Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Girl in the Picture


Coffee in hand, I glanced through the attic window at the driving rain before settling among the boxes on the floor. A cloud of dust filled the room as I tugged the lid off of the first one and I sneezed.  Three times.  I could tell this was going to go well.

I could think of about 50 things I'd rather do with my day, but I'd been putting off going through the boxes in Mother's attic for weeks.   We needed to sell this house.

I pulled out a stack and started flipping through the old photographs.  They must have belonged to my grandmother? My great-grandmother?  So many people that I didn't have any idea who they were, staring blearily into the camera, waiting for it to immobilize their lives into still life for some unknown descendant to start at with indifference years down the road.  How was I connected to these people?  How was I like them? Did they worry about the same things I worry about? Did they have the same faults, the same strengths? Did they make the same mistakes?

Flip. Flip. Flip. One after the other, discarded at my feet.

Mid-flip, I stopped.  One picture caught me. It was different from the others.  A girl, I think.  It was so hazy.  She was reaching for the camera, the person behind the camera? I didn't know, but I felt like she was seeing me.  I knew that wasn't right, couldn't be right.

I flipped her.  But, beside me in her own stack.

Flip, flip, flip through more pictures while I tried to ignore her.

Listen to me. I could hear her. I could hear her trying to talk to me.

I picked up the picture again and stared into her eyes.  "What?" I said aloud and then flushed.  I was talking to a picture, that was ridiculous. I put it back on the floor.

Flip, flip flip.

Please listen to me. The voice in my head seemed to plead.

I sighed and picked her up again, searching her eyes.  Who was she?  Why was she here?  And while I stared, her expression changed.  Her eyes became sad, resigned. Her fingers closed.  Her lips moved. It's too late. He's here.

"Who?" I asked the girl in the picture. "Who's here?"

That's when I looked up and saw his face in the window.

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