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A book -- should I write it? *Trigger Warning*

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Saranoya

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Joined
Jul 12, 2012
Messages
152
Hi all,

As some of you know, I spilled a precious secret of mine to someone I care a great deal about recently. She is still the only flesh-and-blood person in my life who knows, and she’s out of the picture now. I can’t really ask her what I’m about to ask you.

But, I don't know, it seems like telling her kicked something loose inside me. People have been telling me for a while that “I should write a book”, or that “I could become filthy rich selling my life's story”, or sometimes, thinking they were clever: “How about I write a book on you?” I never saw the point. I wasn’t really all that interested in writing the story, so why the hell would anyone be interested in reading it? But now, I think I’ve found a reason; I've found an angle, so to speak. There are still many questions to be answered, like where (if anywhere) do I send this when it’s done, and if that's what I want, then why the hell did it take me twelve years to start writing? But this … this is something. A start. To what, I don’t know yet.

Do you think I should write it?

I'm in a hospital. It’s early in the morning. Out there, most people are slowly waking up. With a more or less determined thump, they are silencing their alarms. They're turning around and closing their eyes, for just a little longer. They are kissing their partners softly on the cheek before snuggling up a little closer. They're putting on their running shoes in the dark, or pulling the cap off the first bottle of the day, hands shaking yet determined to conquer yesterday’s hangover. They're set the table for later, when the children wake up. They're making some coffee for the love of their life, or for the nameless chunk of muscle and charm they picked up in a bar some unimportant number of hours ago. They're eating their sandwiches in silence, the constant ticking of a wall clock taking them back to a bygone era. A few brave souls here and there are taking out their dogs for a walk. And somewhere out there is a lonesome traveler turning up the highway, getting ahead of rush hour traffic.
In here, the changing of the guard took place a little over fifteen minutes ago. Feet clad in worn but comfortable running shoes trod determinedly down the hallway, nearly unheard. Doors open and close. A blood pressure measurement here, a morning dose of medication there. Two doors down, an IV that itches and should really be redone, but they’ll come back for that later. Hospitals have their rhythms. I know them well. Anything unplanned and not immediately dangerous will have to wait.
I’m lying on my back, staring at the ceiling. White, speckled cardboard tiles, illuminated by a faint orange glow from the street lamps out there. With a push of the button I’ve been clasping for two hours, I switch on the overhead light. It’s OK now. It’s time. And the nurse won’t be cross that I did it, even though she doesn’t have much to contribute here. A “bonjour, bien dormi?”, perhaps. And a “petit-déjeuner sera servi dans une heure.” Two seconds to wait for a smile and a nod, and then along moves the daily grind.
In the long hours between nurses checking up on me and meals being served, I’m alone in here. That’s the primary reason I dislike private hospital rooms. But this time, they didn’t offer me the choice. I’m seventeen and a new mother, but it's been deemed unwise to keep me on the maternity ward. Whoever decided that probably wasn't wrong. I’m grateful for the fact that there are no crying babies within hearing distance of this place; even though when I think about that for too long, I start crying myself.
She’s very small, they said, moments after you were born. And I thought: well, then maybe it hasn’t quite been nine months. I’m not sure, exactly. You’re small, but you're tough. You were breathing on your own from day one. Maybe you’re already on your way to your new mom and dad, now; your real mom and dad.

There’s hope for you, Nel. That’s my mantra, in those hours I spend staring at the ceiling of my private hospital room — a bubble protecting me, for just a little longer, from the cold hard world out there. There’s hope for you.
I told the people here about my medical history; the things I thought could be important for you. My French isn’t that great. It came out in bits and pieces, and with a lot of “je ne sais pas comment dire” in-between. It took almost two hours. And after that, I wrote down everything I could remember, in a blue-and-white lined notebook with a brown cover. Everything I could remember of you; your first nine months; your birth, and the only time I held you in my arms before entrusting you to the care of the nurses at this hospital. I wrote it down in my native Dutch and then, insofar as I was able, in French. The language that will be native to you, probably.
One thing I didn’t leave behind is my name. That’s why you were born in France, Nel. It’s because I don’t want my family — your family — to know who you are. That you exist. That you have a whole different future ahead of you. But never for long could I stop wondering what became of you. What kind of person you are now. If there really was hope. Hope for you, Nel.
About your life, after those first nine months, I can only speculate. I don’t know where you went; what name you answer to today; whether you are happy. But I can tell you about mine. My life, before and after you were born. If and when you find this story — if and when you ever go looking for it — it might give you some answers you’ve been wanting.

