Two months ago I received an e-mail from omnitrace.com. It was in my junk folder and sandwiched between “Rare naked pictures of Marlon Brando” and “I’m a Nigerian prince, and I need your help.” The subject read: “Adopted? We’ll help you find your real parents.”
The Marlon Brando e-mail was, of course, not true; they were blurry, and I had to use my imagination. My Stanley Kowalski obsession continues. I didn’t open the one from OmniTrace, but it got me thinking about what I had given up years ago: finding my birth parents. It’s every adopted kid’s dream: Your birth parents didn’t want to give you up. There was a mix-up at the hospital, and somehow they ended up with the wrong baby and you were left all alone. I love my parents, the ones who raised me and loved me and still do. But I always wanted to meet my real parents.
I knew dwelling on it wouldn’t do any good, so I deleted the e-mail, opened a bottle of Argentine shiraz and watched “On the Waterfront.” But lying in bed that night I couldn’t stop thinking about the e-mail. I wondered if I should try again. When I was 14, I vowed to find my birth parents. My parents were supportive, and thinking back I can’t imagine how hard that must have been on them, to see their only child want to replace them.
I spent Saturdays in city and county records offices, and after a month of running around, reading dusty pages in black three-ring binders and hitting wall after wall, I gave up. My parents told me lots of adopted kids never find their birth parents and maybe it was for the best. Being a bitter, impressed upon, angst-ridden teenage girl, I had no alternative but to believe my real parents had hated me so much and never wanted to meet me, they covered their tracks so thoroughly to erase any evidence of their daughter. I never seriously pursued the idea again.
But the days of red wells and banker’s boxes have passed. You can find anything on the Internet. I can see on Facebook how far the hairline on my ex’s forehead has receded. I can watch Japanese cooking videos on YouTube and learn how to make okonomiyaki. I can read uncovered highly classified documents on WikiLeaks. If I can do all this in my pajamas, I’ve got to be able to find my real parents, or at least someone who knows who my real parents are.
I went to the OmniTrace website and filled everything out. It was all boilerplate stuff. I don’t know how they used what I gave them to conduct their search, but two days later I received an e-mail saying they had found my father. My father. My real dad.
I immediately slammed down the cover of my laptop. In those two days, so many things had gone through my head: What would I do if I found them? What if they still don’t want to meet me? What if they live too far away? What if they’re dead? Now that I know at least my father is alive, I’m not even sure I want to contact him. He hasn’t come looking for me after all these years, so why the hell should I chase him? Despite all those questions, I guess I was too pessimistic to believe anything would come of it. How could my license plate number help find my parents? But it did.
I went 42 minutes before I grabbed the phone and dialed the nursing home. A young-sounding Cuban woman answered, “Mr. Lou is sleeping now. You want me to have him call you when he wakes up?”
“No,” I said as quickly as possible. “I’ll call back later.”
I waited until 8:15. I figured he would be long done with dinner, in his room but not yet ready for bed. I don’t know why I thought this. I had nothing to go off of. He could have been in a heated debate about lace or Velcro shoes at that moment. But he wasn’t. He answered.
His voice immediately reminded me of a washed-up wise guy from a Scorcese movie. I imagined him on the other end of the line with a toothpick in his mouth, a dark, Florida leather tan, a Vietnam veteran tattoo on his arm and a big ring on his finger.
“I, um, is this Louis Imbroto?”
“Yeah, who’s calling?”
“The Louis Imbroto who used to live in Lawrence, New York?”
“Yeah, how’d you know that and who is this?” He was becoming impatient.
“My name is Regina Crane. I, I grew up in Inwood.”
“Oh, OK. Well what are you calling me for?”
Of course I knew he was going to ask me that, and I had been practicing my answer since my parents told me I was adopted. I’m your daughter, the one you were supposed to raise, the ones those careless nurses at Long Island Jewish switched out for some other baby, the one who has been looking for you her entire life. But of course I didn’t say any of that.
“I, I’m Regina Crane. I’m your daughter.”
“What? I don’t have a daughter.”
“Yes, you had a daughter, and you put her up for adoption.” He was silent. “I’m her.” I heard him let out a long breath into the receiver, and then I heard him chuckle.
“Listen, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull lady, but I never had no daughter. Maybe you got some bad information, and I’m real sorry about that. But I’m not that guy.”
I couldn’t say anything. It didn’t matter if this man was my father or not. He was still rejecting me.
“Listen, uh, now that we got this father-daughter thing cleared up, how about we chat for a few minutes?”
I wanted to hang up but couldn’t. If there was even a chance he was my father, I had to listen to what he had to say, even if he didn’t want to listen to what I had to say.
“So, uh, you sound like a nice girl. A pretty girl. Eh, tell me, eh, what’re you wearin’ right now?”
Then I hung up.
-Matt Doran is a creative writing graduate student with a man crush on Marlon Brando.
-This piece of fiction does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.