Who do the scars say I am?
“You came that way,” was all my mother would say.
When I was 17, she died and I found my adoption papers. That helped explain the “came” part, but not the “that way” part.
At 18, I gained my majority and had a conversation with the doctor. He examined the scars and suture lines on my face and concluded there had been extensive plastic surgery on me as a child, none of which I remembered.
“It’s possible,” the doc assured me. “Analgesic, done while you were a baby. The psychological scars may be your only tracers.”
I’d been on antidepressants since I was 11, counselling to help me with abandonment by my dad, and I dropped out of school when mom died.
The adoption agent sat across from me at a cafe. She’d let me rifle through a sheaf of papers.
“But what does it mean?” I ground my teeth at her. All those words and forms and pictures.
My birth parents, she explained, were not just unavailable. They were unknown. I was the proverbial baby in a basket. A fireman found me in a smoking wreck of a warehouse. Ash-covered and screaming, my tiny, approximately six month old body was otherwise untouched. Only my face had been burned by some flying debris.
“Why didn’t my parents have this information?”
The agent shuffled a paper towards me. “Says here they declined the opportunity to see this file.
In that instant I was with my mother as a three or four year old. My cheek was burning and her touch soothed and cooled the scar. She used to stroke my cheek like that. In waking life I could only remember batting her hand away as a teen.
“I was two when I came to them.”
“All surgeries were done by then. I guess more could have been done.” The agent tilted her head in a half compassionate, half analytical move.
She gave me a copy of everything. The medical files turned my stomach. The investigation report was more interesting but left more questions than answers. The fireman who found me had gone to extraordinary lengths to interview the homeless of the neighourhood around the warehouse. We were all of the same race. I didn’t stick out in any way.
“What about a DNA test?” a friend suggested.
So I did one. My ancestral mother ten thousand years ago came from Polynesia. But my people weren’t the kind who could afford DNA tests.
“Go to the district,” another friend invited. “Meet the people.”
The warehouse was never rebuilt. Rows of pre-fab houses with plastic fences stretched across my map screen. Not worth the trip.
“Why do you want to know? Where you’re from is not where you’re going.”
I got mad at that councelor. “I was a baby. I was in pain for at least two years.” Somehow that irked me.
“Get a dog.”
That advice was so out of context it caught my attention. “Whatever for?”
“Taking care of another being helps you take care of yourself.”
I visited the pound for months. Most people come home with the first dog they see. Not me. I didn’t know what I was looking for and had it in the back of my mind that the animal should choose me.
Barkely came with one ear missing. There was some background and some scarring. I declined viewing the file. The medical files would only upset my stomach.
When people asked, I just said, “She came that way.” And found the peace in my soul kind of weird.