*(I originally wrote this for challenge #13 - Letter, but I think it is also a good one for challenge #16 - Stranger)
I came home from work one night… a day like any other… or so I thought. I fixed myself a cocktail, turned on the stereo… the smooth sounds of John Coltrane filled the room. I flopped down on the couch and began sorting through the day’s mail. Junk, junk, cooking magazine, more junk… but there at the bottom of the pile was a small white envelope, I didn’t recognize the handwriting. In the age of emails and texts and tweets, it was a rare occasion to receive a letter via snail mail. Curious, I slid my finger under the flap and across and peered inside at the handwritten note within. As I unfolded the letter, my breath caught in my throat. “Dear Mom,” it started. My heart began to race, and the world closed in around me. A wave of nausea consumed my gut, and I had to brace myself on the coffee table so as not to fall off the couch. I read on, my teeth clenched and my stomach knotted, both eager to find out what the writer had to say to me, and fearful of the very same thing at the same time.
It’s been 15 years since I last saw your face. I’m not even sure I would recognize you if I passed you on the street. But I remember you, I remember your existence. As I’m sure you’re well aware, today is my 18th birthday. The loving family with which I’ve been living these many years thought it best to wait till I reached 18 to make contact with you. They thought it would be too damaging to a young child. Maybe they were right, but the scars you left me with will always be there, no matter how old I grow to be. I’m writing to tell you that, while I will never forgive you for abandoning me at the tender age of 3, and I’m not sure that the anger and hatred I feel towards you will ever fade, I still need to know you, I need to know who you are. Please meet me at the park, by the fountain, this Sunday at 2:00 pm. If you ever loved me at all, I hope you will honor this request… if anything, you owe me that much, as my mother.
I lay back on the sofa and stared at the letter for what felt like hours, rereading it over and over, my hands trembling. I tried to hold steady, but the tremors soon reached my spine and I curled up in a ball and wept.
When Sunday came, I nervously approached the park fountain. On a nearby bench sat a young man. There he was. My Charlie. I hadn’t seen him since he was a young tot, but I knew his face in an instant. I sat down beside him and lifted my gaze to meet his eyes. Tears clouded my vision as I saw the hatred in his eyes that he bore towards me. I opened my mouth to speak… but what should I say? What could I say? In that moment I knew that no words could make up for what I had done. We sat and stared into each other for what seemed an eternity. Then Charlie stood, turned, and walked away.
That was the last time I saw him. My repeated attempts to further reach out to him were harshly rejected, and after several years I stopped trying. I realized I could never explain my decision or why I did what I did, and even if I could, it would never bring him comfort. I have always loved him though, he will always be a part of me, forever in my heart. I will never again know what it’s like to hold my baby boy in my arms, but I will never forget the way it felt way back when. I wish I could get that feeling back, but I can’t.
I now sleep with that letter under my pillow, it’s the closest I will ever get to him again, and I never want to let go, even though he has let go of me.