We are held in place by gravitational forces
My mother and I used to play this game when I was growing up. Every time I had a question she couldn’t answer, she made me write to my imaginary father, Mr. Brezsky, who lived on the moon. I would later learn that Mr. Brezsky was my biological father, but he could just as well have been Santa Claus for all I cared. In fact, in 1976, when Santa Claus was down with the flu, it was Mr. Brezsky who left me a mechanical train.
My letters were addressed like this:
The Descartes Highlands
Mother and I always sat out in the backyard whenever the moon was full. It seemed bigger and brighter in Westchester, where there was nothing much else to see. Among the dark patches of the moon were the peaks of the Descartes Highlands, where the Apollo 16 mission scooped samples of rock and soil. You could see the tracks left by the moon rover with a telescope. She told me they were left there in the year I was born. Man’s tracks on the moon, she said, were like my Bethlehem star. They were going to be visible for a million years, and a million years from now they would remind people that I was once on earth.
I’m eight years old, and the school principal pulls me out of class one afternoon and says my mother has come to pick me up and take me home. Mother told them it was an emergency. They’re all nice to me, thinking someone died. My English teacher slips a Hershey’s bar in my hands, nodding quietly as I accept her gift, tears welling in her eyes.
Inside the car, Mother rolls the windows up, takes a deep breath, and tells me the truth: “Jordan, I am not your mother.”
That’s when she begins telling me about the real Mr. Brezsky.
“It was September, 1972. He was a very young man. He had no money. He sold you for thirty thousand dollars. Five months later, he wired the money back. Then he died. That was his story.”
From then on she never stops talking about him. Now that she’s opened up the subject, it seems like everything is all right, and she’s never going to keep any secrets from me again.
Every time she retells the story, some new detail is amended, but Mr. Brezsky remains as murky as ever. I finally have to ask her why she even bothered to tell me the story in the first place. She replies, “Frank has moved to the Dominican Republic with his girlfriend. They’ve set up a new clinic there.”
That seems to her enough of a reason, and from then on she tells me the story even more frequently, in fact way more often than necessary. Here’s another version:
Andrew Brezsky died at the age of nineteen or twenty in a military prison in Manila. She got that one from ex-Communists in Manila who had tracked her down through the Life Crusaders’ hit list and wanted to talk to her for a report on human rights violations around the world. Through the years, and several more calls from them, that version acquires even more details, some incongruous, others simply incredible. In prison, anti-American students allegedly beat up Andrew Brezsky and left him for dead. In yet a later version, some petty criminal or corrupt police officer assassinated him for his money, which, if you put two and two together, he must have earlier wired to us to get them off his back. Always the ending is sudden, violent, unresolved, and likely doubtful.
In time, I catch on and realize a lot of it is probably just made up. It’s as if she’s trying to figure out, in the redundancy of the telling, if this Andrew Brezsky was unknowingly pivotal in her life, if that one brief encounter sparked off a karmic chain reaction whose repercussions are still felt today. And by repeating the story over and over, she will finally realize that there was some detour she failed to see, signs that could have told her where to turn.
“He was such a beautiful boy,” she says. “You could tell he was going to die young.”
Read another excerpt here.