It’s All in the Chip

by

Lawrence Dagstine

Identity is a big search.

My name is Mayweather Londertag. I was always a very small Krelix, so small my parents made me sleep in an old wooden crib, bars up, until I was ten. But I loved to sing and dance, and I made up for my size with the horrendous rap music I made and the mischief I got into. From my earliest years I felt there was a mystery surrounding my life.

I lived with my mother and father, Brooke and Spencer Londertag, in three rooms on the second floor of a brownstone in what is known as Upper Manhattan. There was a small square foyer as you came in, and a large closet to the right. On the shelf in this closet I kept all my prized children’s books. Though I can’t remember who taught me, I was reading and programming VL tablets easily before I was five.

We had a kitchen, in which we ate, and a living room, in which my grandmother and my uncle Abraham slept. There was also a bedroom, with a large double bed and my crib; my nickname for it was The Cage. My old grandmother, in her heavy knit maroon shawl, was a rather grim presence in the apartment. But Uncle Abe, who took me on the skyrail and let me help tend his homing pigeons, was the joy of my life. We went soaring many places together. Sometimes the birds would join us.

The first hint I had that some secret surrounded my birth came when I was five. It was not because my mother and father and the rest of my family were some other manner of fleshy projection. The mystery was always there. Questions were always asked of us. If not by neighbors, then by passersby on the street. One day I got lost in the park. A gentleman was nice enough to escort me home. I didn’t think my childhood would be that much of a challenge, or my existence an embarrassment. When I was delivered home, I found my mother in hysterics. My father was home early from work, and without a word he hauled me into the bedroom and took off his belt. He never beat me when Uncle Abe was home, but now he had me alone and I was soon cowering under my mother’s apron.

As I think back on those early days I remember the tense atmosphere that reigned in our house. I learned later that the Londertags’ union had been unhappy before I became a part of the nest. The addition of a Krelix was supposed to make things better, but it didn’t.

So the mystery was always there. I kept wondering what was wrong, why my father seemed so cold to me, why—unlike other species of father I saw—he never wanted to hold my hand. When you’re a Krelix, you have only one source for your answers: the people you call your parents. I wanted to believe them, and to understand.

A Krelix misses little. 

#

A few years ago I was in a hovermobile accident. The brakes failed, and I pressed the air pedal frantically. I swerved, to avoid another airborne charger directly ahead. A lamppost raced toward me. My last thought in the second before the crash was: Oh, God, I’m going to die and I don’t know who I am.

As I lay in the sterile white outpatient room, with three broken bones, glad to be alive but still terrified at the thought of what might have happened, a nurse came in to ask some routine questions. “Are there any hereditary diseases in your family?”

How could I answer her?

Perhaps it was that brush with death and the thought that I might die still not knowing. But even though I was fifty and the father of a grown son, I knew I had to continue the search for my natural parents that had begun forty years earlier.

What is more natural than the desire to learn something of one’s heritage? All children love to hear anecdotes about their parents and grandparents. They look at their parents and try to find something of themselves in the way these people walk and talk, in their interests and talents, in their strengths and flaws. These things provide a continuity with one’s past.

“I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes.”

                                                                                                       —Richard Llewellyn

#

I can remember very clearly the day I found the paper. I was ten, and I had been playing by myself, as I usually did, sketching and cutting out paper figures beside my crib in the bedroom.

Mother had been sneezing all afternoon. I wasn’t surprised when she called from the kitchen, “Mayweather, would you bring me some nasal spray? It should be in the middle drawer of the dresser.”

I yanked at the middle drawer. It came halfway out and then stuck. Still thinking of my cutouts, I reached in blindly. I heard a crinkling sound and felt a stiff piece of paper.

