The Uninvited Guest

Entry by: Sirona

13th July 2016
I walk past the house three times before I knock on the door. I’ve rehearsed what I’m going to say when she opens it a thousand times, so I lock my knees and ignore the percussion band that have taken up residence in my stomach, and prepare to say it.
Movement inside is telegraphed through approaching footsteps and a distorted figure seen through the diffuse lens of frosted glass. The door swings wide, I open my mouth to speak and then our eyes meet; I realise words are not necessary.
Imagine looking into a mirror that shows you an alternate reality. Imagine it showing you what you would be like if you were a woman, rather than a man. Imagine it showing you how you would look if you were 30 years older. That’s what I saw. It was pointless to say, ‘Hello, my name is Daniel Barker. I’m your son,’ because the fact that I was hers was painted all over both our faces.
She processes it quickly, there’s a moment of surprise before her expressive blue eyes well with liquid. She puts her hand to her heart, sucks in a deep breath and says, ‘Hello, again.’
‘Again?’ I’m taken by surprise. I’ve rehearsed this meeting so many times. I’ve imagined almost every scenario; her joy, her anger, her denial, her death. She’s been a teacher, an MP, a nun, an alcoholic…now I’m not sure what she is.
‘Sorry. That was the first thing I ever said to you. Hello.’
All at once there’s a golf ball in my throat because of all the scenarios I played out, I never expected this instant connection, this openness, this subtext of regret.
I’m about to speak when she half turns and a man, greying at the temples and stern of face approaches. He sees me, and halts, his face paling and his lips curling up into what I can only imagine is disgust. He closes his eyes, I can almost hear him counting to ten, and when he opens them again he lays a gentle hand on her shoulder, ‘I’ll go to the pub, let you two talk.’
Her hand comes to rest on top of his, in a familiar gesture of comfort and compassion; he must hate me, but his love for her overrides it all. She says nothing else, only lets him get his coat and walk past. I try to avoid his gaze, and I know he is avoiding mine.
‘Come in,’ she urges, once her husband leaves. She shows me into the sort of living room I always dreamed of having, comfortable, welcoming, a little cluttered with mementos and photo frames. I can’t help but stare into them, seeing for the first time the faces of my siblings, my nieces and nephews.
She folds herself neatly into a chair, resting hands that flutter like a sparrow into her lap. ‘You must have a lot of questions?’
‘No.’ I smile, and am again unnerved by how closely our expressions match.
‘You got the letter?’ she asks.
I focus on my knees, looking down at them instead of at her as I say the piece that I have rehearsed so many times.
‘I just wanted to say thank you. I can’t imagine what it was like for you, for your family, to go through what you did. It would have been so much easier for you to have an abortion, to not have me.’
She inhales sharply, I glance up to see that tears have spilled from her eyes, leaving two glistening trails on her cheeks.
‘I want to thank you for the letter, too, for the beautiful lies that you told me in it. It was…so generous of you, to try and spare me the truth.’
‘You know?’
‘I met him first,’ I explain. I won’t give him the title of father, not even in my thoughts.
‘Oh. I’m so sorry,’ she gasps.
‘There is nothing for you to be sorry for,’ I tell her, compelled to leave the sofa and kneel before her, to grab her hand and cup it in mine.
‘You…were attacked. He hurt you, in the worst way, and you…you…’ I shake my head because even though I’ve known the truth of my procreation for years now, being faced with her beauty, her grace, her fragility, I am aghast all over again at what that man did.
‘It wasn’t your fault,’ she says simply. ‘I couldn’t condemn you for what he did.’
‘Thank you,’ I say again. ‘For the chance.’
She nods a couple of times, then lifts my fingers to her lips to kiss them.
‘And I’m sorry,’ she says, her words catching in a throat reluctant to issue hard truths, ‘but I can’t have you in my life, even now. My husband was…very angry, he didn’t really understand my choice. My other children were too young to explain it all. We told them I was a surrogate. I haven’t…I’ve never told them the truth. I couldn’t…I didn’t want them to see me as a victim. I wouldn't let him change me, for them.’
‘No, no. I understand,’ I say, ‘I’m not asking that. I just wanted to meet you.’
‘It isn’t you,’ she stresses. ‘It’s just circumstance.’
‘I know.’
I look up at her, overwhelmed by the connection that we have after a life apart, the sense of kinship and understanding, of soul parity. I don’t want to leave her, to walk away and never look back will be the hardest thing that I have ever done.
But here’s the thing; I take after my mother. So I thank her, again. I kiss her hand, again, and then I walk out of her house and out of her life. It is the hardest thing that I have ever done, but she has taught me by example to do what you believe is right, not what is easy.
I always was an uninvited guest. The polite thing to do, when you realise that, is to say thank you and leave.
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