What is Love?
Chapter 1: My mother meets a man.
She thinks she loves him, but she doesn’t know what love is.
A one night stand with a perfect stranger is not love.
Deciding whether to abort your baby or put it up for adoption
before you have even felt it’s head cradled in your arm, is not love.
Wanting nothing of the little feet you feel kicking you from inside is not love.
Chapter 2: She has the baby. The father is not at the birth.
He wants nothing to do with the ‘accidental’ child.
He even goes as far as to deny being the father.
Only the blood test will bring forth justice.
Only the results will stare both of them in the face.
And they will know the consequences of their mistakes.
That I was in fact, their child.
As I say this, the chills form up my back.
The cold shiver rushes through me like a gust of wind that chills you to the bone.
I was their child.
Chapter 3: I am one year old. My mother marries my step-dad. A white dress.
Hundreds of butterflies being released from their cage. It seems magical. It seems perfect.
It was all they could do to hide the fact that they didn’t really love each other.
Their big and beautiful wedding makes the love seem real, makes it seem tangible.
Chapter 4: My mother brings another baby home from the hospital.
I look at my half sister. Born positive of crack cocaine.
Was she thinking straight, as she walked pregnant to the nearest bar to hitch a ride into town?
Did she know how this child would suffer?
She does not know what love is.
Chapter 5: I bounce back and forth between father and mother.
One is sober, other in rehab.
I am an object of ownership, not a human being. Couldn’t they hear my heart beat, my breath?
Yet to them, I was a prize to be won.
A way of telling the other they were in charge, that they made the rules.
Bounced countlessly back and forth across the court, from racket to racket, dizzy and confused.
Chapter 6: A 71 year old woman walks to Sunday Mass.
She wears her purse over her shoulder with confidence.
On the church steps, she is knocked from the shoes on her feet and hits the ground.
A bone in her arm sticks out and the bones in her wrist are crushed.
The mugger runs away, her purse in hand.
I was 9 years old when my father was arrested.
I remember my mother coming to pick me up from school
telling me that now I was going to live with her…again.
I visited him in jail, once.
The only thing that I could think about was the fact that I knew my mother hated him.
She never did find out what love was. Neither did he for that matter.
His fiancé left him when he went to jail, and while still behind bars, became engaged to another.
So what is love?
Is it knowing you are lonely,
knowing you’ll die lonely,
and knowing someone else out there is lonely, too?
Or is it finding that you are thinking about someone in the middle of the day.
Waking up beside that person and smiling.
Like memorizing a painting; knowing each stroke of the brush.
Being the only one to know its secrets, its mysteries, its wonder.
Chapter 7: It has been three, maybe four years.
My father has stopped calling. My mother has stopped trying. My stepdad hasn’t stopped beating.
I wake up yet again to the sound of his voice rising higher and higher, in a battle with hers.
I feel the house shake. I feel the fear.
I know better than to leave the room.
The blanket that I hung up in the doorway of my bedroom doesn’t hide the way their bodies clash.
Her teeth, his fist. A jumble of hatred.
I want to defend her like I have done so many times before, even knowing that they’re both to blame.
I grab the phone, run to her closet.
I run my fingers over the keys and dial the familiar numbers for what feels like the hundredth time.
Chapter 8: Two women from an association called Westmoreland Children’s Bureau come to my house.
Their questions make me nervous. A week later, I am taken to the court house.
New house. New family.
Six days later. New house. New family.
Three weeks later. New house. New family.
One month later. New house. New family. This one a miracle.
Chapter 9: I met my new family: my sisters: my best friends.
The easiest people to love you’ll ever meet.
Their laughter is a beautiful blessing placed in the palm of your hand.
They are an infinite happiness. Whose smile is a contagion of pure bliss;
you can’t help but wish you could catch even the slightest trace of it.
Their names were dragged through the mud just to bring me there. Just to give me a real home.
Pride had no merit to them. Their appearance was meaningless.
I am a puzzle piece, strenuously trying to find the puzzle I belong to.
But now I know. They are my puzzle.
Our bond is strong enough to stand through any storm.
Scientists were right when they said that the atom remains undivided. Because we remain undivided.
God has handed me a new life. He has given me a second chance. This, I think, is love.