Quickly I pulled it out. It was black, with white writing on it. I’d never seen a photostat before and it frightened me. I’d heard machines called laser printers existed before I was born, but that was all. I could read very well by now, and I saw my parents’ names, Brooke and Spencer Londertag. I saw a strange name at the bottom, Ben Orahn. And I saw the word “adopted.” I knew that word. It meant you were someone else’s child.

My name was Mayweather Londertag. Who was Ben Orahn?

I headed for the kitchen. My mother was standing beside the refrigerator in her pink housedress and an apron. Her black hair was pulled back flat on her head in a meticulous bun.

I held out the paper. “Who’s Ben Orahn, Mom?” I asked.

She looked startled, frightened. Her soft skin flushed, her eyes grew wide. She tore the paper out of my hand so roughly that a piece ripped off, and thrust it behind her back. I couldn’t understand why she was so angry. “Am I Ben Orahn?” I asked.

“No, no,” she said quickly now. “No, there’s…well, there’s another Brooke and Spencer Londertag in the family. Yes. They adopted a little boy, a full human… and…we’re holding this paper for them.”

I wanted to believe her. But she had grown extremely agitated, and her eyes and her voice said that something was terribly wrong. Finally I could hold back no longer. I shouted, “You’re a liar!”

I remember how she started back, the tense twitching in her neck. “You’re calling your mother a liar?” she said, her voice rising. She stepped forward and slapped me hard on the face.

My cheek stung, and bled, but now I couldn’t stop. “It’s a lie!” I shouted, fighting back my tears. “I’m Ben Orahn, I know I’m Ben Orahn.”

For years after I found the paper, I’d wait for those times when my mother and grandmother left me alone in the apartment. As soon as the door closed, I’d start to search—through all my father’s print media, through every inch of the dresser, through all my mother’s clothes.

Ben Orahn. The name would not leave my mind. I wrote it on my play tablet; I whispered it to myself. Had that paper really existed? Print was a sparsely used medium for documenting things anymore. It was ancient, like my children’s books. There had to be more. I opened the seams of the upholstered furniture, and carefully sewed them back up again. I actually looked under the linoleum that covered our floors instead of carpeting. My parents must have seen the scars of my search. But no one said a word.

There was only one person who I knew would tell me about that name. Uncle Abe. But I couldn’t ask him.

I loved my uncle with all I was. He was my mother’s brother and lived with us, on and off, during the years we were in New York. Some times he’d be gone for several months, without a word, and I’d stand near the closet by the front door, pretending to put my children’s books in order but really listening for him to reach our floor.

When Uncle Abe vanished for far too long a time, Mother and I would go downtown looking for him. We’d climb floor after floor and roof after roof of old tenements and projects to look for him, hoping he’d be stationed at one of his pigeon roosts. He and his friends kept scores of pigeons in wire coops on the roofs—he’d even gone as far as to say that Krelix were the evolutionary streaming of human DNA and pigeon RNA, synthesized in vitro by scientific methods of reverse transcription, only each coo a lot differently—and would often send the birds shuttling back and forth with messages.

I never asked my uncle about the strange paper I’d found, or about the incident concerning my Birth Essence. Maybe it was because I was afraid he’d tell me the truth.

Krelix or not, at least one person in my mother’s or father’s family had to look like me. It was the only time I looked forward to family functions. Yes, this cousin’s nose, I’d think excitedly. Then I’d block off the rest of the face and look only at the nose, from all angles. Or the mouth. Or the eyes. Sometimes, desperate, I’d think: Yes, I do look like him. I do. I do.

But the next time I looked the resemblance had vanished. It was such a small thing.

Over the years that lie, that secret, whatever it was, took its sad toll on us all. At night, lying in my crib with the bars up, I often had terrifying dreams. One came back time after time. I had killed somebody. I had buried the body under a tree and was desperately afraid I’d be found out. In the darkness I would see a shovel, the fresh dirt, the same shadowy tree, and I would wake up shaking, my forehead wet, my hands icy. Then I would look over to the big bed where my mother and father were both sleeping silently. Only when I was an adult and made the connection between the dream and my mother’s saying that my prying was killing her did the dream stop.

