“I just found out I don’t exist,” my voice breathes dread as I talk to the Mentalist over the phone that lunchtime. “My parents have disinherited me. I have been erased.”
“Again?” the Mentalist asks in disbelief. “Wow. Freedom.”
“There is no trace to be found of my adoption papers in the national register,” I go on with a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. “Yes I can’t get married without proving who the fuck I am.”
“That’s not possible,” the Mentalist retorts and I can tell his mind is racing to find clarity in the situation I am describing.
“I never lived in Opwijk,” I go on telling him monotonously all that I have found out. “It is not in the register, the guy just told me. And I have not been recognised by my parents.”
“You must be in the database plus you were married before,” the Mentalist tries to put two and two together. “How did you manage that? Dirty fucks your folks.”
“He checked that and there is no trace of the original documents. It is all gone,” I realise I am recounting my phone call with the administration office in sharded bits and pieces. “So getting married… that’s why she wants to come. It’s not going to happen. This hurts. Fuck fuck fuck.”
“Are you not secretly relieved?” the Mentalist asks me again. “I am sorry to hear this. It doesn’t make sense. It is illegal to erase files in Belgium. Perhaps he has your name wrong.”
“No I saw the printout,” I tell him as I vividly remember the printout the admin guy produced from the national register with my name on it. The overall account was dead wrong. “Pieces of the puzzle are correct. I didn’t understand why he was looking in Liedekerke, where we first lived. But Opwijk, where I was adopted, it’s not in the national register. He said I never lived there. And he checked my parents register and I am not recognised. So this is a recent change, something from only the past few years. I requested my documents 3 years ago and they were still there then.”
“But how?” the Mentalist is still at a loss with what I am telling him.
“This is fucking Belgium that’s how,” I let out all of my frustration which I had buried neatly away somewhere in my soul. “Belgium is twisted and retarded in laws and administration. I have a name and an ID card, but that’s it.”
“Let’s go live in Spain and make more babies,” the Mentalist teases me hoping to get me on a more cheerful track.
“Now I can spend more money that I don’t have on a lawyer to prove who the fuck I am,” I am angry, and gutted, and totally disheartened. I didn’t know one human being can feel so many different feelings all at the same time.
“You came from somewhere,” the Mentalist goes back to the start again. “Claim you are an orphan.”
“I don’t want anymore babies,” I rebuff his attempt at reaching me through humour. “Had enough. That won’t work.”
“You must have a birth certificate,” the Mentalist goes on.
“Birth certificate, and a change of name deed poll in the UK which is not valid in Belgium, and adoption papers that no longer exist,” I sum up the mess which can still be traced back in papers and documents which highlights the success of my parents. “Yes, Fiona Beacham. And it is Fiona Harvey who was adopted. And that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Ask your mother,” the Mentalist points out one of the obvious solutions.
“And there is a gap between Beacham and Harvey because the British are twisted too,” I am totally annoyed by useless administration and countries within the same continent who don’t recognise each other’s processes. “I only asked her about the deed poll. She said that was 40 years ago. I said she had the docs in the year 2000. And she said she can’t find them. And to let her know how I get on. She is waiting for the fun.”
“I don’t understand,” the Mentalist is now getting annoyed at me. This reaction is so typical. If I don’t respond to his humour, maybe I will turn around when he gets upset with me. “This must really make you pissed.”
“It does,” I reply more calmly and composed than I was just a moment ago. I refuse to let him rile me, you see. “So what would a pissed person do?”
“You are signed in. Why do they need any more proof?” the Mentalist booms for my advantage. “What passport are you using?”
“A Belgian one,” I answer, and I must agree. If I am registered in a city, with a national passport, why would that city then require birth certificate and other proof of identity? You would think such things have been checked and approved when you registered in said town.
“You should stop freaking out and think,” the Mentalist sets me straight.
“Belgium requires a birth certificate,” I point out annoyed. Even if I don’t agree with the procedure, it is not going to change because I kick up a fuss. “Think what?”
“Where are you getting married?” the Mentalist goes on.
“Mechelen,” I reply coolly.
“Is that run by the NVA?” the Mentalist takes me by surprise by asking about the political majority of my hometown.
“Not sure,” I answer as I am sure the mayor is from the blue party, the entrepreneurs and the wealthy. “Why?”
“Because it is part of their racist policy,” the Mentalist recounts what the NVA stands for. “Keerbergen doesn’t require a birth certificate from a citizen to marry. Only proof of divorce if previously married.”
“Who should I talk to?” I decide to cut the crap.
“Did you talk to the home office in Brussels?” the Mentalist wants to know how far I have taken the case already. Which to be honest, I haven’t yet. Still freaking out.
“What office?” I ask baffled.
“In the center of Brussels is an office that holds all your records,” the Mentalist explains. “I can’t remember it’s name but you can get birth certificates, marriage certificates, death etc there.”
