down the hall talking about the astronaut’s first words as he walked on it. I talk to the moon too, and I wonder since you are so tied to this day, if someday it will offer you the same kind of comfort it has given me.
Oh baby, I can hear the nurses coming for you now. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I have to keep you safe. I just have to. My heart is breaking, and I can’t breathe. I wish I could freeze time, and stay right here with you, forever. I will always love you, even if I never see you again, know somewhere in your heart, that I did this to protect you.
The nurses are here now, and they say I have to let you go. Your eyes seem so sad and lonely. As they take you from my arms you reach for me. Every single part of me wants to stop this. To say NO NO NO, I have made a horrible mistake, but I know in my heart that the only way to keep you safe, is to hide you away. Your name will be changed, and no one will ever find you, not ever.
I will never stop thinking of you, not ever. Whenever you think of me, please, please do it with love. Look at the moon often, and know that I am somewhere looking at it too.
No one but you and I, will ever know the truth, and even though I have told you everything,, I hope you forget. I hope you never unlock the door, but if you do, know that wherever I am, I will keep you safe. I will never forget the look in your eyes as they take you from me. You didn’t cry, not a single whimper, not a single sound. You are so strong. You are so trusting. You are going to do great things with your life. Goodbye my little friend, my daughter, my heart goes with you in all ways for always.
It is getting cold now, and the soft breeze has turned to an autumn chill. It is time for me to go, time for me to leave this place of souls and memories, and go back to my life. I placed a small white seashell on top of your grave, as I do for my mother. I hope you can see it, from the other side. I hope you know that I am grateful to you for giving me life, for giving me a chance, and for giving me away.
I’m glad I came here, to the place where the road bends, and an old Maple tree stands guard over your resting place on Crucifixion Street. I thought coming here, seeing your name etched in granite, would give me closure. I thought this would be the end of our journey, and the end of our conversations, but instead I feel that this is just the beginning. I feel there is still more to this story, more than I can imagine, more than perhaps I should know, but not more than I need to know.
The moon is out now. It feels so out of place, in a beautiful, familiar way. I have talked to the moon for as long as I can remember, and probably even long before that. We have always had a special relationship, the man and I. So many times, when I was all alone, I would talk to him, knowing that somewhere, in the starry ether, my voice was being heard. I hope wherever you are you can see it too.
Like the moon and the sun, the truth cannot be hidden, not for long anyway. It has been my guide for many years, but now it is time for me to charter my own course, set sail in the Sea of Tranquility, and find my voice, as I write our story. It is a story of great love, a story of great loss, and a story that has been aching for a voice for far too long.
It is time.
Christine Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature, and is currently attending Bay path University for her M.F.A. in Creative Non Fiction. Most recently a series of poems, The Ugly Five, are in the summer issue of Door Is A Jar Magazine and her poem, The Writer, is in the June 2018 issue of The Cabinet of Heed Literary Magazine. Three poems, Puff, Sister, and Grapes are in the fifth issue of The Mystic Blue Review. Her vignette, Finding God, will be in the December issue of Riggwelter Press, and her series of vignettes, Small Packages, was named a semifinalist at Gazing Grain Press in 2018.