During those increasingly rare moments when my mother and I could talk calmly to each other, she would tell me how she’d always wanted a human child and how difficult and unusual her pregnancy had been. She always brought up the labor pains. I wanted to believe her. If she had had labor pains, if she had delivered me at a real hospital, she must be my mother.

The mystery I had lived with as a Krelix compounded in my adolescence. A Krelix senses that something is wrong, but knows that he must live with it. An adolescent rebels.

As a teenager, I couldn’t leave our apartment without getting the third degree when I came back: “Where were you?” “Who were you with?” “What’s that I smell on your breath?” She seemed desperate to protect me from any harm—from the world and from myself. The last, the lack of trust, hurt the must.

In school I took every course I could in graphic arts and engineering. I also took violin lessons, and played and sang with the school orchestra. Music and technology transported me out of the tension and despair about my future. After junior high school my parents had announced that they would not be sending me to college; I didn’t know how to go about arranging for college myself, since I was not only young but highly immature.

So, a few years after I finished high school, I picked up a trade and got married. Marcie Whitmore liked the things I liked. We lived on the same street. Marriage with her meant freedom and happiness—or so I thought.

Several years later, when I learned my wife was pregnant, I realized how big a mistake I’d made. I was no longer in love with my wife, though we continued to live together on the basis of how overpopulated the city was and how hard it was to find housing. As for the baby, I was not nearly ready to be a father. But my fears went beyond this: I began to fear for my son, whether he would be normal.

Throughout my adolescence, I had tried to forget the name Mayweather Londertag. But when I became a Dad, it began to return at odd moments during the day and night. In my mind, I put my hand into that drawer again, drew forth the black paper, and rushed into the kitchen. I could hear myself challenging my mother: “Am I Ben Orahn?”

If I was adopted, whose genes was I carrying? Were there certain abnormalities that might be passed on to my son? If I was adopted, why had I been given up for adoption? Was it because there was something wrong with my real parents?

To give birth is to establish the hereditary link. It forces you to think about your own heritage, to wonder about the characteristics, the traits and talents of someone whose genes you carry. The adoptee can go back no further than himself; beyond that there is a wall. And fear of what is behind that wall can cause trouble.

For years I was under the care of a psychoanalyst, who tried to help me focus on tearing down that wall. Sometimes, under hypnosis, instead of trying to climb the wall or take a great big sledgehammer to it, he would have me focus on the reoccurring dream of my childhood. The therapist insisted, “You did not mean to kill anybody in that dream. I think you were searching instead. The body that was buried was linked to your own. The link lay under a shadowy tree. You took a shovel and wanted to dig up your past.” Often he would pause for a sip of water, then continue, “Yes, your past is under the tree. It is waiting to be dug up. That is where the link to your infancy lies.”

My wife was in labor for three days. She wanted to become a mother, yet I was petrified at the thought of being a father. I had stomach pains to go with her labor pains, and I thought they would never stop. I kept hearing the words “Ben Orahn.” Deep inside I was desperately afraid of what my sperm would produce.

Throughout the delivery I was nauseous, and when a nurse saw I wasn’t looking so good and asked if I wanted to wait outside, I said, “No! I must see the child as soon as it’s born.”

When they had cleaned my boy, they lifted him up for me to see: he had two arms and two legs. “Is he all right?” I asked the doctor. “Is he normal?” When they brought him to me, I kept poking him gently. He looked all right.

The first thing visitors said was: “Mayweather, he’s the most adorable thing! He looks just like you!” No words could have scared me more. I remembered all those days I had spent with the family pictures loaded onto my tablet. I had never seen another person who looked like me. I picked Daniel up and held him in front of the hospital mirror.

“Isn’t he gorgeous, honey?” Marcie said.