“The national register?” I wonder. “From what I see it is wrong.”
“I went there to get copies of my docs except birth certificate as I was born in South America,” the Mentalist goes on. “Everything else including my kids is there.”
“No it’s in each fucking stupid little communal office,” I tell him about the absurdity of Belgian administration. If your kids where born in the North of Belgium and you now live in the South, it doesn’t matter, you still have to go all the way to the North admin office to get whatever papers you need.
“No its there too,” the Mentalist insists.
“Opwijk, Liedekerke, Schaarbeek… there is no central record,” I sum up all the places I have lived. “The printout of my national register is missing pieces.”
“Yes there is as they archive in local offices after a period of time and it all goes to central,” the Mentalist reveals.
“Look I am going to break down and cry a bit,” I tell him as this story has really gotten to me, and although I agree I need to stop freaking out, think and sort the mess out, I just can’t right now. I need to break down and cry. Release all the built-up tension. “Sorry.”
“They know you are naughty,” the Mentalist goes back to his notorious humour.
“It is continual,” I sob.
“You could go to the UK or Denmark and get married,” the Mentalist offers other solutions to my problem.
“Yeah right. And that’s not legal here,” I snuff. “How much more?”
“Of course it is,” the Mentalist won’t have any of my irrational, emotional outburst.
“It is not,” I retort. “You don’t know this fuckwit country. I hate Belgium. I hate my mom. I hate my family. I wish I was never born.”
“Stop it,” the Mentalist hisses at me. I know he hates it when I cry. “And yes I do. I am a foreigner there and had lots if issues that I overcame.”
“I just want all of this shit to stop,” I wail.
“Too late for that,” the Mentalist sighs.
“And it doesn’t,” I go on pitying myself. “There is always something else.”
“Don’t get married if you assume you have all the answers,” the Mentalist throws at me.
“I assume what?” I stop sobbing for a moment to find out what he means.
“Or go to the national register and kick up a fuss,” the Mentalist coaxes me into action. “All I hear are excuses.”
“Kick up a fuss because I am a poor stupid fuck who’s parents have erased her?” I spell it out to him again. “No you don’t. You only sympathise with her all the time. Poor little old lady. Naughty bad Fiona. Yeah yeah.”
“Oh stop with the self pity,” the Mentalist really can’t stand it no longer. “No one can erase your record without a court order.”
“It isn’t there anymore,” I point out the obvious.
“Call your local MP and kick up a fuss,” the Mentalist wants to get me angry again and spurred to decisive action.
“And the guy said my parents haven’t recognised me,” I remind him again. In fact, admin guys should be severely punished for telling such stressful information over the phone without any tact. Also, and I know I am giving the story away now, but the guy who entered my records into the national register after the year 2000 when Belgium went digital, that guy who got my records wrong, he deserves a severe whipping.
“Yes it is,” the Mentalist insists that legal documents don’t just disappear.
“MP?” I ask because I need to know who or what that is, so I can find this person.
“Lay a charge of kidnapping” the Mentalist is still throwing in bits of humour to lighten my mood. “Maybe your real parents are searching for you still. Member of parliament for your region in Mechelen.”
“Say something nasty about my mother,” I insist as my feelings are very wounded.
“Yes I will,” the Mentalist gives into my whim. “She is the very devil in disguise. The sooner you cut her off completely the better off you will be. She is your nemesis.”
“What’s a nemesis?” I want to know. My mind has gone blank with all the worry and this nemesis thing is a welcome distraction.
“Have you asked your adoptive father about this yet?” the Mentalist touches another sore spot. “A stone around your neck.”
“No we don’t talk,” I remind him that the family shunning I have experienced is really just that: totally no contact with nobody whatsoever.
“Give it a try,” the Mentalist offers.
“Like Voldemort?” I ask in astonishment, my eyes popping now. “What, you mean call him?”
“Ask him, did he or not adopt you and if so where are the records,” the Mentalist spells it out for me.
“Don’t think I have his number,” I reply as I skim through my contact list, glad to be thinking of ways out instead of revelling in this shit my parents left for me.
“Yes like Voldemort indeed,” the Mentalist confirms. “Find it.”
“Find what?” I ask. My mind is working slowly now. I have been upset and the avalanche of emotions has drained me. “Oh his number.”
“His phone number,” the Mentalist emphasises for good measure.
“And say what?” I ask annoyed. “Hi, we haven’t spoken in 5 years but… where are my docs?”
“Did you or did you not adopt me?” the Mentalist repeats what I am to ask my adoptive father. “Where can I find records of that etc.”
“Then what?” I am still as annoyed as ever at the thought of calling him. “He’ll just say some bull.”
“He might admit your mother had them deleted even though I don’t believe she can,” the Mentalist points out the strategy in the plan. “Maybe she reinstated your original family name.”