With love,
Your mom
 
BillFish

BillFish

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Joined
Sep 12, 2009
Messages
2,388
Hi all,

As some of you know, I spilled a precious secret of mine to someone I care a great deal about recently. She is still the only flesh-and-blood person in my life who knows, and she’s out of the picture now. I can’t really ask her what I’m about to ask you.

But, I don't know, it seems like telling her kicked something loose inside me. People have been telling me for a while that “I should write a book”, or that “I could become filthy rich selling my life's story”, or sometimes, thinking they were clever: “How about I write a book on you?” I never saw the point. I wasn’t really all that interested in writing the story, so why the hell would anyone be interested in reading it? But now, I think I’ve found a reason; I've found an angle, so to speak. There are still many questions to be answered, like where (if anywhere) do I send this when it’s done, and if that's what I want, then why the hell did it take me twelve years to start writing? But this … this is something. A start. To what, I don’t know yet.

Do you think I should write it?
For sure write it! I wrote a book, took me 5 years to complete it, I had about 600 pages in the end, then redacted anything that was potential liable and stuff that was covered by the official secrets act and or would attract press attention and cause me pointless trouble.But that's not the point, it's the process of putting your life's experience down on paper, the memories and a emotions it triggers that is very cathartic, and good for your well being, the process is the important thing, not the finished book imo.:p
 
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Elle-X

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Dec 21, 2014
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Lincolnshire
Hello Saranoya :) Your introduction is well written and intriguing; it may be worth continuing for a few chapters to see how it progresses and how you feel during the process.
 
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Saranoya

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Joined
Jul 12, 2012
Messages
152
On the day I started writing this, Nel, you were exactly twelve years and twenty-nine days old. For the first time since I left you in that hospital, on that day, I told somebody else that you exist. Why did it take me this long? Had I forgotten about you?

I could never really forget you. And the older I become, the more I think about you.

A few weeks before the official beginning of my fourth year of university, I started an internship. For a month, I was supposed to shadow a staff member at a foster home for children who had been removed from difficult home lives. I was not quite twenty-two years old yet. And there, in that foster home, I met Sylvia.
Sylvia was a small, fragile and visibly scared girl; an angel with blonde curls and broken wings. In an unguarded moment, it would have been easy for me to recognize, in her bright blue eyes, my own daughter looking back at me. But at the time of our first meeting, in September of 2007, Sylvia was just about to turn five years old; she was a little over two months older than you. And while she had been left, a few days after birth, on a maternity ward by her mother, the hospital she was born in was Belgian; not French.
Most of the kids there got regular visits. Some had a parent who looked forward with anticipation to every morsel of time spent with their children, even if it was temporarily or permanently impossible for them to raise those children at home. Others were visited by grandparents, former foster families, friends or extended family. But Sylvia? Sylvia never had visitors. She had been placed with a family multiple times, but apparently that always went wrong sooner or later.
Her fifth birthday was on the second Wednesday of my internship. There was a party in the living room, with colorful window dressing and a crown, a cake with cream on top, with sweets and a big present, and with children’s games. It had, in short, everything a kid could want in a good birthday party. Except that it didn’t. Because Sylvia was crying on her birthday. She was inconsolable, in fact, because nobody ever came to visit her, and only her. Not even on her birthday. So it was decided: I would pay Sylvia a special birthday visit, along with one of the counselors. That way, she’d feel like there was someone special there; someone she didn’t see every day.
She received her visitors in her room: strictly forbidden, except for this one time. We had tea from porcelain cups, and a box full of chocolate cookies, and music — exactly what a birthday party should be like. The teddy bears drank too, and I gave her a carefully wrapped recording of a children’s storybook, based on a television series I had watched on home video as a child. And Sylvia stopped crying for a while.

