Known Only As Mark

I found a document in an old folder the other day whilst going through house stuff that I thought I’d lost a long time ago. It’s a faded and still-fading family history, typed up by a social worker following interviews with my birth mother, her mother, and her siblings.

It’s an amazing read. The family’s history is complex and often sad but also powerful. All of the women are so strong and self-assured — a fact I’m happy to have eventually confirmed for myself some twenty-five years later.

If this wasn’t obvious from my mother going through the adoption process in the first place, which I cannot even begin to imagine, it comes across in a very humorous way when she explains why my birth father is to have no part in the proceedings whatsoever.

He is a man “known only as Mark”. Explaining his absence, the document reads:

Mark is unaware of ——–‘s pregnancy and subsequent plans for adoption. It has been explained to ——– in depth why the department wishes to know about Mark and to be able to interview him for his views on proceedings. ——– has still declined to identify Mark further for interviewing purposes, as she considers that the decision and responsibility of this pregnancy are hers and Mark wouldn’t be interested anyway.

There’s something about this tone of determination and knowing it is coming from a pregnant sixteen-year-old that makes me think do a little air-punch every time I read it. Interestingly, it makes me wholly incurious about who “Mark” is. Her adamance makes me think, if this sixteen-year-old doesn’t think he’s worth wasting any time on, then I’ll take her at her word.

It doesn’t end there though. The social worker nonetheless has to follow through on the interview and, once my mother has shared information about her life — her plans, her education, her hobbies and interests — she is asked all the same questions again about “Mark”, since he cannot be asked himself.

Her answers are so nondescript, it is hilarious. She paints a picture of this vague, beige eighteen-year-old who dresses clean and likes going to the pub with his friends; “——– could not think of any specific interests that Mark enjoys.”

However, in amongst the indeterminacy, there is one concrete nugget of information that has always left me confounded, leading me to imagine some Ted Bundy-esque hollow man. Truly, this is the only defining piece of information attributed to this mystery man. In my head, it remains his defining feature. The first time I read it I laughed out loud. The mental picture is terrifying.

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