I’m feeling myself fade as I sit here in a dark corner of a house, a house that used to be mine before she came. I’m attempting to write down my story before it all goes away. I’ve been feeling my consciousness leaving me in the last few days and I can no longer move about. She is long gone and I still feel her around me at times, mocking me and laughing. She is my child, she is my enemy, she is my creation, she is me.
My name is Lori Murad and I was in my early 30’s when I first saw her, the child, a toddler of 2 or 3 years. It was a cloudy day in late September, one of those days when the still air is heavy with humidity and it makes you feel dirty from the oppressive heat. I was walking to a park that I found a few days earlier. The park was just a little square of concrete with a black fence on a corner of a busy New York street. It had some benches and a few swings. I discovered the little park on the day I interviewed for my job at a doctor’s office.
My marriage had ended a few months prior and I was in a period of denial about my situation. The man that I fell in love with and married had left me for another woman. He met a woman online, a woman who is cunning in the way that some women are when it comes to taking a man away from his wife. She spun a web around him and his marriage to me no longer mattered. I didn’t put up a fight when he told me that he met someone else and I left quietly.
Even though it’s been a few months since I last seen the man that was my husband, I didn’t want to blame him for what happened. We had been having fertility issues and it was not easy. Our marriage became a game of blame. Even when he said that I was “defective” and had he known that I was not able to conceive, he would not have married me, I forgave him. I didn’t want my marriage to end, but this woman showed him a different world that I couldn’t offer him.
When I first met my ex husband, he was a struggling young man with few prospects. I stood by him and even though we had little and could not afford a wedding or honeymoon, I was happy to be with him. I loved him and at the time, I suppose he loved me as well. I had faith in him and thought that even if something was to go wrong, he would never hurt me. I had no idea at the time of the cruelty that he became capable of.
The day when I first saw the child, was a Thursday. I had just started my new job as a receptionist in a small doctor’s office earlier that week. The office was within walking distance of my apartment and near the park. I had decided to bring my lunch to the park that day, a change from my usual lunch in the employee lounge. I had just sat down on one of the benches when I saw her. She was standing by the swings with no adult in sight.
What made me notice the child was the incredible fact that she looked exactly like me when I was her age. She had the same curly brown hair,the same big brown eyes, and her features were very much like mine. The dress she wore was red and obviously handmade. When I was 2 years old, my grandmother had crocheted a red dress for me for my birthday and the child that stood by the swings was wearing that same dress! I found myself staring at the unusual child who resembled me in so many ways, it both amused and scared me to look at her.
The child stared at me, expressionless, but with a great sense of interest. I knew that I should get up and go to her, find the adult that brought her to the park or call the authorities if she was alone, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get my body to do what I wanted it to which was to walk to where the child was standing. The moments felt like hours and then, just as I was staring at her, I blinked and she was gone. There was no one standing by the swings.
I was finally able to move. I got up and walked around the little square park. No one else was there, but me. The sky had grown darker all of a sudden and I heard far away thunder. I knew that I had to leave because a storm was coming. I left the park and started walking back towards the office. The child never left my mind that week. I kept going back to the park everyday, hoping that I would see her. I wouldn’t see her again for another year.
© 2021 Johanna Elattar