We Know You By Your Face

Leah Browning


I imagine that you will be surprised to hear from us. Dismayed, even. And though I can understand your initial response, please know that I want nothing more than to put your mind at ease.

At the moment, it must seem to you that the two of us, sitting here now, typing this letter to you, are strangers. We might as well be aliens reaching out to you from a distant planet. I assure you, though: we are not aliens! We are human beings whose life began and continues to this day solely on the planet Earth.

But why are we writing this letter? Now, you may have had doubts all along. If not, what I am about to tell you may come as a shock. We are your parents.

The people who raised you may have seemed like your parents at the time. (Note my emphasis of the word may.) But if you think back in your mind—and I encourage you to do so—if you scroll through those paltry childhood memories, surely you will begin to have, perhaps for the first time, a flicker of doubt.

Maybe the figures weren’t a bonded pair. There may have been only one, or a pair of relatives. A backstory you didn’t like to tell. Jail, drugs, something that figured prominently in what you imagined was your DNA.

They may have told you all along that you were adopted. Introduced you to a biological parent, quote unquote. But there is always further to go. There is always something that remains distant, unknown, unknowable. We are a small part of that universe.

I (typing) am not the specimen who performed the birth ritual. That was reserved for the one at my hip. I had, however, spent many hours studying the correct posture and decibel level appropriate for infant pacification.

You must have many questions. For instance: how can we be sure that you are the creature for whom we have been searching? That is simple, dearest. We know you by your face. There is more, but we must save certain things for later. I’m sure that you understand.

It may take you some time to grow accustomed to this idea. We are prepared to wait as long as you need.

When you are ready, we will meet at a location of your choosing. There is no need to communicate through traditional channels. Just close your eyes and think of it.

The space will be airless, anticipatory. We will embrace and clasp you. Then you will know the truth. The feeling of our limbs as they surround you. The metallic sheen of our eyes as they catch the light, the scent of our scales against your skin.

Everything will feel so familiar.

About the Work

Leah Browning

Leah Browning is the author of three short nonfiction books.  Her fifth chapbook, Out of Body, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.  Browning’s fiction and poetry have recently appeared in Chagrin River ReviewToadFiction SoutheastLitroNYMud Season Review, and with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse.

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