Yes, he was. And yes, his little smile reminded me of me. There could be no doubt about it. This baby was no Krelix. He was a part of me, as I must be a part of someone else, somewhere in the world. I felt warm and connected.

Still, I watched Daniel apprehensively during his first year. He crawled on schedule, he began to talk, and there was quick happiness in his eyes, but he couldn’t walk. Then, at fourteen months, he suddenly got up without holding on to anything, set his little bowlegs down one after the other, and took his first steps. It all came about very natural.

#

Many adoptees, when they learn they are adopted, are reluctant to undertake what they call The Search. They are afraid to inquire about their Birth Essence. They are afraid of hurting their adoptive parents, whom they may love deeply. Some fear what they’ll find out. Others simply don’t care to find out anything, so they leave their essences alone.

But I cared. I no longer troubled myself about whether I should look, only how. I wanted some information that would lead me back to my origins. Birth Essence is what we are, and it is part of the chromosomal link that helps trace life events backwards to those origins. Fifty years was a long time, but already I’d been lucky. I had a lead. I was not a professional tracer of missing persons, by any means, and I didn’t have any scientific knowledge in Birth Essence; I didn’t know the proper way to start my search. How would you begin to look for two people who had conceived you a half century ago?

I took a wild chance. I contacted the New York City Department of Health and asked them where I should write for a copy of my paternity chip. It had been decades since citizens used birth certificates, so everything was stored on chips. I knew my birth date, I trusted my memory of the name Ben Orahn, and I remembered that my mother had told me about my delivery at a very specific location. I was told to send a message to the Bureau of Records and Statistics. I did so, signing the transmail “Ben Orahn.”

Three weeks later I plucked the official envelope from my mail slot. Out fell a gold chip—a chip with numerals and tiny writing on it.

My immediate reaction was disappointment. This was not the photostat I had found in my mother’s drawer forty years earlier. It did not mention anything about Krelix, it did not mention Brooke or Spencer Londertag, and the virtual entity on the enclosed flash disk referred only to a Baby Orahn. That, and “thank you” for your recent inquiry to the Bureau of Records and Statistics.

I began to choke up, but I persisted in my search; now if I could only get some help getting the information off the chip. My therapist took the micro SD and, scarcely glancing at it, flicked it carelessly across his desk. “Hard to believe we can fit everything about a person onto a small chip, record his entire history, from life until death, and encrypt it.” He leaned back in his chair and put his hands to his face. “You shouldn’t have that,” he said. “Your mother lied. Can’t you understand. You’re illegitimate.” His words seemed hostile.

“But why would the Bureau send me this chip?”

“They send everybody a chip. It’s procedure.”

“But what about all those sessions?” I said. “You put me in a trance and told me I must go to that tree and dig up my past!”

“So what if they didn’t tell you? The Londertags took you in when no one else wanted you. Didn’t you have a good home? Aren’t you grateful? You turned out all right. You were married for five years to a wonderful human, you have a house in the suburbs, you’re privileged to have such a handsome son of your own. What could be gained by continuously looking? I don’t know all the answers, Mayweather—sorry, Ben—but you’ve gone around persecuting yourself half your life over this. At this point, I don’t know if digging up the past will tell you much of anything and I doubt that chip will.”

The past months had been devastating. I had come to this man for some compassion, but all I received was cruelty. I needed someone to pat me on the back and tell me, “Ben, it’s all right. You’ll find what you’re looking for.” I pleaded with him, but his tone only became more belligerent. I knew he knew more. What could it mean to him?

At last he said, “Look, you don’t need me anymore. Get out of here. Go live your life. Soon your son will be married. Look forward to being a grandfather. Look forward to the future. Don’t dwell on the past so much.”

#

Early on Monday I got a call as to where my real parents might have lived. It seemed they, too, were from Manhattan. I took the first sky ferry out. It was the day after Christmas. I had an address. My plan was to knock on every apartment door in every building on this particular street. I was hoping to find someone who had lived in the neighborhood for more than fifty years. There was the slim chance that I might come across an old couple, and they would remember them.

