“This is the way the world ends...
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
--T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
subject: Verona Hyde, age 48
date: December 21
time: 10:46 a.m.
<<begin taped interview>>
*sound of chair scraping against the floor*
“So I just speak into this microphone?”
*mumble of someone in background*
“Oh. Sorry.Yes, I saw the report last night. It’s hard to believe it’s still considered newsworthy; it all happened so long ago. That little boy from the coffee shop has grown up quite a bit. It’s nice that he still remembers Matthew, that everyone does, even though...”
“Is this water for me? Thank you...”
*glass set down on metal table*
“It’s hard to know where to start, honestly. When I hear all the things they’re saying about Matthew, it seems like they must be talking about someone else. Half of them say he was a miracle-worker and the other half say he was a minion of the devil bringing up spawns from hell.
“Well. If that’s the Matthew you want to hear about, I don’t have much to say. He was neither of those things. He was just a lonely boy...trying to figure out who he was and where he belonged.
“You’ve probably seen that photo we were given of Matthew, back when we were first considering adopting a child. The whole process felt a bit like shopping; I didn’t like that part. But we couldn’t have our own and we wanted to help a child, regardless of what they looked like. When they showed us Matthew’s picture, something about him just drew us in.
“The other kids in the photos were smiling. But not him. He was so tiny, skin and bones, and with those haunted blue eyes that looked like they expected nothing but sadness out of the world. I couldn’t get him out of my mind, even days later. When I told Jim, my husband, about it, he agreed that we should meet Matthew. Even then we both thought there must be a reason I was drawn to him.”
*tissue being pulled from a box*
“Thank you. Well, that was all it took. We met with the child liaison, then the orphanage director. She was the one who suggested we first see Matthew interacting with other children during their school day. It makes me angry to think about it. She knew what we would see.
“We were shown to a discreet side room just before the children were let out for a free period in the playroom. It was easy to spot Matthew trailing out after the others. He just wandered over to the back wall and stood there as if he’d found his place, while the other kids were all busy with puzzles or games. If any of the children got too close, Matthew would shuffle his feet nervously and shy away. He looked miserable--tiny and silent and miserable.
“The amazing thing was that as soon as we stepped into the room, his eyes found us, even amidst all that chaos and noise. His little face was desperate, but as we got closer, hope seemed to crowd out every other emotion.
“I stopped about five feet away. I was worried that I would frighten him. Jim stayed even further back. Matthew didn’t speak but by then I knew better than to expect him to try. Slowly, I moved closer and opened my arms. That was all he needed. He jumped at me and threw his arms around my neck, crying softly. He was so light, so tiny, that I hardly felt anything but that strong grip. I whispered to him that everything was all right now. And I meant it. Nothing was going to take him away from me. Nothing. He nodded but didn’t say a word.
“When I turned around, Jim was choking back tears. He hugged us both and said, ’I think we’ve just been adopted.’ Matthew looked over at him with a soft sort of awe in his eyes and his tears stopped. Then that first, soft smile brightened his face and it was all over. There was no way we were going to give him up. We loved him at first sight and he loved us right back. I don’t think it’s always that easy when you adopt an older child.
“I’ll always regret that we didn’t get there sooner. Poor Matthew had been through something traumatic long before we reached him. They told us a lot of families had considered him but his disability turned them off. I don’t know why.
“Looking into those big, blue eyes, I understood instantly that we could communicate fine, even though he would never speak a word to us.”