Expressions

Ghosts: prose

(Detroit Free Press 2011)

By JENNY JI
Copy Editor

The musty odor of unventilated rooms penetrated her nostrils as she opened the door for the first time in years. Choking on the dust, she doubled over, coughing violently as tears streamed down her face. It was easier for her to pretend the tears fell only because of the dust. Leaning against the door frame, she allowed herself a few brief moments of respite; however, those brief moments were enough for the memories to flood back.

A few days ago…

“Beep. Beep.” A cell phone blared. All eyes turned toward the owner. Dark hair pulled into an immaculate bun and blouse neatly pressed, everyone thought of her as the perfect employee. At least, for the first few hours. Flushing a brilliant scarlet, the woman frantically dug through her purse, attempting to silence the small device that had caused the entire room to freeze. Aha! Finally! She thought. Fumbling with the miniscule buttons, she almost turned it off before the caller ID caught her eye.

“Wait…May I take this call?” she asked as her manager looked on disapprovingly.

“Yes…” her manager replied. “Make it quick though.” Nodding in thanks, she leapt out of her chair, nearly knocking it over before stumbling to the door. Why would mom call after all those years? Why now..? she thought. Her finger hovered over the touchpad, trembling. Am I ready to face her again? Holding her breath, she squeezed her eyes shut and pressed down…

Shaking off the memory, she stood up, composing her expression. Just keep moving…Just keep moving… she chanted in a silent mantra. The last couple of days were harrowing and reliving the memories weren’t helping. With blurry vision, she looked inside the room. The dust lay in a thick, undisturbed film over the objects, all save for the small semicircle she had inadvertently cleared by opening the door. Her eyes wandered over the familiar objects, settling on the grimy stuffed bear sitting in the corner, and she was pulled, once again, into another memory.

“Daddy? Why can’t I see mommy anymore?” A seven-year-old girl in pigtails whined from the backseat, clutching her precious bear. Oblivious to her father’s hands clenching the wheel so hard his knuckles turned white, she continued prodding.

“Where are we going? Why–” Turning around, the man fixed his bloodshot eyes on here. Eyes that looked broken, empty.

“Please, honey—” he started, his voice strained and hoarse. Suddenly, a deafening sound reminiscent of a giant shredder ripped through her head, followed by a bright flash of light, a burst of pain, then nothing.

Still reeling from the memory, she caught herself on the door frame. That was the last memory she had of her father. When she woke up in the hospital, her mother had already taken care of the paper work. It wasn’t until later that she found out about her mother’s affair. The affair that drove her father to despair, just as her curiosity drove him to lose control.

Am I a bad daughter for abandoning my mother after finding the truth? she wondered. But then she remembered the fights- the never ending verbal duels between her and her mother. Spent and haunted by her past, she walked out of the room, locking the room and the memories it contained away in the deepest recesses of her mind. She’d deal with her ghosts another day.

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