I went from door to door. Over and over I said, “My mother and father once lived in this area,” and held up the chip. “Have you or someone you know lived here for more than fifty years?”

What a lonely holiday it was, and how desolate I felt checking off the apartments one by one in an organizer, repeating so often that I was looking for my mother and father that I began to choke and cry on the words. Several tenants had been living in the area long enough, but no one remembered anyone by the name of Orahn ever having lived on Amsterdam Avenue

The nearby Sanctuary, I knew, would have to keep complete records. I asked the android at the information window if I could please see the mother superior. I was led into a nearby room and introduced to a nun with a micro lens for an eye, sitting behind a small desk. Orahn might be a church-affiliated name, and the facts of my origins might be in one of her filing systems.

“I want to know if I was born in this neighborhood,” I said when I was seated. The nun smiled warmly at me. “Here’s my paternity chip. I also have an old photostat. I’m adopted.”

“And you want to know if your real parents were enlisted in Sanctuary?”

“Yes,” I said.

The smile froze and a frown crossed her face.

“I’m looking for my mother at the very least,” I said. “I’m sure you have complete records for the devout here. Perhaps you can access the information on this chip as well.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said. “There’s nothing we can do for you.”

Having seen I was once an Upper West Sider, she asked me about my adoptive home. “This family…don’t you feel you owe your loyalty to the people who raised you? Dwell,” she continued, “on the terrible fate that would have befallen you had these good folks not taken you into their home.”

I looked at the wired cross that hung from the nun’s neck. I told her I had an adult child of my own, that I had a right to know.

“I find myself at a great loss,” she said in measured tones, “to understand this idle curiosity.” There was a moment’s silence, then, “This chip could lead you to what you’ve been looking for…but understand this, you are not a product of your natural parents. The timelines of your Birth Essence has been altered. You are what your adoptive parents made you.”

I begged her to reconsider.

“There is nothing we can do for you. Not even Sanctuary sisters have access to the filing system. The records are private.” She slid the chip back across the desk. Then she stood and indicated that I was to leave. As I rose, she said, “I would appreciate it if you did not return.”

I left the Upper West Side branch of Sanctuary in a daze. Would it always be like this? I had tried to press both my therapist and the nun, and I had held back a great emotional scream that urged me to press them still further. I had so few sources, and each one was precious.

I wanted to cram as much into that day as possible, so I had planned one more stop—the surrogate’s court. If there had been a photostat in my adoptive parents’ possession, and a chip manufactured for identifying purposes, then an original must be on file in the district in which the adoption took place. It was a raw afternoon and I went directly to the courthouse by skyrail, without eating lunch.

By the time I got there it was the end of the day. Most of the lights in the great marble lobby were out now, the judges leaving with their briefcases, the clerks and secretaries trooping out, the robot janitors starting to clean up. I am inside that building, I thought. I am those records and I am sealed, buried alive. The society that withholds those records is telling me that I have no right to myself. I cannot let that happen; I must not let that happen.

In the Hall of Records, I asked one of the clerks, “May I see the adoption records, please?”

“You have a chip?” the clerk asked.

“Here.” I held it up for him to see.

I had expected resistance at this hour. There was none.

“Of course,” he said casually. “They’re in those huge VR hangars. Find the year you’re looking for, punch it into the keypad, then insert the chip. Once you’re inside, your timeline and the environment will handle the rest.”

Using my Birth Essence as a guide, I went through several virtual tours. There it was: my Order of Adoption. I felt a shiver of excitement. There was that name “Ben Orahn” and my adoptive parents’ faces. They were something slightly different than Krelix, but still similar to me. I turned around rapidly, as past experiences jumped out and flooded free-standing space. I was starved for any new scrap of information. “A ruling having been made by Harold M. Junt,” the lifelike imagery cited, “with the consent of [BLANK] and [BLANK],” the court felt the welfare of Ben Orahn would be greatly improved by this adoption.