For four weeks, every day between their homecoming and sundown, I played catch with Sylvia and her friends, in the tiled yard behind their big house. I enjoyed their breathless laughter like no other sound I’d ever heard. I refereed their ball games with improvised rules, few of which were ever the same at the beginning and at the end of any given game. I soothed their fears, dried their tears, and put invisible band-aids on small sorrows. When somebody was so scared, so angry or so withdrawn that no magic words could be of any help, we went and fed the chickens, just the two of us. And every night, I fell asleep crying. Crying for all these children without a home, and maybe a little bit for myself, too. But crying, above all, for Sylvia, and for you. Maybe you had never really had a mom, either.

In September of 2013, I went to college for the third time in my life. My original degree, I never used. How could I? How could I explain to other parents the way they are supposed to handle trouble in their families? How could I help decide another person’s right to raise their offspring in their own home? Who am I to make pronouncements on the best environment for a child to grow up in?
For years after Sylvia — years after my decision not to pursue the professional path that, in many ways, began and ended with her — I found it very difficult to ponder those kinds of questions. Wasn’t my own child just as devoid of a home? Just as robbed of her roots? Just as touched by injustice? I didn’t know. I hoped not, but there was no way to be sure. So for a while, I found it easier not to ask those questions. I din’t forget about you. I put you in a little box, somewhere deep inside my heart, and I started to build walls around you.

The walls have been crumbling, lately. I met another child born to someone who couldn’t raise her; a child who does have a good mom. Or rather, I met the mother of that child. And she showed me that my mantra for you, on the day you were born, may not have been wrong at all. There’s hope for you, Nel. There is hope.
 
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SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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Aug 17, 2012
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I agree - your story does sound incredibly intriguing and I think it could actually be quite therapeutic for you to write a book out.
Perhaps a project for 2015? x
 
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Saranoya

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Jul 12, 2012
Messages
152
When they asked me, in the hospital where you were born, whether there are any hereditary diseases in my family, I said no. And yet, I wondered. Is alcoholism a disease? Addiction in general, is that a disease? And if it is, then do my parents suffer from it?

Maybe in a few years’ time, if you are interested in that kind of story, you will see the movie ‘La Merditude des Choses’. It’s a Flemish picture, re-dubbed in French, and based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Belgian author Dimitri Verhulst. It tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy who, living with his three unmarried uncles, divorced father and grandmother, is confronted daily with the consumption of ungodly quantities of alcohol, shameless laziness elevated to the level of a true profession, and men who consider the conquest of women, willing and less willing alike, a matter of noble sportsmanship.
You do not come from that kind of a family, Nel. Neither do I. In our parental home, reservedness is a virtue, politeness a currency, and the use of Latin words, so decidedly spit upon by the grandmother in the movie, a mark of great refinement. Closer to home, then, hits Mr. Verhulst’s description of his first and only foster family, in whose midst he felt like a traitor: people with jobs, taste, and a wine cellar.

I don’t smoke. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs — except drugs of the prescribed variety. And even those, I do in extreme moderation, given even an ounce of choice. Every once in a while, I will meet someone daring enough to ask: so what do you have against alcohol, young lady? Nothing, I will invariably say. I just don’t like the taste of it. And that’s not a lie, as far as it goes.
Very occasionally, when the person asking me that question is someone I know I can trust, I’ll give them an answer that’s a little closer to the unvarnished truth: there’s a bend towards addiction in my genes. And when a doctor, usually one who doesn’t know me very well, attempts to prescribe me a medication with addictive properties, I will say: thanks, but no thanks. Exposure to addictive substances is unlikely to end well, in my family.

Do not get me wrong, Nel: my family tree, and therefore yours, does not contain any useless drunks. For as long as I can remember, my parents have both earned their living in a job for which they got up early in the morning every day, dressed nicely, and drove a certain distance to a mysterious location, where they were to put in the requisite number of hours. There is a certain discipline to that; discipline passed on to me in the milk I drank as a baby. It may not be a talent I particularly excel at, but at the very least, I have my parents’ discipline to thank for the fact that I now consider it a self-evident part of what it means to be an adult. Neither alcohol, nor any other addictive substance has ever hindered that; not for either of my parents.
And yet, it’s a convenient excuse. Those who get up early and come home late have put in a hard day’s work. That deserves a reward. So what if you’re half asleep on your feet from one glass too many, or two, or three? That is to be expected, and sometimes it can come in handy: that way, you don’t have to hear or see anything you’d rather not. Or suppose you take an angry swing at the furniture, or the windows, or the dog, or the children. You don’t have to admit you have a problem until you were sober while you did it. After all, you are not a bad person; just a hard-working parent of three who, after work, will let off steam with a bottle of red within reach. It doesn’t matter how illogical that may sound to anyone who isn’t you: as long as you believe it, you are safe. And your parents did it too, didn’t they?

