I was just barely in my mother’s womb when we were kidnapped. Together alone from the very beginning. We only had each other and that’s all we needed.
Taken from the home she had once shared with my father, her husband, for a precious six months. That is before his dog tags returned home without him. She was held hostage for four months and everyone thought she was dead, or worse, not. There was no note, no call, no explanation. Until one day, she was found in a hospital bed, at the Mercy Hospital in Oakland. No nurse checked her in, no doctor had her on file, and the cameras had mysteriously malfunctioned in the crucial minutes of which she appeared. When she awoke from her coma with no recollection of the kidnapping or the past four months, no one pressed her too hard. They chalked it up to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and told her to “give it some time”. But the puzzle wasn’t the PTSD or even the mysterious return: it was her physical condition. She was returned with no serious injuries. A deep bruise on her forearm and raw skin bracelets were the only remnants of the past. It was a miracle! The four months absence left her with only superficial wounds and a healthy baby girl, still nestled in her mommy’s tummy. Too bad those doctors didn’t look a little deeper because the creeps who took my mom sure screwed me over.
Mom was pretty famous for the next few months. Everyone wanted an interview with the pregnant lady who both disappeared and then returned without a trace. When she talked about that time, she explains it like a long tunnel: “You can barely see light ahead, but you know it’s there, and that you have to find it.” A message of hope I imagine, though it seems more foreboding. By the time I was born, only the resilient reporters remained. Mom says the first time she saw me she couldn’t believe my eyes. “A more beautiful shade of green then is supposed to exist in this world,” she says. And in a way, she’s right.
My first memories are of Grandma and Papa: wrinkly but firm fingers, soft colors, and a faint smell of pine cones. When they passed away, Mom and I took to drifting. We toured the states; Arkansas, Nebraska, West Virginia; we even spent some time in Nevada. Neither mom nor I liked that place very much - it gave us the heeby-jeebys. Mom said she always felt like we were “being watched” and I guess she had a right to be paranoid. Who goes through something like that and doesn’t have scars? No one. My favorite was our time in Arkansas. Mom got a job as a tour guide in one of the several quartz caves all around the state. It was stunning being able to wander amongst one of the earth’s precious wonders. The intricate designs so flawlessly exhibited in the crystals that covered the walls of the cave. The age-old formations and trickling underground stream were definitely awe-inspiring. I loved following the tour, listening to my mom’s voice rambling on with facts and anecdotes. Her voice echoed off the cave sides always filled with passion and awe, as she informed tourists of the unique variations in the crystal. The cave’s craggy unimpressive outside sheltered and protected its shimmering secret on the inside. In my little girl fantasies, I imagined the cave protected me too, queen of the quartz, a queen who could do no wrong. Those were the happy days, I was never hungry, l lived an adventure, and my mom was my best friend. But, all good things come to an end.
I began school a year later than usual, we both cried. I stood out; being the new girl was bad enough, but more than that, I looked different. My odd eye color was the subject of many taunting school kids. Eventually, Mom bought me colored contacts to keep them hidden. The first time we put them in, I remember she had tears in her own eyes and she told me, “You are beautiful, and it’s all my fault”. I patted her on the back and told her it was ok. She didn’t tease me, or point, or whisper, or run away, no.
While other kids struggled with puberty, independence, and staying true to themselves, I carried heavier burdens. The most hefty was that of my father. Other girls had dads to give them curfews, threaten their boyfriends, and scare the monsters from under their beds. Instead, the night closed in on all sides and the monsters haunted more than just the bottom of my mattress. Would he have waved away the darkness and subdued my monsters? Would we have debated pizza or tacos? Would his favorite color have been green?
My ghosts tormented me. My days were vile, but my nights were far worse. My imagination seemed reminiscent and my dreams left me twisted. I began taking walks in an attempt to quiet my turmoil, but it was hard to stomach. On one such walk, I tripped on a root and tumbled head over heels down a ravine and right under the hooves of a giant horse. Wild horses are fairly common in Nebraska, (where we lived at the time) but it’s a well-known fact you don’t want to accidentally surprise one. It was massive, muscled, and violent. I watched the horse rear back, legs churning, preparing to strike. I didn’t even scream. I closed my eyes and waited for an oblivion that never came. When I uncurled my eyelids and my fists, the stallion was dead. Laying eerily still as though it had never known life. A once formidable figure emanating energy and power reduced to nothing within mere seconds. He was dead and I was aghast. I wasn’t scared or confused, I had no questions, but remorse flooded me instead. He had been beautiful and free, trying to survive the harshness of wild until I had so effortlessly ended it all. I buried him and mourned for weeks. A life is a life. No matter how dangerous or misunderstood.
In the following years, there were a lot more accidents, but also discovery and strength. I was finding the answer to a question that most never do - who I was. Those years were the most essential to my life because enlaced with my growing capabilities came perception and wisdom. My mother’s wisdom I now understood came in her caution, vigilance, and paranoia. I began to see things: people, objects, entities, that should never have been there. I would glance at a mirror and make eye contact with a pair of dark shades. I saw a woman once, jogging, behind a stroller carrying a baby-doll. Then once, my mother came home with a sore throat and dripping red bracelets that seemed so familiar. It all became quite unacceptable to me in that moment.
The next day we moved: out to Maine. I have always preferred the cold air and the crisp snow, I find them soothing. The sound of wind whispering through the ice-coated branches or the crunch of sparkling powder beneath your feet. The winter is beautiful, but it is also bitter. My mother understood that and it’s the way she raised me. So when my mom died in a pool of blood at our doorstep I almost expected it. She lays under a blanket of soft earth overlooking the mountains, watching nature take its course. I buried her deep, like that wild stallion, years ago and I mourned her more than anyone can ever understand. She was my home, my love, my humanity.
Subsequently, I went searching. Something most people do at some point in their lives. Something I did once before. Only this time it was different. With the beauty and the bitter hidden up in my heart, I searched long and hard. I gazed through my distinguished eyes and I sought revenge.