For the first three decades of my life, I had lived with an unidentified pain, an invisible wound that I wasn’t even aware of. I felt the mask of my adoption shattering around me. Memories flooded my mind, cracks in the veneer of my pretense. I saw myself at age four, waking from a recurring nightmare in which I had been abducted or my parents killed in house fires and natural disasters; at age six, overhearing my parents discuss my teacher’s frustration at my constant crying; age nine, asking my mother if it was possible that I had a twin somewhere who had been adopted by another family; age twelve, filled with guilt after responding to a saleslady’s observation that I looked just like my mother with a curt, “No I don’t. I’m adopted;” age fourteen, racking my brains trying to respond to an English assignment prompt that asked me to tell the story of my birth; age fifteen, paralyzed by the recessive/dominant gene trait worksheet my Biology teacher had assigned. I was a tongue-roller with a widow’s peak and free ear lobes (dominant) and had light hair with reddish tints (recessive), but none of my physical combinations aligned with the family I grew up with like my classmates’ did.
The creative nonfiction essay, “What Lies Under the Heart” and the poem “Garlic” originally appeared in Illuminations, Volume 13 (2012), edited by Kimberly Fangman. Illuminations is the award-winning artistic publication of Southeast Community College, where Kara taught English from 2008-2013.