Alice K. Boatwright
Babyman, your heart’s first beat was under my skin. I remember looking down at my pearly stomach and trying to imagine you inside. There. And there. I touched you with my finger.
Our love swelled with my belly, and I was proud of you, no matter what they said. The nuns. My parents. Your frightened daddy.
They sent us to the Salvation Army. Me, with my bright laugh and red curls, just sixteen years old. And you, not even born yet. My family gave me up as I was forced to give you away — a chain of betrayals passing down through the generations that I believed could never heal.
They said you’d remember nothing, but you were raised on my blood, the sound of my voice. My sobs rocked you as you slept under my ribs. How could we ever forget each other? It was not possible. Not in hours or months. Not in all the years we spent apart.
But, Babyman, you found me!
Across decades! Across continents!
You traced the path of my life through lovers and husbands, houses and jobs, children and friends, until I held your letter in my trembling hands.
Mother, can we meet?
Yes, Babyman. Oh, yes.
Thirty-four years late, I arrive for our first meeting in the lobby of a Dublin hotel. I sit on the edge of my chair, my skin itching with expectation.
Then the door opens. Cold air rushes in.
Babyman, I see you and my past and present join in a single breath.
You, who have lived in my heart alone, stand before me: a tall man with my freckled hands and red hair. I cannot believe it. I have no doubt.
It is you. My son.
Oh, Babyman. I am your mother. No one must ever come between us again.
We hug. We laugh. We talk at once and weep. There is no way we can hold each other tight enough.
Your name is unfamiliar, but I know everything about you. You can’t remember my face, although I shaped your deepest feelings.
We spend the day together. Visit the place where you were born. Where we were parted. And now we will get to know each other.
But, Babyman, it will never be enough for me.
I want to see you. Touch you. Hold you.
I want back every moment that we’ve missed so much I am afraid to let you look into my eyes.
Babyman, I know it is a sin to love a son so much, but then it’s not the first time that I have sinned.
In memory of Eileen / 3 October 2012
Alice K. Boatwright’s first book Collateral Damage was published by Standing Stone Books and won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She is also the author of dozens of stories published in journals such as Mississippi Review, America West, Beloit Fiction Journal and Stone Canoe. She currently lives in Paris.