So, are there any hereditary diseases in the family? I still think ’no’ was the right answer. And yet, it all depends. On the meaning of the words ‘hereditary’, and ‘disease’, for instance.
 
R

randomguy2015

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I don't want to over step my boundaries. I've read a few of your comments and it seems to me you carry quite a bit of guilt concerning your daughter and her adoption.

I don't want to tell you how to feel. I don't even trust the way I feel about things, let alone counsel others on the matter.

However, I will say this. Your decision to put her up for adoption, as opposed to having an abortion, created an infinite world of possibilities. Abortion would have been one end. An exit from this world. But by giving birth and allowing life, you gave her a chance. A chance I wish my child had.

She could be a teacher or a lawyer, a chef or an artist. The point is that she is something.

Life is one long series of forks in the road meeting forks in the road. Crossroads intersecting with crossroads. But some choices cut the whole journey. That left turn just....ends..

Anyway, I digress. Perhaps something that could help is for you to look at this from an alternate angle. You gave life.
You made a great choice. One I respect. You gave life a chance.

Sorry if I have overstepped. Just wanted to say that.
 
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Saranoya

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Messages
152
You didn't overstep. Thank you for saying that.

The truth is, although I'd love to be the person you describe (the one who consciously chose birth and adoption over abortion, because it would create all kinds of possibilities for my child), that's not what happened. I was young and clueless. Part of me must have known that I was pregnant, but I refused to believe it until it was basically too late to do anything other than what I did.

And then I went and had my child in secret, not een leaving open the possibility of her finding out who I am, should she ever want to. I am not any kind of hero. I'm even worse than Sylvia's mom, who at least had the courage to be that one person on the extremely short list of family members. My kid doesn't even have a list.

But more on this, later. I think you inspired me to write another part.
 
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Saranoya

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Messages
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On April 4, 1990, for reasons of conscientious objection, King Baudouin of Belgium (also known as Bauduoin the Last, at least by one good friend of mine), refused to ratify the new abortion law, which had barely squeaked its way through Parliament a few days earlier. I was in Kindergarten when that happened.
In the years following that day, every schoolchild in the land, including yours truly, learned the date of the incident by heart at some point. Baudouin was relieved of his duties for thirty-six hours, and the new law, by the grace of this conveniently scheduled episode of Royal ‘inability to rule’, was ratified in his absence by the entire Martens VIII Government. It’s an incident which, today, nearly twenty-five years later, is still being cited as ultimate proof of the uselessness of the Belgian Royal Family, which is purely ceremonial at this point. And let’s do away with the entire charade, why don’t we, because all it’s good for is the consumption of taxpayer money while serving no purpose. A generation and a half, not to mention two Kings later, the Van Saksen-Coburgs are still fairly steady in the saddle. So far, the critics have not gotten their way. But that’s not the reason I brought up King Baudouin here.
The reason for that, Nel, is to make it clear to you that yes, I knew abortion was an option. I’d known that since my early childhood. And I would love to be able to write, right now, that despite this knowledge, I chose consciously and willingly to give birth to you. That I chose consciously and willingly to give you a fighting chance.
It’s got something noble, doesn’t it? Innocence wins. The unexpected, unplanned and unwanted child, a child that would have been unwelcome and unloved in the family to which it would be born, survives and gets a second chance. Its mother, unable to provide for her own flesh and blood any kind of a meaningful future, carries it lovingly to term anyway, endures childbirth and then, still hoarse and bleeding and teary-eyed from all of that hard work, whispers: farewell, my child. Go forth and be happy.
That’s downright heroic. But that’s not how it happened for you, Nel.

