Letter to...

Dear Child of Mine Who Was Never Born

I was unable to have you because I couldn't be responsible for letting another child be harmed

Hi there, little cowboy!

When I was 15, I pretended you held my hand and walked down streets, went to shops and hung out at parties with me, and the passersby smiled at you adoringly. Then they'd look at me and smile because you were so fantastic and you were mine.

I always pictured you in a cowboy outfit, whether you were a boy or a girl, it didn't matter. You had a fringed vest, holster and guns, a hat and sheriff's badge and boots. You talked a lot and asked me questions and I'd answer and tell you about the world. You were 3. Always 3. At the time, I didn't know anything about children, but that seemed a good age.

You called me by my first name, my childhood name, the one my mom and grandma called me: "Robbie." I named you Rory, after the guitarist Rory Gallagher. It's not that I loved his music or slept with him, but I thought the name was cool for a boy or girl. Now I realize "Rory" is kind of like "Robbie."

Sometimes you were with me at school, when it fit in my schedule to go. The girls who were jealous of me, the ones who threw food at me in the cafeteria and tripped me in my platform shoes, they'd be really jealous if I had you.

So would Sable, Lori and Queenie — they were the big groupies. Some of the other groupies had children of their own and that was a drag. Since you're not real, I can tell you that I was in bed with James Williamson, the guitarist for Iggy Pop, and his girlfriend, whose name was Ava or Avita or something — and her 3-year-old son stood at the door watching us. She was a junkie, so it took her forever to get up and take him to another room. Queenie wound up having a baby and moving back to Texas to live with her parents. I saw her once in Hollywood and she looked gross, like any old mother. She'd gained weight and even wore sneakers.

In my imagination, you weren't just any child; you were unique. You had my blue eyes and red hair, but the dark skin of the man who raped me. He was from Panama, or maybe it was just that he wore a Panama hat. Anyway, he played up his resemblance to an actor who was very popular back then, the one in the 7-Up "Un-cola" TV commercial. He, like the actor, was tall, well-built and bald, with dark skin and a deep voice. He wore white suits and a white hat and drove a white Roll Royce. This was a good cover because he was not an actor but a Hollywood drug dealer. I saw him all the time at the Rainbow on Sunset Boulevard.

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Even though most people thought he was "someone," I knew he was no one. But still I got in an elevator with him when he told me he knew where the party was. He raped me in a stairwell on a deserted floor of a new high rise. I went along with it and didn't tell anyone at the Rainbow because he was needed and I was not. He never noticed me before or after that night. I didn't tell him I got pregnant.

If you'd been born, you might be a really good-looking adult by now. Then again, there might have been a lot wrong with you, because I didn't take care of myself. I was drinking and heavy into drugs — hard drugs and pills. Ninety-six pounds is all I weighed because I starved myself, and I had gonorrhea and crabs. I don't think crabs hurt a newborn, but gonorrhea can make a baby blind.

I didn't know I was pregnant because I'd stopped getting my period before that. That's what malnutrition does. By the time I was pretty far along with you, five months maybe, this guy Sammy, a redheaded lawyer with crazy eyebrows who looked like a devil, said, as I was getting out of a hot tub, "You're pregnant." I thought he was full of it. But he was a lawyer who helped out girls in return for favors, and he gave me the phone number and address of a Planned Parenthood clinic. I went because I was scared. I'd heard that it hurt to have a baby and I knew nothing about taking care of one. I had a lot to learn. It was only much later that I found out this was the year of Roe v. Wade.

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You would be 42 now. My life would have been very different if you were born. My mother and stepfather might have taken us in, like her parents did when she was a teenage mother with me. My stepfather molested me, as her father did her, and he might have harmed you, as my grandfather did me. I could not have brought a child into that home. Maybe I would have given you up for adoption. My mother did that with a boy and he eventually found her.

Part of breaking the legacy of the past is not to make the same mistakes. Generations of my family had unplanned births and abused children. Therefore, little cowboy, you could never have been born because I could not be responsible for letting another child be harmed.

At 20, I cleaned up my life and got into the music business. In my mid-20s, I was transferred to New York City. There I got married and had two children, a girl and a boy, who were planned and who I devote my life to. And neither of them was ever a cowboy.

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Tags: memoirs