The Day I Came Up Missing, I Was At Work
A TRUE STORY
(Me and my sister on my 2nd birthday.)
It was a fall day in Bushwick around 10 am. I had gotten in around 9, and for an hour I mopped the sales floor of the tiny Brooklyn boutique, fixed T-shirts on hangers and gagged. I was pregnant, so I tried to get all the physical work out the way early. My stomach was huge to me, but looked like nothing to most strangers. I was almost 6 months along.
I didn’t plan to be a mom, but I really didn’t do anything to stop it. This year was just crazy good. I had fallen in love with a man, life and all the people in it.
Life was different just a year earlier.
It was NYC, so my loose plan to be a career bartender turned millionaire restaurateur had seemed achievable. I was earning close to $1,500 a week serving cocktails and I lived at home with my parents, so naturally, I felt rich. Then the company my dad worked for was bought by another and his salary was cut.
My three sisters and I were adults now; my parents didn’t need a four bedroom house in the boroughs. My father looked forward to moving South anyway, counting down his days until retirement. My parents were ready to move on from my childhood home and they did.
I sat behind the cash-wrap listening out for pings from my G-Chat messenger, watching the door, listening to Mobb Deep.
I had a lot on my mind. The day we moved, I helped my mom clean out her closet and noticed my social security card in a crevice. My name was spelled wrong. I knew I was adopted, but even my first name was spelled wrong? My last name was different and hyphenated. Whose name was it? It was peculiar. I asked her about it. She said it was a mistake.
I didn’t realize how sad I felt about my identity being a mystery until I was pregnant. I had forgotten about that social security card for over a year until I felt my daughter kick. Then I thought about it everyday. What will I tell my daughter about my adoption? I didn’t know my mom or my dad or if they were still alive. I assumed they weren’t. In 22 years, they would’ve contacted me. What if my daughter asks me where we are from? I didn’t know. I’d just say Queens, New York.
My chain of thoughts made me neurotic. I opened a tab on Google chrome and typed in the misspelled version of my name. The first few searches were from an adoption agency, the third made my heart stop.
It was the name, my name, in a missing person’s ad. This person was looking for me. They had my birthday, the hospital where I was born and the adoption agency. There was a contact form on the site to message the person who posted the ad. My heart sank and I responded.
I threw up.
I only waited 30 minutes before my Gmail refreshed itself and I got a response.
“I’m your brother.”
My eyes glazed over that line and widened. Unbelievable.
He asked for my number and I told him I didn’t want to speak on the phone. I was nervous. I was at work. It was too heavy.
He understood and we spoke in a few E-mails. He told me about his family — he was much older. He told me I was a middle child and that my mom was from the Midwest.
The last name I was born with didn’t belong to anyone.
My biological mom had a record for fraud at the time of my birth and risked being arrested so she gave a fake name. In turn, the hospital gave me that same name. My name meant nothing. It made me sad. She was arrested anyway on my birthday; the nurses found crack in my blood work.
“She was a good person put in bad situations.”
I was afraid to ask if she was alive because at this point I had thought I didn’t want her to be. He spoke of her in present tense. I was still in denial. How could this woman be alive and never have contacted me? I had about an hour left in my work day and I stopped responding to the E-mails. I had made myself angry wondering why she never had spoken to me.
My phone rang.
It was from an out-of-town area code. I didn’t want to answer. I had given my number away in the E-mail to my biological sibling before my sadness kicked in. He called twice. I hurried to close the store. I could feel my phone vibrate as I pulled the gates down over the store front. I finally pulled the phone out to look at several missed calls from two different numbers. One was from a New York number.
The phone rang again. It was a call from the New York area code. I finally answered.
It was my biological mother.