by Kendall Neubeiser

  1. You settle on Guatemala. It’s where you spent your honeymoon. He said doing that would be romantic and you’re not about to argue with him—it took enough to make him want a child in the first place.
  2. You choose Adina. She’s two-and-a-half years old. You choose her suddenly after another adoption (Delmara) falls through. Adina doesn’t speak any English, something you aren’t as ready for as you should be. But your husband is fluent in Spanish. When he’s around, he translates for you. When he’s not, you use over-exaggerated hand gestures. All your friends tell you that Adina will eventually make the switch to our language, that you should communicate with her in English as much as possible. You tell her “blue bear,” you tell her “red ball,” you tell her “yellow sun.” Her face is blank. You tell her “take my hand.”
  3. A month in, you ask your husband if you’re doing it wrong. Does he think you made a mistake? He is making dinner, sawing through an orange pepper. Tiny white seeds freckle the chopping board. Sitting on a bar stool at the counter, you try not to appear panicked. You feel like you are pretending to be a mother.

    You ask him: “Do you think this is difficult?”

    You ask him: “Do you think I’ll eventually connect with her?”

    You tell him: “She definitely likes you. Do you think she likes me?”

    You try to keep the questions calm. His responses are short (oh, sure it’s difficult; you will, you’re her mother; yes, why wouldn’t she like you?). You keep your responses short in return (right; sure, that’s what I think; okay).

  4. One of your friends is visiting. She’s brought a doll for Adina. Much like the ones you got her. The ones she doesn’t like. The ones she throws down. Your friend tries to play with her, but Adina’s not interested in this new doll either.
  5. From the living room you overhear your husband on the phone. He says, “I thought it would be like buying shoes that are too big and thinking you’ll grow into them but you never do. But I don’t know. It’s been really good I think.”
  6. You don’t call your older brother until it’s the middle of the night because Adina wouldn’t go to sleep. She kept saying the room was too cold and then too hot. And your husband never goes to bed until Adina has been asleep for at least thirty minutes. You’re on the deck, sitting in a patio chair in the dark. You didn’t turn on the outdoor lights in case they woke anyone up. Your older brother doesn’t answer and you start to leave a message on his voicemail telling him he doesn’t need to call you back, it’s not a big deal. He picks up and says what’s wrong, you sound funny. You ask if he remembers anything about mom. He says nothing really, but then he’s silent for a moment, thinking, and he tells you about this one time she let him sit in a laundry basket filled with clothes warm from the dryer and together they watched Days of Our Lives. He’s not sure if it’s a real memory. You tell him you wish he hadn’t moved.
  7. One day you put her in the laundry basket with clothes just out of the dryer. She rolls around in them. She smiles at you.
  8. Adina finds an old hat in your closet. It’s straw with daisies glued to the front. You had to make it in elementary school for mother’s day. She wears the hat all day, even falls asleep with it on. She doesn’t like any of the dolls, but she brings the hat to bed with her every night.
  9. On your first outing together, when it’s just you and Adina, you take her to the zoo, where you point to orangutans and imitate the way they clean each other. You pretend to pluck bugs from her black hair and eat them. She laughs. The zoo is busy for a Wednesday afternoon—families swarm the walkways, children strain against their parents, desperate to seek out the exotic. When you see Adina’s gone too far around the monkey house, too far away from you, you run to her.

  10. Kendall Neubeiser is from Chapin, South Carolina. She has recently graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities where she was enrolled in a pre-professional program for creative writing. She currently attends Miami University in Ohio, studying Speech Language Pathology and Audiology. She has had three poems published in Litmus Magazine.