I stood in the drafty foyer with plaster strewn about my feet. Dust danced on rays of sunlight from the broken window at the top of the stairs, beckoning me upwards. The stairs complained as I took one careful squeaky step after another. A board gave way. I reached for the banister. Its frail limb feebly quivered against my weight. I reached to the wall for support. Here the wallpaper clung like skin hanging from some horribly tortured soul. In the bedroom, only the springs of an old bed remained. I moved toward a cracked mirror and peered at its cataract of cloudy and wavy glass. The distorted image was not my own. It reflected the face of a young woman.
I gulped air and my heart pounded in my chest. I looked over my shoulder, but I was alone. Still, that face lingered in the glass. I reached out to the mirror, passing my hands through the years of dust that had accumulated. The face shimmered briefly and then faded away, replaced by my own. I stepped back from the mirror and backed into a rickety bureau that tilted to one side, hitting the wall with a clamor. I straighten it, as if its owner would be angry that I misplaced something. I felt compelled to open the drawer. Inside, looking as new as the last day of its use, was a diary. I lifted it up and began to thumb through the pages.It was horribly fascinating, an accounting of a young girl named Carolyn and how she was abused physically and mentally by her father. In fascination, I continued to read as I walked over to the easy chair. With each turn of a page, the horrors revealed themselves. The sun began to set, so I mindlessly turned on an electric lamp. Momentarily, my attention was drawn from the pages by a forgotten but familiar sound floating through the open window. But with my eyes still riveted on the pages, I read.
My dad came home tonight, drunk. He has been running whiskey for the bootlegger. He brings it to Portland most every night. And most every night, he comes home and beats mom and …I found myself crying as if remembering some forgotten pain of my own. I set the book down on the bed stand and needed fresh air from the window. That sound, I know that sound. I looked around the room. My God, this isn’t the room I’d entered! It was no longer run-down. I rushed over to the window. An old touring car, dad pulled in and a large man staggered out. I glanced at my hands on the window sill. They were small and youthful. What the…The mirror! I rushed over to the mirror. And there I was smiling. But I wasn’t smiling. Then the image faded. It was the young girl. I saw her horror, and the horror was mine.