I’m deviating from my usual ranting so that I can post the story I just wrote for the third Picture Worth Your Words contest, posted by the lovely Aisha.
I stumbled on one of the pictures in the contest when another entry showed up in my feed. All the pictures she posted were incredible and normally I write fiction more in line with the other three, but as soon as I saw this picture I knew what to write about.
I don’t feel that this story is at all polished, but I figured if I didn’t get out there and do it, it might never happen. I hope you enjoy.
There is a little room, tucked below the stairs of one of the long, thin houses in Amsterdam. It is a tiny time capsule, showcasing possessions. The snapshot of her life just before it was snatched away.
The girl must have thought she would get them back. She lovingly placed the roses so that their delicate petals would be in no danger from the other, heavier objects. She set her favorite toys to stand watch over her treasures, moth-eaten and helpless as they look now. She must have brushed her hair before setting down the brush, soothing her hair and her own nerves with the repetitive strokes. She removed the cameos from their case one last time (turning them over and over in her fingers, I imagine), but the way they lie so carelessly on the boards suggests that she dropped them in her haste to quit the room and thus keep it secret.
Surely she thought she’d return in a week or two. That her treasures would be safe until she could reclaim them. And how could she have known? That even if the next five years didn’t kill her body, they would kill that little girl who snuck down under the stairs that night and set aside pieces of her life, one by one. She thought they would be forbidden her in the camp. But she didn’t understand.
In the camp, her life was forbidden her.
I cannot help but wonder if she made it – whether her sickly, starving form was pulled from the wreckage of history or whether she slipped away, a ghost in the gas chambers. Perhaps the life inside made it impossible for her to experience life outside. Perhaps it was just impossible to remember her own life and she left the roses to crumble, the toys to molder, the ivory to yellow. Bent double in that little room under the stairs, twirling the dusky roses between my fingers, I feel so close to her that I can almost reach out and touch her ghost as she reverentially lays down her photo, rubs her thumb over the surface of the cameo.
But as close as I feel, I can never truly know her. Only wonder at the knowledge that is forbidden me.