“He won’t tell the truth,” I blow. “He’s a wussy.”
“Talk to him and then you will know won’t you?” the Mentalist challenges me.
“No I think they just disinherited me,” I inform him of how I am interpreting the recent events and discoveries. “Unrecognised me.”
“What does that have to do with your documents?” the Mentalist shows me the flaws in my thinking.
“Well Belgium does things retroactively,” I explain how my theory would make sense. “Strange enough.”
“It doesn’t make sense at all,” the Mentalist shakes off the intricacies of my mind’s doing.
“It doesn’t yet my central record is altered and wrong,” I agree but point out where I might be right.
“Nonsense,” the Mentalist isn’t buying into my theory. “Try and unrecognise Lilly and see what happens.”
“It says I never lived in a place where I did live and went to school,” I am boiling with anger. The Mentalist should know better than to speak in such context about my kids. “NEVER! It has no trace of my adoption papers.”
“Then where did you live according to the records?” the Mentalist asks me calmly once again to unfold the whole story again.
“Liedekerke where we first came to Belgium,” I tell him again. “The place where I was adopted isn’t on there anymore.”
“You are registered there?” the Mentalist doesn’t understand my explanation, and looking back I understand it is too complicated to even try to get anyone to understand. Given the not so very high IQ of admin people, no wonder they would rather let my file wander somewhere in the abyss of the register. It is too complicated to encode. So just do it quickly and then hope nobody ever finds out about the mess they made.
“It doesn’t make sense at all,” the Mentalist tells.
“No but that’s the timeline the register has for me,” I agree none of this makes sense. In fact, it will take me a lawyer, who’s a close friend, to check and find out that my records are in fact just wrongly encoded. Belgium went digital after the year 2000. This is the amazing result.
“Maybe you were never adopted but it was a story tour mother told you so you would winge about your father,” the Mentalist offers one of his own theories. And yes, true, that is a story my mother would be capable of making up.
“Me?” I am surprised by this suggestion as I know for a fact that I was adopted at age 9. “I saw the effing papers.”
“Really when?” the Mentalist challenges me for truth and reflection.
“I even had all my docs 3 years ago when I was going to marry Wim but got pregnant with Willem instead,” I tell him about the last time I saw those documents myself. I know they exist. “Remember?”
“So where are those docs now?” the Mentalist asks me with growing impatience.
“I don’t know,” I rebuff him again. “Never thought it would be such a problem to request them again.”
“Don’t you keep these things in a file at home?” the Mentalist is now seething with anger. How could I be so careless with important stuff?
“I can’t find it in any case, but I do have an email from the lady in Opwijk saying that she was going to send me the adoption paper,” I tell him as his anger has gotten me to search for a few things on my computer. “So I am not mad. Mail is dated 3rd of July 2015.”
“I have all docs from from my grandparents to my kids including all my marriage and divorce papers in a file,” the Mentalist tells me wisely. “Very important documents. Mail her and tell you are still waiting for papers.”
“I have too many court papers of Naomi, my mum and my divorce,” I point out I kept what I thought was important, but obviously not enough and not rigorously filed. “Okay will go through my files again. Have found back the doc from the British vice consul at the embassy stating that I am those three people.”
“Find everything,” the Mentalist insists. “Then you can go and have the info reinstated. Good start.”
“So you just cut off a nemesis?” I want to know how to get rid of my Voldemort-like mother. “It didn’t help with Harry Potter. And the definition is ‘inevitable downfall’.”
“Yes,” the Mentalist confirms my findings. “Of course she will hang on to you through your kids.”
“Inevitable,” I repeat as my mind ponders this and how it plays itself out.
“Yes,” the Mentalist confirms I am thinking along the right tracks. “I keep telling you if you can’t beat her then manipulate her.”
“What?” I am startled and can’t believe once again what I am hearing. “Cut her off AND manipulate her? Is a bit strange.”
“Only have conversations when needed and very short,” the Mentalist informs me how to handle a nemesis. “Never use her title or name. Use “you” instead.”
“Ok,” I answer and memories come flooding back. My mother would never call me by name. She would talk about me as “she”, even if I was sitting right next to her. Whomever she talked to, I was “she” and it was never very positive.
“If she wants to see the kids according to your agreement so be it,” the Mentalist states the rules to the nemesis dealings. “But that’s all.”
“Ok,” I nod again as I take it all in.
“Same with David,” the Mentalist adds.
“Of course,” I agree meekly.
“Find those documents,” the Mentalist insists again on my action points. “Open every box, every drawer, every file. Find them and prove them to be the nasty fucks they are.”
“Yes,” I agree that this will be my next course of action.
“Stiff upper lip and all that,” the Mentalist adds a fun note to end with. “What.”
“Ok,” I smile sheepishly as I am really worn out now.
I know this story is a fart, but for a friend to act as a guardian during difficult times is the most beautiful gift of support.