Small talk in the Big Apple

In answer to the comments on facebook relating to my previous blog it’s not that I blog just to keep track of what I do – that sounds too mechanical. I blog in lieu of family, as I said, so I guess it also maps how I feel. Family is just a collection of disputed memories so I write here. So what can I say about how I feel meeting my mother, again? It is the same as it ever was. We’ve never had a conversation that breaches the gaping chasm between us. She likes small talk.

I found her twenty years ago working for the UN in The Gambia. At her request she asked that I disguise myself as the son of a friend of hers – my brothers and sisters thought of me as a cousin. But shortly after my visit she left without telling me and it took me nine years to find her again – I found her in one country and then she moved to another and I found her there too I sent her letters. She did not reply. And then at 29 years old I found her in the third country – America – NY. My brother answered the phone and I told him “remember the cousin in Gambia, the cousin. it's me. I'm your brother”.

I was 29. She told me when we met a year later that she didn't tell her brothers and sisters who I was because she didn't want to disrupt their studies. Nice. After fighting for some form of truthful conversation – which scared her away – I’m resigned to talk about the weather and work – small talk. What can I say? I am the son that stays in the hotel and pretends his mother (who lives less than a mile away) is his mother.

We meet in cafes. We meet in Soho, with my brother, and I pretend in desperation that something meaningful is happening when I know I’m making it up as I go along. Finding family as an adult – with no surrogate family to relate to – is like endlessly following arrows that say home this way when in fact the plain old truth is they lead to nowhere. Only time passes. It is almost as if she is relieved, as we talk about nothing, that I must learn with this mocking passage of time what most people who have always known their families learn – to let go. It's a sick joke.

2 thoughts on “Small talk in the Big Apple

  1. So very honest Lemn, painfully honest? Beautifully honest.
    Brave to have gone on that journey to have sought family out and to strive to engage, extending yourself accross the void….Only to find you are left in freefall, the pieces remaining as peices, unable, or unwilling to bond.
    And yet, you give it form through words, by refusing to let the peices break you like so much shrapnel of the pysche. Many would have shied away or been broken long before they could embark on such a journey!
    You own yours painfully, beautifully, truthfully….

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