I was young. I was young and ignorant, and never freely had I kissed someone, let alone anything more than that. The moment in which you were conceived is a moment in my life that I’ve been uselessly trying to forget for nearly thirteen years. Unfortunately for me, I have freakishly good memory. Also unfortunately for me, your conception was the final apotheosis in a long line of unwanted gropings, none of which I had ever said no to. So how could I, now? It took years, my entire life as far as my memory of it was concerned, to go as far as it went. And then it only really went that far a single time. But once was enough.
I was young, but not stupid. I knew what had happened. I knew the risks. And yet I waited, and hoped, and then waited some more. A month, then two. Ten, or maybe eleven weeks in, when it was really too late for you already, I stopped taking my anti-seizure medication. I could say I did that because of some kind of maternal instinct, but no. Actually I thought: maybe if I have a seizure, all of this will be over.

In week thirteen (I think), I head my seizure: frontal face-plant onto a concrete garden path. Nobody home. Nothing to report. It hurt, and I thought: maybe this is it. But I didn’t bleed. And then I thought: well, I’m just not eating enough. I started eating even less, so for a few more weeks, I could tell myself that it wasn’t true. That it couldn’t be true. That my body was reacting to the stress, and couldn’t function normally anyway, as long as I kept starving myself. But I was a lousy hunger striker. I couldn’t decide which I wanted more: to keep the fiction going that there was nothing going on here, or to provide you with much-needed fuel for growth. For the same reason, I took my anti-seizure medications sometimes, and other times not, provoking occasional break-through seizures and hoping I would at some point fall at just the right angle, while telling myself I was keeping you out of harm’s way by limiting your exposure to a toxic drug.
In June, four days before the beginning of the end-of-year exams at school, I had two seizures on a Thursday afternoon, in the middle of our final pre-calculus review. An ambulance was called. First they’d waited, as they knew to, and then they’d called my mother. But she was teaching elsewhere. She couldn’t leave immediately. So an ambulance was called, and I was taken to the hospital and when I got there, the doctor ordered a CT almost before I’d been transferred properly onto a bed. I’d been seen by witnesses, falling onto the back of my head. “Are you pregnant?”, the EMT asked nonchalantly. I freaked out. They knew! And my mother had been called! While the nurse was busy getting me registered, I took it upon myself to unhook the monitor and wobble, unsteady on my feet, right the hell out of there. Once outside, I dove behind the first dumpster I could spot. I stayed there, motionless, until it was dark out.

When I eventually got home, all Hell broke loose. Where in God’s name had I been? Did I know what I was doing to them? Why could I never, ever, behave like a normal, worthy teenager? Wasn’t it always the same with me? Once a problem child, always a problem child! And I tried, Nel. I tried. I tried to get him out of the room so I could talk to my mother alone. No dice. I pleaded with my eyes, with my tears, and then eventually, with my silence. She didn’t get it. So I stomped up the stairs, determined never to talk to either of them again.
That Friday, I skipped school. I knew my parents wouldn’t be called, because hello, I’d just had two seizures yesterday. They’d assume I’d stayed home. My mother would assume I was in school. All would be well, and I could spend the day, undisturbed, at the public library. I needed time to plan.

During that year’s final exams at school, I stopped being able to get into my pants. I started wearing skirts that had been gathering dust in my closet forever, and when that raised some eyebrows, I borrowed a few pairs of slacks from my mother, unbeknownst to her. My exams were a Godawful mess, but I was known for my occasionally frightening intelligence on the one hand, and for periodic bouts of lacking dedication with extenuating circumstances on the other. I passed. And I decided that I should go talk to my mother about daddy dearest. Sooner rather than later.

That conversation didn’t go as planned.
 
