Monday, May 28, 2018 5:37am – Missed call from Arun Dohle
I’m usually awake by 5:00am or just thereafter. I don’t normally get up, I’ll let my alarm go off a few times, tap snooze, and just lay there, eyes closed, often times dreading the day ahead. I always toggle the ringer on before laying down, just in case of an emergency.
Eyes closed, I’m startled by a ringing sound coming from my phone. It’s not the normal ring tone. I jerk up and grab for my phone. It’s a Skype call from Arun, of ACT and it’s 5:37am. We didn’t have a call scheduled. In my early morning daze I figure it’s a mistake, maybe a Skype butt-dial? The call hangs up as I am deciding I wont answer. I didn’t feel emotionally prepared to speak with him and was half-naked so wouldn’t have been able to video anyway.
I get up and get ready for work.
Thursday, May 31, 2018 6:21am – Email from Arun Dohle – Subject: Some update
I’m on train to work when I see I’ve got an unread email from Arun. I wonder if it had to do with the missed call from Monday. I’m getting ready to go into work for a half-day and then hop a plane to Cincinnati for the weekend for a wedding and pseudo college reunion. I’m officiating the wedding and have some new interns I’m worried will get bored while I am gone for two days. My mind is anywhere but with Arun in southern India.
The email asks if I am available to Skype. We send a few emails back and forth to try and find a time that will work. I don’t want to talk. Not this weekend. I’m not really sure what the update is but I’m worried it will distract me from the wedding preparations. We agree to Skype on Friday morning, once I’m in Cincinnati. I’m annoyed at this convergence of worlds, frustrated at not knowing what the update is about.
Friday, June 1, 2018 8:06am – Outgoing call to Arun Dohle
The sun is up and I’ve been awake for hours. We got back late the night before from the first night of wedding festivities. I was the designated driver so I don’t feel hungover, just a bit grimy from sleeping in a tent in a friend’s backyard. It’s hot and my hair is a mess. I head inside to use the bathroom and wash my face for the call. No one else is awake, thankfully. I clean up and head outside to call Arun and Anjali.
I’m on the backporch when they pick up the call after a half dozen rings. They are riding in the back of a taxi, I can see Arun and hear Anjali to his side. Arun wastes no time getting into the updates. The call is short, just about 10 minutes. It feels awkward trying to talk to them. I mostly just listen and say I don’t really know what to say. What can I say?
I’ve spent all of my memory-filled life not knowing anything about my birth family. Now, Arun and Anjali, within a matter of weeks, are Skyping me from near my birth town in Southern India with more of an update than I had ever hoped for.
They think they found her. Arun jumps right into telling me the details of how they located her.
I can’t focus. “What do you mean you found her?” I want to blurt out. I feel myself becoming self-conscious, worried one of my friends will burst out of the kitchen door onto the deck and I’ll have to diplomatically tell them to fuck off.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, this straightforward. How could they have located someone so quickly??? Is my story really that simple? Where the documents I thought were fabricated actually valid? “Are they really that good?”
It turns out they are. Over the course of the call they tell me they have located and met my birth mother. They are 95% sure it is her. They say I look like her.
They say I look like her.
They say I look like her.
THEY say I look like HER.
I, look like her.
I, who doesn’t have a resemblance to others.
I, who has self-taught how to create separation between myself and others.
I. I. I. I. I. I. I. I. I. What the fuck.
I try to regain focus and hear the words coming out of their far away mouths, moving, pixelated on a tiny screen I hold in one hand, squinting at. Everything feels absurd.
Even if I can’t asborb it all, they keep talking. She denies that she is my birth mother. She says she is not my mother and will not agree to a DNA test. They attempt a few other ways of getting her acknowledgment, but ultimately leave her alone. Before the call ends, they say they took pictures of her and they will share them with me later. I don’t want pictures. I don’t want things to move this quickly. I don’t know why, but I don’t. Right before signing off, Arun says, “the next step is for you to travel to India to meet her and see if we can get her to do a DNA test.”
I thank them. The call ends with them saying they’ll send an update with my full file in the coming weeks when they’ve gotten back to Pune.
The call ends.
I’m standing on the back patio trying to understand what the fuck just happened. My brain feels stalled, my heart quiet and my breath shallow. I immediately begin to worry how I am going to get through two more nights of debaucherous wedding celebrations without processing that call.
I’m beginning to feel panicky. That feeling when there is too much happening and I can’t discern what the right next step is. I want to just be in a space where I can allow myself to cry, to feel, to do whatever I need. I picture that space/place being my apartment in Chicago. It’s a lonely place. I find myself trying to develop strategies to avoid thinking about it and “acting” normal for the next three days. It seems impossible and thinking about the mental focus it would require is heightening my anxiety.
It’s hot outside and I haven’t seen anyone yet this morning. It dawns on me, as I am evaluating my options that maybe the best place to explore these feelings, or at least share them, is here, surrounded by friends, not alone in my apartment. It feels risky. I hate feeling like I am taking up too much space with others and don’t want to take up space during this wedding weekend.
At the same time, a new voice inside me says it would be insane to try carry that weight all weekend, just to unload on myself alone. It’s a voice I’ve never really heard before, or maybe just never listened to. It felt like a relief to hear that voice.
I decided on that back patio, in the blistering morning sun, to tell a few friends. I walked inside, sat down at the dining room table and cried in front of two friends, trying to regurgitate what just happened on the phone. They were quiet. Probably stunned, or maybe just trying to understand, as I was, what the hell was going on.
Sharing felt relieving. I can’t remember what either of them said. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that I chose to share and that there was someone there when I needed it.
That one, 5-minute interaction allowed me to fully enjoy the next few days. It didn’t necessarily help me process the phone call or the new information but it allowed me some space and time, which was helpful.
It feels weird that what I seem to be taking away from this experience has more to do with my emotional development rather than the new information gained. I guess I’m just proud I was able to hear the voice or acknowledge the opportunity to share when I never did that growing up. It feels like a signal that therapy, writing and processing may actually be changing the way I see relationships and experience trust.
I don’t really know. I’m still working through what happened on that phone call. I can’t even really feel the reality that she doesn’t acknowledge having me. None of it really feels…..like anything I’ve ever felt before. I’m not sure where to leave this one so I’m gonna drop it here.