In the Darkness

Posted on: July 15, 2013

Her mother named her Desire, then gave her up for adoption. Charlotte and Ben argued about the name as they signed the paperwork. Charlotte wanted to call her Evelyn after her sister, but Ben said they should respect the mother’s wishes.

“It’s the one thing she has from her mom,” Ben said.

“I’m her mom now,” Charlotte pleaded, but Desire stuck.

Desire grew up with no false assumptions about her birth. Her adoptive parents repeated the story constantly—how her real mother was struggling with the sin of addiction, and how Jesus brought Desire to their home to be a beacon of light in the darkness.

Desire, unaware of metaphor or of the silent darkness that is infertility, looked around for the dark wherever she went. She saw it down open manholes and on moonless nights. She saw it in her adoptive grandmother’s basement as it appeared in her nightmares. And then, in fourth grade, her Sunday school teacher Mr. George said it was time to address the darkness head on. It was time for street evangelism.

After church, the fourth graders climbed into the fifteen-passenger van with Eagle Vista Fellowship painted on the side, armed with paper tracts.

“Does everyone have their buddy?” Mr. George asked, twisting from behind the steering wheel.

Everyone did. Desire’s buddy was Brittany, who had won a medal last month for memorizing the most Bible verses. Brittany, whose blonde hair was so long she could sit on it. Brittany, whom Charlotte said had been blessed with a generous spirit, since her little brother had Down’s and was God’s special gift in difficult packaging.

93.8 THE FISH was playing a jangling praise song, and Brittany lifted her tinny voice to sing along with Mr. George. They were headed towards the part of town where Ben and Charlotte delivered meals on wheels to the needy. The front porches were crowded with junk. Some houses had broken windows or dangling shutters.

“This is it!” called Mr. George. “Stay with your buddy, and remember to pray over each house, even if the people don’t want to talk.”

Brittany ran ahead, calling for Desire to catch up. She had already scampered onto the first porch and pressed her pinky into the doorbell by the time Desire made it into the yard. Brittany rang the bell three times, but no one came. At the end of the driveway, the girls held hands as Brittany prayed over the house. Desire always kept her eyes open during prayers to see who else was peeking. Brittany wasn’t peeking. Desire looked at the sky, where she imagined God was glaring down at her for not speaking to him more sincerely with her heart. She saw a giant bird lope through the air and land on a telephone pole.

“Amen,” Brittany said.

“Look at that bird,” Desire said. “I think it’s a buzzard.”

“It’s not!” Brittany said, still speaking in her praying voice. “It’s an Eagle! For Eagle Vista! It’s a sign Jesus is blessing our work here today. We have a lot of people to reach. Why don’t you go down this side of the street, and I’ll take that side? Then we can bless twice as many houses!”

Desire, more from watching Scooby Doo cartoons than from listening to Mr. George, knew they shouldn’t split up, but she also wasn’t sure how much more of Brittany’s praying she could take in one afternoon.

“Okay, but don’t go to the next street until I catch up,” she said.

Desire shuffled her tracts as she waited on the next porch. An old lady peeked through the curtains and glared. At another house, a man thought she was selling Girl Scout cookies, but didn’t want to talk about God. Finally, at 665 Winthrop Street, someone took a tract.

The woman at the door was pale, and so skinny you could pour water into her collarbones and it would stay there. Her greasy, red hair was slicked back, and her eyes were glassy. Desire didn’t want to look at her face, so she looked at her feet.

“I like your anklet,” Desire said.

The woman laughed. “I blinged it out the best I could! Still keeps me on the porch.”

On the black plastic, a little green light blinked among stick-on rhinestones.

“What’s this paper all about?” the woman asked.

“Jesus wants to love you,” Desire said.

“About time somebody did,” the woman said. “What’s your name, church girl?”


“That’s some name.”

“I’m adopted.”

“For real? Your parents told you that already? Damn.”

“Yeah. You shouldn’t say that word.”

The woman laughed again. “You come up on my porch and tell me what I can’t say?”

Desire backed down the steps into the yard.

“Do you want me to pray with you?” Desire asked, following the script she’d practiced with Brittany.

“Why not.”

Desire looked over her shoulder for Brittany, but didn’t see her anywhere. The bird flapped its wings on the pole, its feathers like long black fingers.

“Well, you gonna pray?” the lady asked.

“Um, dear Jesus, please bless—sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“Charlotte,” the woman said.

Desire stared at her, straight in the eyes this time. At that moment, Desire felt Jesus was trying to tell her something: this was her real mom.

“Don’t you remember me?” Desire asked.

“No. Should I? Your church group come here before?” the woman said.

“Did you have a baby nine years ago?”

“Hey crazy, I don’t have kids!” the woman laughed.

From behind her, Desire heard a sound like the screeching of a screen door. She whipped around expecting to see Brittany leaving a house, but the noise was coming from the buzzard, swooping down into the yard.

Where was Brittany? And why didn’t her mom remember? Was Jesus not speaking to her after all?

“Can you help me find my friend?” Desire asked. “And scare off that bird? He’s freaky.”

“They’ll be after me if I leave the house.”

Desire suddenly felt sweaty. Her mother, or Jesus, one, was abandoning her again, and there were people in this neighborhood who would get you if you went outdoors. And she had abandoned blonde-haired, generous-spirited Brittany alone in this land of darkness.

“Please help me?”

“Sorry,” Charlotte said, retreating back into her house. “You’re on your own.”

Photograph By: Emily Blincoe
Written By: Dot Dannenberg

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