Everything I thought I knew about myself is a lie, my name is Shawn Namson, or should I say my name is Shawn Shane Hurley. I just found out that I was adopted by the Namsons fifteen years ago.
I have a million questions running through my head, I can’t explain my feelings, shock, confusion, disillusionment yet deep down I knew there was more to me. I still have so many unanswered questions, but even my older brother Miles doesn’t have all the answers.
“Shawn, you know how much I love you. We are not just brothers, we’re best friends, and I even consider you like my son because of the age difference between us. The whole family loves you so much, you’re the youngest, and as we say in Arabic, the youngest is the sweetest. We all have a soft spot for you, and we thought you were going through a phase, and that you would snap out of it. Ever since you dropped out of school, your life has been a roller coaster of bad decisions. First, it was the coming home late, the girls, the partying. Then, it got more serious with the drinking, and now the fighting that ended with both you and Kirby in jail. Needless to mention that time the two of you tried to leave Cairo and go to New Jersey without telling anyone. The whole family is concerned, maybe we are all guilty of being too indulgent, and spoiling you too much. Or maybe we were all too busy with our separate lives, or maybe we all feel guilty…The truth is that we all love you and know you have true potential for greatness, and I am not just saying that. You are an extremely talented guitar player, you’re good at every sport you have ever tried, and your SAT scores are perfect. Yet you refused to go to college, even when we told you that would mean you would have to get a job. When you didn’t, you ended up working at our school, The Conqueror. Instead of being content that we respected your decision and gave you a job in the family business, your reaction was that you were bored, distracted. Most days you left early to go goof off with Kirby without finishing your work. I feel like I am losing you and I am not sure what to do.”
This conversation with Miles lasted for hours; it isn’t the usual way we talk. We are usually like, “Hey bro, wassup? How’s your day?” Real casual, we hang out, watch movies; he had taught me everything I know: how to drive, even how to pick up girls…I’m a real ladies’ man like him…This is why this time everything felt different, the way Miles was tense, formal, and guarded. His attitude really shook me up and threw me for a loop. Although Miles is thirty-five, I’d never felt the age difference; he’s so cool and outgoing. Maybe it’s because he’s still single that we are so close, ‘cause Mary is younger; she’s thirty-one, but she’s married with four kids so she is always super busy. Anyway, we talked so intensely, I got pretty emotional and I opened up about a lot of things that had been swimming in my head for years. I reassured Miles that I am not doing any of this on purpose, and that I love our family very much. I am really grateful for having Mom, Dad—or should I say Marshall and Sadira— and wonderful siblings like Mary and Michelle. Yet the age difference between all three of them and me, the fact that I don’t resemble anyone, along with the nightmares, the occasional blindness, the hearing loss, the screams…I just felt so alone sometimes. Although I am never physically alone, and I really appreciate that mom and dad accepted that my best friend Kirby come live with us. This intense feeling of confusion and isolation has been driving my behavior. I hadn’t realized it before today. It wasn’t until Miles spoke with me that we started identifying why I was making all these poor choices. It’s at this point that Miles decided to tell me I was adopted, and the reason that the family never told me, is that there is very little information available about my biological family, other than the fact that they were killed in a mysterious car crash in London…
“RUN, SHAWN, RUN!”
Kirbs is shaking me, “Wake up, Shawn…wake up…you’re sweating and screaming, dude, wake up, You scared the shit out of me, you wouldn’t stop screaming, dude, are you all right?”
I open my eyes, wipe my face with my palm. I hear what Kirbs is saying…but muffled, I shake my head, and try to focus on what he’s saying, I get the gist of it…I’d had another nightmare and I woke him up. Kirbs is asking repeatedly if I remember anything?
“Kirby, all I can remember is a man screaming, “Run, Shawn, Run,” and then a gunshot followed again by, “Don’t look back, Shawn, just keep running. RUN!”
“Do you think that’s my biological dad, Kirbs? Was I there when they had the car crash? If it was a crash, why is my dad yelling at me to run? Was there really a gunshot? Or is this just my imagination? A nightmare made-up by my psyche to explain the car crash? I was only four when the crash happened, how could I possibly remember? My head hurts, go back to sleep Kirbs, I’m gonna go sit outside for a bit, I feel suffocated.”
I’m sitting in the dark in the house—it’s the middle of the night—and I just had another nightmare, but I convinced Kirbs to allow me to be alone and to just go back to sleep. I am torn between trying to clear my mind and trying to remember bits of the nightmare. My heart is beating too fast, and I have to do my breathing exercises to calm down and digest all the new information I received from Miles two days ago. I stare at the walls, my eyes have already adjusted to the darkness, and I can see the wall with all the family photos. I smile as I skim over them and come to rest on the photo of Miles and me. I get up, walk to the wall, stare at the photo, and see the date on the bottom right corner: March 12, 1996. This is the day Miles found me.
