“She’s not my real daughter,” the woman said. “She’s adopted.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, sure.” I didn’t know what to say. Her adopted daughter had gone into the clinic and the woman had come over to chat. That’s what I thought. I thought that since she’d driven this adopted child of hers to the clinic and that since she has so far been polite (“Nice to meet you.” “How are you?”), that she understood why B. and I were there in our well-worn escort jerseys.
“Adopted,” the woman said again. “Not my flesh and blood. I thought you should know that.”
What was it like, I wondered, to have the woman who adopted you, insist on telling strangers, making it clear that you are not really hers. “They do adoptions here too,” I said, wanting to find something to connect with.
“This.” She waved at the clinic doors. “This is what she wants to do.”
B. and I exchanged looks, but she was talking to me, not to him. “Well,” I said, “at least she has a safe place to go.”
“I’m Christian,” she began. She went on from there about why she was right and I was bad. I nodded and nodded and nodded, and all I could think about was the girl who was adopted who was not choosing adoption. The girl must have known her so-called mother was out there telling me and B. (the 86-year-old retired librarian) her numerous sins and reminding everyone she wasn’t really hers and that the baby wouldn’t’ve been her real grandchild anyway. I dug my fingernail into the edge of my styrofoam coffee cup. I wanted to say, “Go inside and give your daughter a hug. You chose her. Go help her. Things could be different.” Of course, I also wanted to say, “Please, shut up.”
But I didn’t. I nodded.
The woman ranted. Hectored. Lectured. Finally, she sat down on the low wall along the walkway and was quiet. She never went in. And when her adopted daughter came out, they said nothing to each other. They went to the car. B. looked at me. “I wouldn’t want to be in that car,” he said.
Sending a story into the world isn’t on par with sending a person. You will not hear me compare writing a story to having a child. Writing has never ended with blood, vomit, stitches, and the inability to stand up without pain for months. Writing I want to do again and again.
But I write something, I send it into the world, and the story is mine. I’m responsible for it. I can’t blame my high school English teacher or my parents or even my lack of sleep. (I’ll blame typos on the sleep.) You can’t accept the credit for successful stories if you can’t accept the blame for failed ones.
But each story is mine and I love all my stories. Call me crazy, but I can’t give up on any one of them. I won’t go so far as to say they’re like my children. Or like adopted children. But they’re mine and I’m glad I wrote them no matter how awful they are.
How do you feel about your stories? Do you love them? Hate them? Feel bored by them? Do you give up on any of them or stick with them even when they disappoint?