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The Age of Adjustments

From: Colorado Review
Volume 41, Number 1, Spring 2014
pp. 55-69 | 10.1353/col.2014.0015

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

When the caseworker phones to say that the birth parents have revoked consent, Rachel Eizen concludes the call is a prank. It is an early April Fool’s joke. It is the result of the caseworker’s twisted sense of humor, dark and aggressive from witnessing too much interfamilial turmoil.

“I know…” the caseworker says. “I know this is an adoptive parent’s worst nightmare.”

Rachel looks down at Matthew, who is sprawled on the changing table, the clean diaper under him but not yet velcroed on. She tells herself to breathe, to focus on simple truths. Today is Wednesday. She and Ben received Matthew on Saturday. The waiting period in Ohio is four days.

“We got Matt at noon and it’s a quarter-to-three. That’s more than four days technically.”

“The waiting period doesn’t start until the first full day,” says the caseworker. “If you want, I can fax over a copy of the policy.”

“I’m not near a fax machine,” snaps Rachel. Rage and lightheadedness swim inside her. She grips the edge of the changing table and watches Matthew kick his small feet. “I’m at home, in the nursery. I’m near my baby, you imbecile.”

“Are you going to make my job difficult?”

Rachel hangs up on her. She isn’t going to make the caseworker’s job difficult—at least, she won’t refuse to hand Matthew over—but she also isn’t going to chitchat when there’s nothing left to say.

She fastens Matthew’s diaper and slips his onesie back on. His feeding time isn’t for another hour, but she fixes a bottle anyway in case he’s hungry. He’s not. “Nap-time, then, I guess,” she says.

“Something happened,” Rachel tells Ben when he gets home. He filled in for a pilot that morning on a Dayton–Nashville round trip so the airline would extend his paternity leave, and he is still wearing his uniform: black slacks, short-sleeved button-up, and necktie.

“Okay.” He sits down, and his pleated pants bunch up in front. His shirt goes taut against his stomach. He looks, as always, handsome and trusting, something about the short-sleeves combined with the necktie.

“Josie and Scoot revoked consent. We have to return Matthew to the agency on Friday.”

Ben begins to cry, noiselessly. Compared to Matthew’s puffy-faced wails, his movements seem strangely graceful, too controlled and smooth. Rachel watches the rise and fall of his body, watches him take off his yarmulke and hold it against his chest.

“Are you serious about all this?” he says.

“I’m not pulling your leg,” says Rachel. “This isn’t a joke.”

“Give me a break, my god,” he scowls.

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” says Rachel.

“You’ve had more time to process this.”

“I know. I’m very sorry,” she says.

“Matt, Matt, Matt,” he says, his face crumpling into a silent weep again.

Over the past several months Rachel has considered leaving Ben. She even, last fall, drafted a divorce complaint that is still saved on her computer. She used fake names and got guidance from one of the firm’s family law attorneys. “Helping out a friend?” he said. Rachel nodded, and said, “But she probably won’t end up doing it.”

The few people whom she’s confided in tell her Ben’s work schedule is to blame. “Maybe,” Rachel usually says. His schedule is horrible: gone four days out of the week. But it’s more that he’s begun to worry her. When he returns home, he is either exhausted or overcaffeinated and alternately enters into bouts of despair or ebullience. “I’m a glorified truck driver,” he said once. She’d woken up to find him looking at her, teary-eyed. “I don’t have friends or an office.” On the days that he’s hyper, he often drops his suitcase, hoists her up, and carries her around for a while—up and down the stairs, occasionally out the front door and back in through the side door. The first few times Rachel thought it romantic, but soon it seemed bizarre...

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