“I was walking to class. It was a typical brisk gray day in London. I had business management first, then a child psychology lecture. Then I had a shift at the orphanage. I was walking fast to catch the Tube to the University of London campus, so as not to be late for my classes. As I turned the corner, I saw a boy sleeping at the footstep of a building. I was going to be late but I couldn’t just walk past this adorable boy sleeping in a fetus position, on a sidewalk, alone on the streets. I leant down, and tried to wake the boy, and looked around to see if there was anyone close to whom he could belong…there was no one in sight. I shook the boy again and his eyes flickered open. They squinted from the brightness of the sun and he said, ‘The sun’s too bright and I can’t see.’”
“What’s your name, little boy?”
“That’s a good, strong name. It’s nice to meet you, Shawn. My name is Marley Namson but you can call me ‘Miles.’ Here, take my hand, I’ll take you somewhere safe.”
March 12, 1996. This is the day
Miles found me.
Miles told me this story about how and where he found me. He explained that he took me afterward to the orphanage where he was doing his internship, which was a requirement for all psychology majors. Since he was double majoring in business administration and child psychology, he needed to fulfill the requirements of both degrees. Because of me, Miles spent a whole year working at this orphanage, although he only needed three months.
“I just fell in love with your sweet smile and your intelligence; you were the brightest part of my day. I would hurry back after classes to go see you. Everything I taught you, you mastered. I taught you how to write, how to draw, how to calculate. Our favorite activity was playing blocks and singing with my guitar, although I have a really bad voice. This is when I bought you your first guitar. When Mom, Dad, and the girls came to visit, you were the first person I introduced them to. Everyone fell in love with you, too. After that first family visit, the decision was made that we would start right away with the paperwork and that you would be officially adopted, and you would come back and live with us in Egypt.”
Miles explained that the police couldn’t find any surviving relatives; that’s why I remained at the orphanage until the Namsons adopted me. The police report revealed that the car crash had taken the life of my father Harrisson Hurley, my mother Anna Beth Applegate, and my twin brother Owen Hurley…I had a twin brother…I squeeze my eyes and concentrate on the image in the nightmare…there’s a flash of a woman checking our seatbelts, then another flash of someone pushing me in a car, and instead, the man who I presume now is Harrison pulls me away and yells at me to run, but my hand is holding another hand…it’s Owen’s…I see his face…it’s like looking in the mirror…tears are streaking my cheeks. I open my eyes and sob in the darkness. I have a twin. I have a twin…I keep telling myself, and then the reality of what Miles had told me hits me…I had a twin…I had a twin. The joy and pain of remembering is overwhelming. I can’t take it…and I start feeling this certainty that they can’t be dead…they can’t be gone…I can’t have finally found out who I am, only to realize I am alone again…this can’t be true, I can’t just find out that I have another family, only to find out that they are all gone. My heart feels like it’s being crushed with pliers. They can’t be dead, this isn’t right…there must be more information about them. I have to find someone who knew them; there must be a relative, a friend somewhere…
It’s been a couple of months since I found out that I was adopted, and that my real name is Shawn Shane Hurley, my online research has led me nowhere, and I am still unable to find anyone who knew my biological parents. The Namsons are throwing me a huge birthday celebration today. I am turning twenty and all my friends and relatives are coming; it should be fun.
“Dude, this party is gonna be lame.”
“Why do you say that?”
“’Cause none of those chicks we saw from the other night will be there.”
“Kirbs, get your mind out of the gutter.”
“Me? You’re the one who’s always checking girls out.”
“Well, great minds think alike.”
“Indeed, so we’re gonna blow your parents’ party and go see those girls?”
“No, we will stay until after the candles and the cake…then we can sneak out. I’ll get Miles to cover for us.”
“Yeah, OK, that’s a deal, and we open the presents too, before leaving. Don’t forget fifty/fifty on any cash.”
“Of course, Kirbs, as if you need it. Your dad showers you with money biweekly; he’s more punctual than a paycheck.”
“Yeah…whatever, you know he replaces love with money to ease his guilt that his only son is living thousands of miles away. Money is a guarantee that I stay away.”
“Kirbs, don’t say that.”
“Can we drop the subject, Shawn? Today you’re turning twenty, that means… celebration…come on, time to get the party started.”
