One day I got a letter from a girl that I used to date. She asked me to come see her, and I followed the address that she gave me to an old run down apartment building. As I was climbing the stairs, she met me in the stairwell. She didn’t waste any time. She came right out and told me that I had a son. A dark-haired, dark-eyed boy peeked out shyly from behind her.
I stayed with them for the next couple of weeks, but oddly enough, all subsequent developments took place in that same stairwell. We never made it up to the apartment. I never took my shoes off and settled in where it was comfortable and warm. We stayed in this cold stairwell like people locked out of their lives, that long waiting slide down the wall, gnawing tense and uncommitted. The girl went to work and left me with the boy. He brought a crude crayon drawing over to show me. I realized that I felt no connection to this kid at all.
A friend of mine finally helped me to see it. He dropped by the stairwell and told me I had to search my heart; I had to look at the boy’s face and see if I saw anything of myself. I had to accept this unsettled feeling that I had. I stared into the boy’s eyes for a long, long time. There was nothing. The girl had made a mistake. This wasn’t my son. I handed him his drawing back to him, tousled his hair regretfully, and then I turned and headed back down those dank stairs and out of the building.