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Saranoya

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Jul 12, 2012
Messages
152
I don't know, Nel. I do not know what it is like to be a mom.
That doesn't absolve me of motherhood. I gave birth to you. That's a choice I made, and for as long as I live, I will be responsible for it. But that's not the kind of responsibility that turns somebody's daughter — whether she be a seventeen-year-old girl or a forty-year-old women — into somebody's mom. I gave birth to you. But except for a few stolen moments before that, when perhaps, in a sudden bout of motherly concern for your cognitive development, I read to you out loud from the Dickens novel I was then plodding my way through for a book report, or sang you a lullaby of my own creation, giving birth was about the extent of my involvement.
I did not soothe you through your first feverish night; or any feverish night after, for that matter. I wasn't witness to your teething aches, or to the actual appearance of that first tooth, or to your first encounter with spinach, or Brussels sprouts, or peas. Never did I have a reason to check my phone five times an hour after leaving you with a babysitter. I wasn't there when you said goodbye to your pacifier, and never undertook the obligatory quest for an exact replica of your regrettably lost, but absolutely favorite stuffed animal. Never did I tell you, to my own regret, simply "because I said so", after having tried and failed for an hour to come up with satisfying answers to your endless string smart, but ultimately unanswerable questions. Never did I sit with you until late at night, working on a school assignment that would soon have us both pulling our hair out in frustration. Never did I watch your receding back stomp up the stairs after an argument, wondering where I'd gone wrong. I am nobody's mom, and certainly not yours.

It is not my place, therefore, to judge the real moms of this world on how they act in front of their children; on what they do when disaster hits; on the words they choose when they feel backed into a corner. Because that's what I did to my mom, Nel: I backed her into a corner. I did that because I wanted a better future; a better future for you, and for me, and for all of us. I did that because I had hope. There she stood, my mother, looking back at me from behind what must have been at least seven layers of otherwise seldom-used make-up. She was favoring her right leg, having just "stepped off the curb wrong" and twisted an ankle. And I hoped. I hoped that when I asked her to choose between me and my father, she'd choose me. And I asked her to look at me, Nel. I wanted her to really, truly look at me. I wasn't even wearing one of my comfy oversized sweaters, at the time. I just stood there in a t-shirt, nearly four months pregnant, and I said: "Look at me. Things can't go on like this, can they?" Her expression hardened. Did I have any better ideas? Well, I did. "You have to kick him out."

But she couldn't, Nel. She just couldn't; not even when I said: it's him or me. Well, I should go then, she said. It would mean far fewer headaches, for her. And so I never actually arrived at the part of my speech where I would have told her, in so many words, about you. If she couldn't bring herself to choose one child — her own flesh and blood — over her unpredictable, intermittently violent husband, then how exactly would it have helped if she'd known, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that her choice was actually between one of him, and two of us?
And here, I feel compelled to be painfully honest for a second, Nel: I did judge her for that. I judged her as, with extra force, I slammed the front door shut behind me for what I believed, at that point, would be the final time in my life. I judged her as I hung around the consciously homeless in the metro tunnel under Brussels Central. They could tell I didn't know much about life on the street, and that I didn't really belong among them, so they would occasionally hand me some bread, or a fistful of coins, out of pity. I judged her as I eventually carved out a spot for myself at a French shelter for expectant mothers. And during the delivery, it wasn't my father, but my mother I cursed out with the most conviction, blaming her for everything that was happening to me, and to you, in that moment. I did judge her.

Never, in almost five months before, and more than nine months after your birth, did I tell anyone my name; or how old I was, exactly; or where I came from. The contents of my wallet were attached with tape to the bottom of my shoes, under the inner lining, and never saw the light of day. I was nobody. I came from nowhere, and I wasn't going anywhere in particular. Because even after you were born, I needed to lay low, Nel. If the police had found me then, I was convinced they'd have had a very civilized conversation with my parents over the phone, put a stamp on my butt, and sent me right back home. Or worse: maybe they'd get my mother to come collect me. And I could not look her in the eye. Because I blamed her.

So I kept my mouth shut, and I waited. I went from hiding in the basement of a public building, to living among junkies in an abandoned warehouse, to crashing on some hopeful bachelor's couch for a few nights, until he figured out that I had major intimacy issues, and would never go beyond a chaste peck on the lips. And back, and forth, and back. Sometimes, I was found by an over-eager security guy, which, at the very least, meant I needed to go find me a different hiding spot. But I managed. Mostly.

In August of 2003, a few weeks before my eighteenth birthday, I got on a train back across the border. Money for the ticket had been stuck inside my left shoe for the duration. My future was about to begin.
 
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