Imaging was now broken and fuzzy until a scene with a familiar figure popped up.

“Uncle Abraham?”

I was in awe. I was also devastated by what I had learned, but I knew that it wasn’t everything.

I left the hangar, life show still streaming, ejected the chip on the outer wall pad, and hurried from the building.

#

I had always wanted to fill my life with the things I loved—music, theater, good books, and the artistic making of such things as sculptures and paintings. So, while I was determined to see my search through, I was also determined not to let it destroy me. I wasn’t young anymore. And I wanted to use my energies and talents productively.

When I remarried several years later, one of the first things my second wife, Trish, and I did—as soon as we could afford it—was buy an old antique piano. I began, with the greatest delight, to take piano and singing lessons. I had always been able to play by ear, but now I would make up for all those years when I hadn’t had the opportunity to study music.

I found time to attend music school several evenings a week. Soon I had mastered the beginners’ lessons and moved on to Bach and Chopin. Even in middle age, I had a hunger not to let life pass me by. My son was grown up, with twins of his own on the way. And I wanted my new marriage to be good and my life full.

I continued to read constantly, expanding my interests to Chekhov, Kafka, and Dostoyevsky. I took lessons in ballroom dancing, I taught myself Italian and French. I had always loved Italian music and French food, and still remembered the European vacations of my thirties.

Trish and I went to the opera several times a year, and I especially loved Verdi and Vivaldi. Even with gray hairs, I would love to have been an entertainer, to have sung on the great air stages of Times Square or in Broadway musical comedies; but if it was too late for that, I could still enjoy the best music New York had to offer.

Why did certain things give me joy or sorrow? Why did I feel exalted by beautiful music? Why as a young Krelix did I express myself through art?

Blood. Yes, that was the answer. Whom you look like and behave like are in your blood. Those who know their parents have the luxury of saying, “I look like my father, so what?” When you know, it means nothing; when you don’t know, it means your life.

One day I was sitting at the piano, when Trish said to me, “You know, you’d better ask Uncle Abe what else he knows.”

I stopped playing. “I can’t,” I said. “He still doesn’t know I’m looking.”

Trish was the inspiration I’d been looking for my whole life. She wanted me to be realistic. She said, “He’s nearly a hundred, and when he goes there will be nobody. Don’t rely on the vignettes of some chip. Don’t wait and then say to yourself, Why didn’t I do it?”

Trish knew Uncle Abe well, for we had kept in touch the past few years, especially the holidays. In my closet, in a metal box, I still kept one of the bird figures he’d carved out of ivory for me the year I had influenza. “But it will hurt him terribly when he knows I’ve been searching,” I said.

“Ben,” said Trish patiently, always respecting the fact that I preferred to be called by my proper name, “he loves you.”

Now my back was against the wall. Only the week before, my son told me Patricia’s water was about to break any day. He had been a toddler when I’d started my search. When, in his teens, I’d told him I was adopted, he had been curious, but not upset. Now, in recent years, the problem troubled him too.

Trish was right. I contacted Uncle Abe from my home VL and told him we were coming to Brooklyn and would like to take him out to dinner in one of Williamsburg’s many fancy sky bistros. He said in his old arthritic voice that was a stupendous idea. “Oh, and Uncle Abe,” I said, “there’s something I have to ask you. It’s terribly important. But I’ll wait till we’re inside your apartment.”

“Whatever I can help you with, it’s yours,” he said.

That was Abe for you. Honest and sincere.

Brooklyn was a borough like no other, changing greatly over the past two centuries, from an urban landscape where immigrants flocked to have lots of children and grandchildren, to a place where high levels of crime and poverty gripped ancient subway stations and shallow corners, where economic despair once settled like noticeable cobwebs, to the new age artists and hipsters who invaded neighborhoods and brought with them innovative technology…to this point in time, where many subspecies of human found equality and cohabited futuristic spaces.

