My demons come back when we return to our room. The ventilation system doesn’t work well and there are no controls. The room is a perfect seventy-eight degrees with moderate humidity, but I want it seventy-two and I want a unit that will allow me to drive the humidity well below fifty-percent.
We go to bed, all four of us, and I lie there feeling the heat prickle my skin, thinking about the fact that I am driving to Richmond, Indiana with nothing but the name of a high school student from 1958. In order to fall asleep, I count the things I want to take back in my life. There are many of them. I have lied and stolen things. I’ve manipulated the lives of those I love. Most of my major decisions were made in order to please others. My ego drives what I accomplish. I am a materialist. I want desperately to be rich. I’ve done worse too, far worse. The worst thing though, I realize in the dark, is that I’ve worked so hard to appear to others as a good person, a noble, decent, gentle man with positive, progressive values, that I’m no longer sure who I really am. “I’ve worked hard,” I think, “at covering up what a shit I’ve become.”
I drift across a sea of sleep, bumping into myself over and over, wondering about all of my transgressions, wondering if they’re somehow related to being adopted. If you aren’t connected, if you’re untethered, isn’t it inevitable that you will be at least slightly morally off-center and selfish? I usually do the right thing in life, probably more than some, but occasionally I make mistakes. And when I do, there is nothing to face. No guilt. Nothing. I am alone and floating outside the rest of the world. I am a mistake, an alien, a lone wolf cut off from the pack. I struggle to find sleep in the incessant heat of the room and tumble in and out of guilt and self-consciousness.
There are moments in all of this, while I drift, where I understand things better. At one point in the night, I realize that loneliness might be a good thing. It is the root cause of my ability to love others. It is the source of my deep need to find, and my belief in, true love. I went through so much to discover that love, to find Marion.
That same loneliness is filled every day being around my sons. The desperation of my situation in the world has been salved by my family, but it has not been eliminated. I lie in a room on the 16th floor of the Pittsburgh Ramada Inn and I can only be cured of this desolation by overcoming my adoption, by understanding, at least in part, the formal reasons for why I occurred.
I’ve dreamt of wolves and wild dogs my whole life. Sometimes I am in my house sitting at the kitchen table by myself. There are house noises all around me, common house noises: a ticking clock, the refrigerator, the far off sound of a vacuum sweeper, maybe I forgot to turn the water off in the sink. A wolf comes into the room. He is salivating and panting. I smell him. Death out of the dark. His eyes are ice cave blue, his fur the color of burned forest and dust. And then he’s gone. I’m afraid I will forget. I’m afraid I won’t remember he was there.
It’s sunrise, the air is moist and thick, a pack of wild dogs goes noisily through our back yard, mongrels bred of pit bulls, boxers, bull dogs, and mastiffs, some with huge, almost bald skulls, bulging eyes, vicious snarls. They breath in unison, messengers of fear cruising through our suburban neighborhood, looking to fall on any living thing, flesh on their minds. I struggle to figure out if I’m dreaming. Our suburb is on the edge of a great, sprawling metropolis. The pack streaks through our yard, then silence. The yard is vacant. I am looking out the window, standing on my bed, wondering if what I saw was real. Sometimes you’re the wolf. Sometimes you’re the dog. Sometimes he’s just there, like in the kitchen–watching, waiting, moving through.
A single dog finally comes into the yard, unable to run with the pack, it seems too goofy and deranged to belong in the group. It is the quintessential mongrel: part Shepard, part Lab, part Beagle, part Golden Retriever. Sometimes I am that dog and sometimes he is me.