In 1976 I turned eighteen. There was a clubhouse in the Knobs that was known for its Saturday night dances. That’s where I met Angela. She was seventeen and had long, dark hair and shapely curves. At semi arms length, she was revolving to a slow song with another young man. When she dislodged from the boy, she accepted my offer to dance. Luna moths flittered by incandescent lamps as we strolled to the windless balcony. After a few opening lines, she said she lived on a farm down the road where her parents grew watermelons.
“What do you do, Michael?” she asked.
I was currently working part-time at a bakery. Friends always jested that I rolled in the dough. The owner had the prestigious title of Cake Decorator. I was the pan washer. Every day after school I would slave away by a monstrous dishwasher. The owner would swirl Happy Birthdays in an air-conditioned room while I was sweating beside a giant furnace-like droid. Another short, hunched man who obviously spent his entire life there would roll semi-truck loads of dirty bakery pans smudged with a gooey mixture of cherry jelly, dried chocolate, and sticky glaze. He rolled. I washed.
“I’m an executive bakery assistant,” I finally said, hoping that she would respond positively.
“Are you Iranian?” she asked without pause. I felt her eyes settle on my Middle Eastern nose.
Then I explained, as convincingly as possible, that I was special because no one could figure out what I was. After more small talk, we made our first date.
Her house stood across a small ragged bridge. When I arrived, she was removing her trapped black cat from the ceiling of the porch. I offered assistance, and she asked me to catch the feline while she released it to the floor. The fat animal was making low, gurgling sounds that sounded like a cross between fear and irritation. I could see the white claws fully extended from each paw.
“Please don’t miss my kitty when I drop him,” she implored. On a first date I felt it was important to demonstrate heroism. It would be an honorable thing to do–to help this damsel in distress. On the other hand, I beheld the peril that lingered overhead as I peered up at the razor sharp knives.
I saw the pleading look on Angela’s face. “Fire away,” I said, squinting my eyes with my arms over my head more for protection than anything else. The frightened cat plummeted towards me. It adhered itself to my head. With my eyes still closed, I grabbed the beast on both sides of its chest. Then the law of gravity took over. The animal dragged its claws from my scalp and slowly ripped me into slices as it descended to the ground with a moderate thump.
“You dropped my kitty,” Angela said with disappointment in her voice as I stood bleeding to death.
“No. I caught him. He’s just fine…landed on all fours,” I responded, redeeming myself as best I could.
Although our youthful minds were usually light years apart, Angela seemed to be the first person who understood my desire to find my biological origins.
From In Search of Mom- Journey of an Adoptee, ©1998 by Michael C. Watson.