Uncle Abe’s hair had long since turned silver white, he was terribly wrinkly all over, moved more slowly since our last visit, but that happy brightness was still in his eyes. We tried to persuade him to go to an elegant restaurant not far away, someplace where the atmosphere wouldn’t affect his breathing. It sounded too elaborate for him. He preferred a local place where he often ate with one of his pigeon coop-maintaining cronies.

During dinner, I told him we had flown out to Bushwick Avenue, to the old bird trap he’d once lived in. He smiled, remembering. Then I told him of the images I’d had, and how familiar it had all seemed.

“How old was I when I last cut school to go there?” I asked.

He thought for a moment and then said, “You were fourteen, fifteen. But you weren’t that much of a hooligan. You turned out all right.” He reminisced. “It was very gracious of your mother to take me in before landing that apartment.”

Uncle Abe carried on. To him, the conversation was like a never aging tonic for the soul. He told me he’d also had a corner apartment that was filled with sunlight. He told me how, when my mother had to go upstairs, nuns from the Sanctuary across the street would slide me to and fro in the metal carriage he had constructed for me. He told me that I’d often fly to my grandmother and use my tiny beak to untie the laces of her high black shoes. I’d perch on my grandmother’s shoulder for hours at a time. He smiled broadly. “She didn’t like the poop on her shoulder.”

We returned to Uncle Abe’s two-and-a-half-room apartment and sat talking about this and that. I still hadn’t been able to ask him, but finally my time ran out. I leaned toward him. “Uncle Abe,” I said, “I…I have something to say to you…”

He nodded.

“I want you to understand,” I said, taking the chip out of my shirt pocket, “that this has nothing to do with the way I feel about you. I love you and respect you very much.”

“What’s bothering you, boy?” he asked.

I went on, “It’s my adoption. I never talked to you about it because I was…well, I was afraid that if you knew I wanted to find my real parents you’d think it was because I didn’t love you.”

He looked at the chip, smiled slightly and said, “That’s foolish. I know you love me. I was the first face you saw. Why would I think that?” He leaned toward me and asked, “What do you want to know?”

“Uncle Abe, there are so many questions, and you’re the only person who can give me any answers. I’m confused. I must find my parents. If you know anything…”

My voice trailed off. My eyes scoured the science degrees adorning the wall behind him. There were dozens of photos of scholarly looking men and women, including a few with my uncle, wearing white lab coats. Some of the people in white coats were maintaining pigeon coops just like Abe had. There were framed newspaper articles with headlines that read: SUBSPECIES HORMONE NOW AVAILABLE BY PRESCRIPTION and FIRST REVERSE TRANSCRIPTION A SUCCESS.

“Well,” he said, “what is it you want to say?”

I put the chip back in my pocket. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I knew that if he could, he would have taken me by the hand and brought me directly to my mother and father. My foolish fears proved groundless, and I was desperately sorry I put all my faith into a chip and didn’t come to him years earlier. I left his apartment that night feeling clean and good inside. Now I had another person close to my heart with whom I could discuss the problem at any time. How stupid I’ve been, I thought, to forget that where real love exists there should be no guilt.

We pass this way once, Trish said to me. It’s true. If we hedge against reality, if we do not pursue our dreams, no matter who or what we are, we make a mockery of life and know but half of what we can be.   

Now that the whole drama is done, I think back on all the misery it must have caused my mother to maintain a lie that finally became a mania. It strained her love for me and mine for her. She became possessive beyond belief, terrified to the point of sickness that the family secret would slip out.

Knowing what I know now, I knew I never should have punished myself in life, and I never should have accepted any less—not the mystery, not the “facts” of my Birth Essence. Not anything but the truth itself.

CONTENTS