I blow out my candles, and all I wish for is to find out the truth about my biological parents. All the gifts are on a table, and I start opening one by one. Before opening a gift, I ask who it’s from, and then after opening the gift I thank the friend or relative. There’s a small, blue, velvet box, I hold it up and no one claims it, it’s the last gift. I open it, and it’s a golden guitar pick. It’s so bright and shiny, and there’s an engraving on it: the Arabic letter jeem. It’s beautiful; who’s this from? What does this engraving mean? My mind starts to travel, but Kirby doesn’t give me a chance. “Come on, yalla, that was your last present, let’s go meet up with those girls,” he urges. I slip the box in my pocket.
I go and tell Miles to cover for us, and he says to wait outside and that he will drive us wherever we want in his sports car. I feel something is fishy but I tell Kirbs and within a few minutes, the three of us are racing away from Obour heading to downtown Cairo.
Miles tells us there is just one place he wants to show us before he drops us off. We reach Tahrir Square, park the car and Miles asks us to follow him to the back entrance of The American University in Cairo. There’s a steel door in the ground that looks like a connection to the metro. Miles checks around him, no one but Kirby and I, the two of us at a loss for words. Miles slides his finger along the ground, the door glows and slides open. There are stairs leading underground. Miles goes down and tells us to follow him; we look at each other, confused, and follow him down. The door slides shut above us.
“Miles are you gonna tell us where we are?” I ask.
“Yeah, dude, I have a feeling there are no chicks here and that’s gonna be real disappointing,” says Kirby.
We follow Miles first down a dark tunnel, then a passageway that leads us to what looks like the ultra-modern underground headquarters of some massive operation. There are computers everywhere and screens and uniformed personnel going about their work. We are met by a man named Frederick Frost, who hugs and greets Miles like they are old, although I had never seen him before. Miles introduces us to Frederick, and tells us that he is the commander in chief of the “Light Angels Punkers.” Miles whispers something to Frederick, and he smiles and tells us to follow him. A gazillion questions are going through my head and I can’t understand why Miles isn’t explaining anything…We go into another room, with a crystal in the center. Frederick tells me to insert the gold guitar pick into the crystal. I open the velvet box, pull out the glowing guitar pick, and insert it. It emits a bright light, and a 3-D image of a woman starts talking.
My dearest Shawn,
My name is Gloria Applegate; I am your maternal aunt and the founder of The Light Angels Punkers or LAP for short. We are an international group of intelligentsia formed on January 25, 1991 to protect the world. The Hurleys don’t know that you’re alive, and Miles, although he was a colonel in LAP, never knew that I was your aunt and guardian. My gold guitar picks are the only secure method of transmitting confidential intel. Shawn, you don’t know me, but I have been following you your whole life. You’re now twenty years old, and I need you to know the whole truth. I will answer all your questions, however, we must be quick. Time is of the essence; we need your help to save the Hurley family, the Light Angels Punkers, Egypt, and the world…
The message lasted two hours, as Miles, Kirbs, Frederick, and I sat there listening to all the details. My family is alive; they were never killed in the car crash. They have been living undercover for the past fifteen years. They don’t know that I’m alive. It’s so much to digest…Not only that, Harrison Hurley is living in Egypt under an alias, Herz Hannibal, and he’s the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy. His wife, my mom, Anna Beth Applegate is living with Owen Hurley separately under another alias so as not to arouse the suspicion of their persecutors. Anna is working in the admissions office at Misr International University, where Owen is studying to be a lawyer.
All this misery was inflicted on my family and me because of one person: Dimitri Zobraikovski, the commander in chief of the Dark Squad Society or DSS. Dimitri wanted to destroy the USA and Egypt. Harrisson foiled his plan, saved the world, and killed him on June 10, 1989. Ever since that day, the new commander, Ivan Viktor Zobraikovski, or just Zobra, has been trying to seek revenge for his father’s death by killing every member of the Hurley family. Zobra also wants to take over the Arab World. First Tunisia, then Egypt, Yemen…one by one, he wants to annex them and take them under the DSS.
Gloria explains that Zobra has found Anna and Owen, and that he is planning to kidnap them, and that it is my mission to save my family. The ground starts to tremble, the headquarters are shaking. Is it an earthquake? Everyone hears chanting; it’s protesters, “The people demand the removal of the regime”; “Bread, freedom, social justice.” It’s January 25, 2011. The waves of people are breathtaking. We cannot get distracted; Gloria insists that in order to save Egypt and my family, I must be trained. Kirby and I will stay at the headquarters until Frederick informs Gloria that we are ready. The training program is intensive and extreme. But they all have faith in us.
Gloria ends her message by saying, “Shawn, this is your turn to save the world. This is your legacy; your ancestors have been doing it for generations. Rise Spikeyhead, the Lone Punker, and accept the challenge.”