I think about you all the time. I always have. Even before your sister and brother were born. And when they were, born that is, and I thought about you, I looked away. Scared they’d see the secret I kept hidden in that space between brain and mind. The one that dreams, strings stories, and collects those thoughts that drift and flutter throughout the day.
I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start with the beginning. I knew about your existence hours after I arrived in Colombia. The summer you made your way into this world. I arrived June 20th, 1999, and you were born eight weeks later. A Leo like me.
I bet you’ve grown up with more questions than answers. I’d like to answer some… I ain’t gonna front, S. I feel like an asshole, here. I can try to guess what your thoughts would be. I can try to imagine this letter making it into your hands. And what you would say. This letter here, is not really for you, but for me. And, you are right. Now that Holden and Ruben have gotten use to the fact they have an eighteen year old brother in Colombia, I worry a little less about how they feel. My mind given some space, turns to my own worries. Like, that I’m afraid you hate me.
The day after your father spoke to your mother sixteen years after you were born, I sat beside your father while he made that call. The only evidence that nerves ran through his arms, and anxiety squeezed his chest, were all the times he raked his hands through his hair. Your mother raced to tell him your birth story, childhood, and adolescence in those forty minutes. Saddened, I felt the painful absence of your father in your life, as milestones were retold. And, like the heat of a furnace I felt your anger all those miles away, made known by how long you took to come to the phone that day. If your mother tried to cram every detail in that first phone call, you doled your father bits. Loud pauses, even louder breaks of dead air. I fed your father questions like some Latina Alex Trebek, the jeopardy version of long-lost father and son. Categories like: What do you like to do as a pastime? Who are your favorite soccer players? What about school?
Stupid, I know. But, your father needed questions to stuff into his mouth to keep from asking what he really wanted. Do you hate me?
But, with every question answered. It was clear. All those one word replies you gave, feelings stripped from your voice. They say the eyes are windows to the soul, but I’ve never believed that. Almost everyone’s eyes look sad or pissed off to me, but voices, well I always believed they told stories. You just have to listen. And I listened that day, S. I did. The way you chopped your words, as if you chewed a dry hunk meat between syllables. I could hear all the years spent severing emotional ties from your father, as soon as you realized he was a stranger, now living in America. I suspect somewhere between eight and ten you stopped hoping and started hating.
The only time your voice swelled with emotion was when you asked about your sister and brother. You asked if your sister and brother knew about you. There was a catch in your voice, when you said: saben de me. The way you said it, as if you were an insignificant detail, a bleep. I held my breath. I could see your jaw set, anger tucked in the bone.
Your father had shown me your picture minutes before the phone call. A picture that had been sent to him by your mother days before. It freaked me out. My daughter’s eyes, rested in your face, my son’s chin placed at the bottom of your face, and your father’s jaw had made it there too. But, it wasn’t just his jaw, it was the hair, the gaze, and the way your bones are lined to make up your face. You looked more like your father than Holden and Ruben. Your face so familiar, my heart tugged at itself, and I loved you. Your face was family.
Last night your father watched random videos. One came on, a clip of Will Smith when he was the Fresh Prince of Belair, and the father who abandoned him so long ago, does it once again. Will rants to Uncle Phil, angry and heart broken, the grief is thick. Your father hates drama and sap, never understood America’s obession with tear jerkers, but last night he watched the entire scene. No, sarcastic remarks were made. Only silence. I let him be in his grief, because that’s what it is, the longing for son and father.
At first I blamed both your father and your mother for your grief. I don’t blame either now. I have learned that life is a series of paths, but I was not part of that particular course. But, I backed you up S. I swear I did. Not just after those days and months after you came into our lives. No, before when I didn’t know your name. You were just his son. I offered to have you come to America, to raise you as my own. Not an option, life unfolded, and I thought of you as someone that I’d never know. With little left to do, I waited. Waited till you would be part of our lives.
Time has not healed. I get it. Really I do. I believe your heart has softened some, your father told me he spoke to you for more than a few seconds this week. That you sounded friendly over the phone. That’s a start.
S, I have to ask… I know I’m an asshole for asking. This is not about me. It’s about you. Your father. Your mother. Holden. Ruben. But, do you hate me? Blame me? Do you see me as the woman that took your father away? I swear I wasn’t. Your parents had been broken up before I came into the picture, the it’s over kind. No, see saw break up, done, over.
And, I fell in love.
I get it if you hate me. Blame me. I know this letter will never find itself into your hands, but I am sorry.
If you ever want or are ready, I’d love to tell you about Holden and Ruben. Not because they are my kids, but your sister and brother are cool. Funny. Think you would really like them.
PS Do you wear that purple bracelet your brother sent you?