Michaela’s mother

When she was born I named myself “Michaela’s mother.” She was born. I heard a low howl outside the hospital window. I ignored it. I asked the nurse to close the window. The baby grew up. I called her Michaela. She was so loved. Then when she was nine she was abducted by a ring-tailed lemur. That was twenty-five years ago. (Reporter: Police have never declared this a cold case) (M: But the creatures of the imagination have to eat and sleep, as all creatures do) I don’t know whether she is still alive. I feel she may not be. If she is alive, she may not know she was once called Michaela. The cause follows the effect. She was taken. Therefore, she was not mine. She was not mine to name. (Reporter: A terrifying new study: a cancer cluster among mothers of abducted girls. And the culprit isn’t a toxin; it’s grief.) This isn’t grief. It’s gauziness. I put gauze between myself and joy. I cannot feel the joy that was my child, I cannot think of her happinesses, which became my happinesses. I can bear only the horrors—only what is unbearable: to think that she suffered, to think of what she was thinking in the moments after she was taken. My child was suddenly a child born for sorrow, badly born. A malignancy. And I bear the cancer. But of the other child I bore, the child I called Michaela: What is her real name, her imperishable name, in the registry of light?

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